All tattoos must go through the healing process- which normally takes about 3-4 months. The healing process tends to get insanely annoying especially when the tattoo starts to itch-which should NOT be scratched at all even if your life depended on it!
Tattoo itching is a common pet-peeve that affects many and it’s absolutely normal while undergoing the healing process.
Stages of tattoo itching
Knowledge about tattoo healing stages will help you know what to expect at the different healing stages. Just like any other type of open wound, inked skin must be protected from bacteria and allowed to regenerate back to a healthy state.
- Stage one: this stage is characterized by swelling, oozing, and redness that gradually subsides over time. The stage lasts for about 6 days.
- Stage two: this stage usually takes place 7-14 days after getting a tattoo and involves intense itching and flacking: the stage usually goes on until dead skin cells and scabs are completely shed off.
- Stage three: takes place from day 15-30, the tattoo may look fully healed but in reality, the deep layers of the skin are still in the process of regenerating and healing hence its advisable to continue taking care of it.
Is itching normal?
While your tattoo is healing, itching is very normal. For some people, itching may be intensely unbearable while for others they barely feel it.
However, for some people, the tattoos may become itchy and raised on an occasional basis during certain periods of the year.
If you are experiencing itchiness on an old tattoo try to moisturize the area and see whether you will experience any relief otherwise consider seeing a dermatologist for proper treatment.
Additionally, if the tattoo (whether new or old) develops any red lumps contact your doctor as soon as possible because this may be a sign of infection.
What causes it?
Immediately you get a new tattoo, it becomes an open wound on your skin. After about a week you will notice significant healing such as scabbing which will gradually shed off together with dead skin and the itching will then begin.
- Peeling skin: during the healing process, the skin starts to partially peel off causing the already sensitive area to feel itchy.
- Hair regrowth: before getting a tattoo, the area is usually shaved clean to prevent the tattooing needles from getting caught on hair in that area. Additionally, shaving prevents the possibility of hair to be pushed back into the skin by the needles hence preventing localized infections due to ingrown hairs.
- Skin conditions: tattooing increases the skin’s susceptibility to infections. It also increases the risk of getting a myriad of chronic skin problems such as eczema or psoriasis among others that you didn’t even know existed. If you develop any new symptoms initially not present, its advisable to seek medical assistance.
- Body chemistry: your skin is one of your body’s largest organ, while itchiness may be annoying and cause discomfort during the healing process, it’s just a short-lived side effect.
On the other hand, if scabs become excessively dry, they can crack open and become sores. Also, when the scabs become extremely dry they tend to become unbearably itchy hence it’s important to constantly moisturize.
- Allergic reaction: it’s very common for skin to react to the ink used for tattooing. Usually, the reactions are minor and subside a few days after without any medical intervention.
The allergic reactions are enough to cause the skin to itch. The most common ink that causes skin reactions is red, due to the metals used which are normally absent in other ink colors.
Should I scratch an it?
No matter what, DO NOT scratch your tattoo! This is because once you scratch it during the healing process, scabs or skin that was in the healing process can be ripped off, notwithstanding, the introduction of bacteria(that was trapped between your fingernails) in the area thus increasing the risk of developing a tattoo infection.
Additionally, when you scratch it, you could end up pulling scabs off: basically, what happens when you get a tattoo is, ink is injected into the inner layer of the skin, but some ink remains trapped in the middle and outer layer before finally setting-while the ink is in these sections of the skin it can easily get pulled or picked while rubbing. So, if you scratch the area ink can possibly be lost leaving it looking patchy.
Also, premature pulling off of a scab from your skin can cause it to form pits on the skin which prolongs the healing time and can possibly cause permanent scarring.
Also, it’s advisable to take precautions at night, because you can subconsciously scratch away that annoying tattoo itch no matter how strong willed-about not scratching it while you’re awake. Keep your nails as short as possible-if possible wear gloves to bed.
How to stop a tattoo itch
An extremely itching tattoo can annoy the life out of you-no joke! However, there are simple tips and tricks that can help you withstand the itch and go about your day as usual;
- Apply some moisturizer: never allow the skin around your tattoo to become extremely dry or stiffen up. Just apply a thin layer of moisturizer anytime you feel like it is dry or immediately after you come out of the shower. Also, avoid applying too much moisturizer in order to give it room to breathe- simply dab any excess using a paper towel if any.
- Shower: taking a warm shower offers temporary relief for tattoo itching after the shower gently pat the area with a paper towel until it’s completely dry then apply a thin layer of moisturizing lotion such as hustle butter.
- Gently tap or slap: instead of vigorously scratching the tattooed area, gently slapping ensures that skin or scabs are not scratched off the area and this slightly reduces the urge to itch. Always remember to wash your hands before handling or touching it.
- Apply cool compresses: applying cool things in the area soothes the itching sensation. You could use a damp, clean cloth or towel or an ice pack (however, avoid direct contact of the ice pack and the skin to prevent an ice burn) over the area for a few minutes.
- Use some distraction techniques: try to distract yourself by doing anything that gets your brain to switch away from thinking about the itch. These activities can include; listening to music, taking walks or even chewing gum.