Why Does My Tattoo Itch?


Updated April 15, 2024

When you get a tattoo, there are a lot of things to consider. You want to make sure that you are getting a tattoo from a reputable shop and artist. You want to make sure you know what kind of design you want. And you want to make sure that you are prepared for the pain of the procedure itself and aftercare involved.

But one thing you may not have been prepared for is an itchy tattoo.

What’s the deal? Your new ink should be bitchin’ and not itchin’, right? (I know, that's terrible…)

In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the most common reasons your new or old tattoo might be itchy. We'll also go over what you can do about it after you get inked.

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Can I lightly scratch my tattoo?

We get it. Scratching that itch is all you can think about. "Can I give it just one little scratch, just this once?"

If you think you can stop with just one scratch, you're the reason why potato chip companies continue to do so well. It's hard to stop once we start. And unlike downing a bag of ruffled barbecue chips, the damage could be worse than greasy fingers and a guilty conscience.

It is best to avoid scratching your tattoo, especially in the early stages of healing. Scratching can disrupt the healing process and may lead to potential infection or damage to the tattooed area.

Quick Tip:

If you experience itching, you can gently pat or tap the area to alleviate the itch without causing harm to your tattoo. Remember to follow proper aftercare instructions provided by your tattoo artist to ensure that your tattoo heals properly and looks its best in the long run.

What can cause tattoos to itch and how long does it usually last for?

Neon tattoo sign

An itching and raised tattoo is a common and normal part of the healing process for a new tattoo. The itchy sensation is caused by the inflammation of the skin. This happens as it heals from the tattoo ink and the scab starts to flake off.

If a tattoo is itchy, it usually lasts for 2-4 weeks, but can persist for up to 8 weeks. Sometimes older tattoos can have a flare-up and start itching as well. Tattoo itching can be severe and may lead to secondary infections if the area is scratched too much. There are several things that can cause tattoos to itch, including the following causes:

- The healing process:

As mentioned, a new tattoo itching is a normal part of the skin's natural healing process. The inflammation and itchiness response of the dermis can cause severe itching. This is especially true when the scab starts to flake off before the sensitive skin is healed. When the tattooed skin mends and forms a scar, there is an increase in inflammatory cells called mast cells, which are a crucial part of the immune system. These cells have the capability to discharge histamine. This is the same element that brings about allergies, hives, and resulting itching.

- Skin conditions:

Some people may experience mild itching due to a preexisting skin condition like eczema or psoriasis. Even rosacea can be exacerbated by the process of getting the tattoo. 

Those with sarcoidosis will need to take immunosuppressants. These will control itching and prevent other issues.

- Allergic reactions:

In rare cases, the causes of itching can occur if people develop an infection or an allergy to the ink or pigment used in their tattoo. An ink allergy can lead to an itchy rash or hives and a general feeling of being unwell. If you experience an allergic reaction or skin reaction, you should see a doctor immediately. If the allergic reaction is severe enough, tattoo removal may be recommended; a method that involves laser treatments.

In some instances, tattoo irritation or allergic reactions to the tattoo can occur months or even years after getting the ink done.

Even if you've had no prior allergic reaction to a tattoo, the most important thing to keep in mind if you have an itchy tattoo, is to resist the urge to scratch it. This will only make the itching worse and could lead to secondary infections.

A cold compressInstead, try applying a cold compress to the area or a non-steroid anti itch cream to soothe the itchy skin until the tattoo has healed. If you experience tattoo itchiness after 8 weeks, this is a really good indicator that you might have an infection.

At that point, it's best to see a board-certified dermatologist, who may prescribe you otc or prescription based topical solution. There are a number of creams and ointments available that can be used to help soothe the area and accelerate healing, though it's always a good idea to speak with a doctor before using a product.

What are some remedies that can help soothe the tattoo itching sensation?

Instead, try applying a cold compress to the area or a non-steroid anti itch cream to soothe the itchy skin until the tattoo has healed. If you experience tattoo itchiness after 8 weeks, this is a really good indicator that you might have an infection.

At that point, it's best to see a board-certified dermatologist. They may prescribe you otc or prescription based topical solution. There are a number of creams and ointments available that can be used to help soothe the area. They can also accelerate healing. Remember, it's always a good idea to speak with a doctor before using any product.

