• June 25, 2022

Tattoo first-timers have lots of questions regarding their new ink. ‘Can I slap my tattoo if it itches?’ ‘What if the itch doesn’t go away for months, or even years?’ ‘What’s the safest approach to healing that part of your skin once you get the ink done?’ The list goes on and on.

Luckily, this article will teach you a thing or two about post-process tattoo care. All it takes is a bit of common sense, patience, and resilience. So, let’s get started.

Why Do Tattoos Itch?

Itch

According to dermatologists, tattoos technically count as a skin injury. When the skin heals after an injury, mast cells start to appear in large numbers in the injured area. These cells release the compound known as histamine, which can cause hives, allergies, and itchiness.

In other words, the itch is completely natural. Think of it like the itch you get after a cut on your hand starts to heal, or if you desperately want to pick a scab because of how irritating it can be to the skin.

The histamine release is one of the few reasons behind the itch. The other includes the overall sensitivity of tattooed skin. Because there are ink particles that prevent the skin from healing at the same pace it normally would, the inked area is more sensitive to outside stimuli than regular skin.

Can I Slap My Tattoo If It Itches?

Slap

If your tattoo itches badly during the first few weeks, you really should avoid slapping it. If you do it too hard, the lines of ink will become blown out. Furthermore, when you do so with dirty hands, you risk infecting your tattoo. Really, any sort of rough handling of the tattoo by one’s hands should be avoided.

When Can I Start Slapping My Tattoo?

The best course of action is to wait for a couple of weeks to pass, when the skin is mostly healed. And even then, only apply soft, light, gentle slaps that do no harm.

Itchy Skin Care: 9 Tattoo Aftercare Tips

Aftercare

1. Rubbing the Tattoo

As is the case with slapping, even slightly rubbing the tattoo can cause exterior damage. The best thing to do is light taps, but only after several weeks have passed, and only gently.

2. Scratching the Tattoo

Scratching the tattoo as it’s healing is definitely not something you want to do. During healing, the tattoo will leak lymphatic fluid that contains some ink, as well as some blood. That’s perfectly normal, and scratching it would be the equivalent of scraping at the wound. Not only will it get infected, but it will also take a lot longer to heal than it normally would.

3. Applying Lotions

When applying an ointment or a lotion to soothe the itch, you need to be careful not to use any over-the-counter medication, as it will merely create a goop that slows the healing process. Instead, always opt for water-based items like Vaseline or Hydrocortisone cream.

4. Ice Packs

When there’s any kind of inflammation of the skin, applying a cold pack will definitely do you good. But don’t apply an ice pack directly onto the tattooed area. Instead, wrap the pack in a piece of clean, dry cloth and place it against the spot for around 30 minutes. Once it’s done, gently go over the tattoo with a warm cloth to get the normal blood flow back.

5. Accidental Hits

Bumping or hitting the tattooed spot accidentally against some objects isn’t going to bother you too much, and neither is hot water. As long as you don’t pick at the scabs or touch them with dirty hands, your skin will not get infected. As an added precaution, just keep the spot clean, moisturized, and away from sharp objects.

6. Exposure to Water

Swimming, diving, and submerging the tattoo as it’s healing is definitely not recommended. However, you can still take regular showers, provided you don’t spend too much time on your tattoo.

In addition, don’t put clothes on while your tattoo spot is still wet. Until it fully heals, it’s vulnerable to smudging or washing off, so the ink can remain on your clothes. Instead, dry the tattooed area thoroughly and then wear loose-fitting clothes over it.

7. Exposure to the Sun

If you expose your tattoo to the sun before it fully dries, it will fade quickly. What’s more, even after it’s dry, it’s a good idea to apply sunblock so that the tattoo doesn’t lose its luster.

8. Sleeping With the Tattoo

To avoid accidentally scratching or scraping the tattoo, make sure to wear an appropriate tattoo wrap while you sleep for at least a week. The wrap ought to be anti-bacterial, breathable, and water-resistant. That way, it will promote faster healing while protecting the skin from any infection or accidental injury.

9. Long-Term Itching

It happens rarely, but there are times when tattoos can itch for up to two years. Swelling and redness might also follow. In case that happens to you, apply a topical steroid cream to the spot.

Janet is a post-doctoral research candidate working as a freelance writer. She also moonlights as a doodle artist and wishes to publish her own comic book inspired by her life story one day.