Everyone who has a tattoo knows the feeling. During the healing process, the tattoo starts to itch. A tattoo can itch for various reasons. Directly after tattooing, the tattoo still hurts because of the many small wounds to the skin that occurred during the tattooing process. After a while, the skin regenerates, like a cut from a scratch, and begins the healing process. During this phase, the itching is most intense for the tattooed person.
The most important thing to remember is NEVER SCRATCH YOUR TATTOO!
This article explains what causes your tattoo to itch and what you can do about it, and why you really shouldn’t scratch your tattoo at all!
Why does a tattoo itch?
It is entirely normal for a tattoo to itch during the healing phase. The tattooing has caused small ruptures in the skin, which the body is now trying to close again. The injured cells have to form and regenerate to restore the injured skin layer. To prevent non-body substances (e.g. germs) from entering the skin and causing inflammation, the cells communicate with each other via messenger substances such as histamine. We subsequently perceive this communication of the cells as itching (that’s right, our skin talking among itself makes us itch!).
This is also why the tattoo swells a little after the process, and wound fluid is produced. Wound healing is in full swing to bring the skin back to its previous state as much as possible—only this time with the tattoo colour layered underneath and, therefore, an incredible new tattoo.
Why you really should never scratch!
The body is busy healing the injured skin after tattooing, and it is imperative not to scratch. If you scratch the fresh tattoo wound during the healing phase, you hinder the renewal process of the cells. The cells have to start working again, and the healing process is delayed.
In the worst case, severe scratching causes the wound to tear open again, and skin irritating substances from under the fingernails cause a strong inflammatory reaction. This can impair the healing of the wound to such an extent that a scar develops as a result. When scarring occurs, the tattoo colour is usually transported out of the skin, and the tattoo has to be re-done to be as beautiful as it was when it was first inked.
Basically, scratching should be avoided at all costs!
What helps relieve an itchy tattoo?
As said before, to fight the itch of a tattoo, you should not scratch it at all. There are several remedies to relieve itching without disturbing the healing process.
Tattoo Care & Tattoo Creams
Of course, the most important thing is to take care of your tattoo. It is crucial to follow the tattoo artist’s instructions because they know precisely how their tattoos heal best and how to achieve the best results.
For tips on healing and proper care of newly inked tattoos, check out our Advice Hub article: Tattoo Aftercare: 16 Tips for Looking After a New Tattoo.
To relieve itching, it is recommended to use a professional tattoo cream. Here, again, the tattoo artist’s recommendation should be used first and foremost. If they do not have a specific aftercare suggestion, all aftercare salves, lotions and creams offered by Barber DTS have been sourced from the best aftercare manufacturers out there.
Another way to relieve the itching of your tattoo is to cool it. In every case, you should make sure to proceed as hygienically as possible and never place a cold pack or item directly onto the healing skin. A clean kitchen towel wrapped around the cooling pack is a perfect way to quickly and effectively relieve the itching.
Quick help without aids
If you are on the go or have no other way to counteract the itching, you can also place your hand flat on the tattoo. Ensure that your hand is clean (wash your hands with soap beforehand!) so that no germs get into the wound. If the itching is extreme, you can also gently tap the tattoo with the flat of your hand. However, you should only do this if you have no other means of treatment and the itching is so extreme that you are afraid of scratching yourself involuntarily.
What should I do if I have accidentally scratched the tattoo?
It can happen that you have involuntarily scratched your fresh tattoo (e.g. when falling asleep or waking up). This is not good, but it is not the end of the world. What you need now is quick help. The first thing you should do is examine the wound and see how deep you scratched it. If you have damaged the already healed surface, you should proceed in the same way as with a fresh tattoo.
It is essential to clean the wound to prevent germs that have been transported from your fingernails into the skin from causing inflammation. Afterwards, it would be best to use a tattoo cream to support the skin cells as effectively as possible in the new healing process.
Other causes of itchy tattoos
Even after healing, a tattoo may itch. This happens especially when tattooed skin has been exposed to the sun without protective sun cream. The UV rays of the sunlight activate the skin’s colour pigments, and they react. This can lead to itching. Again, tattoo creams and cooling help very well against the itching. However, it is best to use a sun cream with a very high sun protection factor (sunblock) from the very start, as UV radiation is toxic for tattoos.
It is usual for a fresh tattoo to itch during the healing phase. The tattoo should be properly cared for, and professional creams should be used to relieve the itching; cooling can also provide relief. The itching will pass, and as soon as the tattoo has healed, the itching torture that preceded will all be forgotten about as you’ll have a “sick” new tattoo, right?
In any case, the most important thing is to avoid scratching the tattoo!
We recommend our Advice Hub article: The Healing Process of a Tattoo if you want to learn more about the tattoo healing process.