When you get a tattoo, a professional tattoo artist will likely put a thin layer of ointment on your new ink before you leave the tattoo shop. This will help to cover the tattoo and moisturize it to let the tattoo heal and keep it from drying out. After all, the tattoo artist's work and reputation are also being protected by these best practices. However, once the ointment wears off, the tattoo may start to feel itchy and raised.

Luckily, this normal for a tattoo and is usually nothing to worry about. There are a few things you can do to soothe the skin’s itch. First, try applying a moisturizer cream or ointment that is specially formulated for tattoos. You can also try placing a cold compress on the tattoo for a few minutes at a time to get relief if the tattoo starts to itch, or if the itching persists. For older tattoos, an oatmeal-based lotion or one with cocoa butter is preferable. 

Dermeleve can help with itch.For immediate and long lasting relief of tattooed skin, use a specially formulated anti itch cream. Dermeleve® is the most effective option. Dermeleve® starts working in just a few minutes and can provide relief lasting up to seven hours with a single application. This is especially useful for people to don't want to apply a skin treatment frequently throughout the day.Unlike creams with corticosteroids, Dermeleve® can for long periods of time. It can also as often as needed without the risks associated with long term use of topical steroids.

Remember, it’s important you don’t scratch your tattoo as the itching gets worse; as this can damage the skin and cause tattoo scarring.

How can you tell if your itchy tattoo is infected and what should you do about it?

Tattoos have been an old art form for almost as long as humans have been around. They became increasingly popular in the Western world in the 20th century, and even more so today. The science and technology of tattoo artistry has gotten very advanced. To the point where it’s become a very safe procedure, there are still risks involved.One of the most common risks is infection. When getting a new tattoo, the ink and needle penetrate the middle layer of skin tissue. This is, known as the dermis. The needle exposes it to the elements and possible infection.Infections can happen when the tattoo artist doesn’t follow proper sterilization procedures. It can also occur if the tattooed person doesn’t take care of their tattoo during the healing process. Different types of infections can occur. These include staph, blood-borne viruses, and even fungal infections. Thankfully, there are some signs that can help you tell if your tattoo is infected. If the tattooed area is hot to the touch, red and inflamed, or oozing pus, then it’s likely that you have an infection.

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Itching
  • Pus or fluid drainage
  • Fever

If you think your tattoo might have an infection, it’s important to see a doctor right away. If not treated quickly, an infection can lead to serious health complications.

To avoid getting an infected tattoo in the first place, make sure to carefully research the tattoo artist or facility you choose. Make sure they have a good reputation. You want to make sure that your tattoo artist operates a clean facility. They should sterilize all of their equipment, and only use inks that have been labeled "sterile". It’s also important for the tattoo artist to wear gloves when performing the procedure. 

Also, be sure to follow all aftercare instructions that the tattoo artists recommend at every stage of the healing process.

A tattoo artist at workIf you suspect an infection, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. Your doctor will likely prescribe a course of antibiotics to reduce swelling. The ultimate goal is to stop the spread, clear up the infection, and make sure you don't get another one. In some cases, a hospital stay may be necessary. So, if you notice any signs of infection on your healing skin, don’t delay in seeking medical treatment. It's possible there is a bigger problem hiding among the possible causes of the issue, so be sure to see a dermatologist.

And if all else fails, at the very least you can see your doctor for a skin cancer check - always a good idea!

Is there anything you can do to prevent the cause of an itchy tattoo in the first place?

Many people experience itchiness after getting a tattoo, but there are a few things you can do to prevent it from happening in the first place:Make sure to keep the area clean by washing it with a mild soap and lukewarm water. Washing the area twice a day is typically sufficient. It is important as it will help to remove any excess ink, bacteria, and dead skin cells which could contribute to irritation and itchiness.Apply a thin layer of a tattoo aftercare cream or ointment to the area. This will help to keep the tattoo moisturized and prevent it from drying out. It also acts as a barrier keeping irritants out.Be sure to choose an aftercare product that is specifically designed for tattoos. Tattoo creams and lotions are often unscented and hypoallergenic. Avoid putting on fragrances and other irritants which can make your tattoo itchy.

Sun day, no-fun day

Try to keep the tattoo out of direct sunlight as much as possible. It’s common knowledge that UV rays can be damaging to the skin, but this is especially true for skin with new tattoos.If you must be in the sun, limit your sun exposure as much as possible while making sure to cover up the tattoo with clothing or sunscreen. A fragrance-free sunblock is preferable.Avoid wearing tight clothing over the tattoo, as this can also lead to irritation. The friction caused by tight clothing makes the skin further irritated and bumpy. The skin has already had trauma from the tattoo needles. Instead, opt for loose-fitting clothing made from soft materials.

Drink plenty of water and eat a healthy diet. This will help to keep your skin hydrated from the inside out, which can prevent itchiness.

By following these simple steps, you can help ensure that your tattoo stays itch-free.

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Wrap Up

A tattoo being worked onIn this article we’ve gone over some of the most common questions about itchy tattoos. You should now have a better understanding of how to deal with this pesky problem. Remember, if your tattoo is excessively itchy or you think it may be infected, it’s always best to consult with a doctor or tattoo artist. With proper care, your tattoo will eventually heal and the itchiness will go away.

For immediate and long lasting relief, Dermeleve® is the anti-itch solution you need.

So now, the only issue is deciding on what tattoo you want next!

To learn more, check out our YouTube channel!



Q: Why does my tattoo itch?

A: Itching is a common part of the healing process for a new tattoo. As the skin heals, it may become dry and tight, causing itching sensation. Furthermore, your body recognizes the tattoo as a foreign object. This prompts a release of histamine which can subsequently cause itching..

Q: How can I soothe the itching?

A: To soothe tattoo itch, you can gently wash the area with mild soap and warm water. Afterward, apply a thin layer of fragrance-free and hypoallergenic lotion or ointment to keep the skin moisturized. Avoid scratching or picking at the tattoo to prevent further irritation.

Q: Can I use any lotion on my itchy and raised tattoo?

A: It is best to use a lotion specifically designed for tattoo aftercare. Professional tattoo artists recommend using a fragrance-free and hypoallergenic lotion to avoid any potential irritation or allergic reactions. Make sure to check the ingredients and choose a product that is suitable for sensitive skin.

Q: How long does the itching last?

A: The duration of itching can vary, but it is typically a temporary side effect of the healing process. Typically, itching commences a few days post getting a tattoo. This condition can persist for approximately two weeks.. As the tattoo heals, the itching will gradually subside.

Q: What are the causes of itching in a tattoo?

A: There are several factors that can contribute to itching in a tattoo. Dryness of the skin is one of the most prevalent reasons for tattoo-related issues. Allergic reactions to either the tattoo ink or aftercare products can also cause problems. Additionally, the body's natural response to a tattoo, treating it as a foreign substance and not properly healing, can be an underlying cause of complications.

Q: Should I see a doctor if the itching persists?

A: Should the itching be severe, persistent, or complemented by alarming symptoms like intense redness, swelling, or discharge, consider consulting a dermatologist.. They can evaluate your tattoo and provide appropriate medical advice or treatment if necessary.

Q: How can I get relief from the itching?

A: In order to alleviate the itching, a suitable method could be to apply a cold compress or an ice pack on the affected area. This should only be done for brief intervals.. An over-the-counter antihistamine may help to relieve the itch. In addition, applying hydrocortisone cream under the supervision of a healthcare professional could also be beneficial..

Q: Is it normal for the itching to spread beyond the tattooed area?

A: It is not uncommon for the itching to spread slightly beyond the tattooed area. This is because the body's immune response and histamine release can affect the surrounding skin as well. However, if the itching spreads significantly or persists for an extended period, it is advisable to seek medical advice.

Q: Can sun exposure make the itching worse?

A: Yes, sun exposure can aggravate the itching and overall healing process of a tattoo. The UV rays can cause further skin irritation and dryness, leading to increased itching. Protecting your tattoo from direct sunlight is crucial during the healing period. One way to do this is by covering it with clothing. Alternatively, you could use a sunscreen boasting a high SPF..

Q: When should I be concerned about the itching?

A: Mild itching is commonly experienced during healing. However, one should be vigilant for certain signs that could suggest complications.. Should the itching become severe, paired with intense pain or unusual discharge, it's essential to seek medical attention. This is also true if you notice prolonged redness or suspect an infection..