Itchy tattoos: 7 common causes

Itchy tattoos: 7 common causes

The skin is the largest organ in the body. The role of the skin is to protect the body from foreign aggressors. When tattooed on the skin, the tattoo needle will break this “barrier”. Your skin will then begin to heal on its own, which can lead to itching, redness, swelling and other symptoms. In most cases, the mild itch will subside over time.

However, if you notice persistent itching or other symptoms at the tattoo site (both new and old), you need to understand the reasons for prompt examination and treatment.

In this article, Health CPN invites you to refer to 7 common causes of itchy tattooed skin.

Is it normal for itchy skin after a tattoo?

In fact, this is completely normal after a tattoo, if the itching is only mild. Tattooing works directly on the skin, breaking the structure of the tattooed skin. The body sees this as a type of wound similar to a cut or scratch, so it conducts the process of self-healing this area. During that time, an itchy sensation will often appear.

Tattooists need to notice a new tattoo for the first few days or weeks. This helps ensure the normal “skin healing” mechanism. If other symptoms appear or if the itching gets worse, be careful. That could be a sign of another health problem.

7 common causes of itchy tattoos

1. Normal skin healing process

After the tattooing, the skin will begin to form scabs and young skin. This process can be itchy and even irritating. You need to limit scratching and scratching your skin to avoid causing irritation or worse, infection. When scratching, the skin will easily scar and deform the tattoo. Surely you will not want to manually destroy a work that you have spent a lot of money to own.

After the tattoo, you usually receive an ointment to take on the affected area. The tattooists (tattoo artists) will also advise you not to contact this skin directly with water. The itch should subside within 1–2 weeks.

If the itching persists or gets worse, consider the following factors.

2. Infections

When getting a tattoo, the tattoo needle pierces the skin directly. Make sure your tattoo artist uses sterile tools, disposable needles or is sterilized before tattooing others. That way, you can prevent bacteria from entering your body.

In addition, using non-sterile tools or ink can introduce bacteria or other organisms into the body. The tattoo artist should also not mix non-sterile ingredients into the ink, such as tap water. All of these actions can cause an infection. Learn about the disinfection process of tattooists before you decide to take pictures. If it is not safe to do so, do not proceed. You will not know how much serious illness the tiny needle from a tattoo machine can cause.

Symptoms of an infection may include:

  • The skin is red, spreading
  • Long red streaks appear on the skin
  • Prolonged pain
  • Skin swelling and itching
  • Fever
  • Chills

If left untreated, the infection from the tattoo may get worse. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect you may have an infection after getting a tattoo.

3. Allergy

Tattoo inks contain ingredients that can trigger an allergic reaction in some people. Sometimes, this reaction can appear months or years after getting a tattoo.

Everyone’s body tends to be allergic to a specific ink color. However, the American Academy of Dermatology says red ink causes the worst allergic reaction. One study has shown that the red color of a tattoo can contain toxic metals such as aluminum and iron. These metals can trigger an allergic reaction, such as contact dermatitis.

Red ink can be the cause of itchy tattoos

A mild allergic reaction can cause conditions like:

  • Itching
  • Redness of the skin
  • Acne-like bumps
  • Blistering of the skin
  • Scaly and peeling skin
  • Tattoo drains

In case of a mild allergy, the symptoms will go away gradually. On the contrary, if you don’t get better after a few days, get checked out in hospital. A severe allergic reaction can be life threatening. Call 911 immediately if you experience symptoms such as:

  • Hives
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Fast heart beat
  • Chest tightness
  • Severe swelling of the skin

4. Sun allergy

Some people find the tattoo itchy may actually be allergic to sunlight. This happens immediately after the tattoo or within a few hours. The common symptoms are:

  • Small, itchy nodules
  • Medal
  • Redness of the skin
  • Swollen, blistering skin

If you have this type of allergy, you should avoid exposing the tattoo to direct sunlight. After the tattooing, the tattoo will usually be covered with a protective film. Keep this barrier in place for a few hours or for as long as recommended by the tattoo artist. Especially when it is tattoos in a visible place outside normal clothing or large size tattoos. Also, make sure the protective film is renewed regularly. You should also choose to wear clothes with a high UPF rating when outdoors.

Once the tattoo has healed completely, you can apply a water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher every time you go in the sun. One thing to note is that do not apply sunscreen yourself without consulting the tattooist. The tattooists will advise you on the right sunscreen.

5. Eczema

Eczema is a condition that causes inflammation, redness, itching, or cracking of the skin. There are many factors that can trigger eczema such as allergies, dry skin or irritants, such as perfumes. Tattoos aren’t exactly what causes eczema. However, eczema can flare up in the tattooed area after months or even years.

People with eczema should consider the opinion of their doctor before getting tattooed. Also, talk to your tattooist about using ink for sensitive skin. Reputable tattoo salons can provide advice on post-tattoo care, as well as ointments to aid in the healing of the skin.

If eczema develops on or around a new tattoo, ask the tattooist about moisturizers for the tattooed skin so the ink color won’t be affected. Avoid using perfumed or alcoholic products, as these can make eczema worse.

If your eczema symptoms do not improve within a few days, seek immediate dermatology.

6. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy skin cells on its own. This causes the skin cells to regenerate too quickly, forming red, scaly patches on the skin. They are often itchy and painful for the sick.

One of the known causes of psoriasis is skin trauma. The National Psoriasis Foundation says even small wounds such as needles and vaccines can trigger psoriasis in some hypersensitive individuals. Therefore, getting a tattoo can also cause psoriasis to appear, because tattooing needles must be applied directly to the skin.

7. Skin cancer

It is important to note that there is currently no evidence to suggest a direct link between tattoos and skin cancer. Therefore, the likelihood of a tattoo getting itchy is associated with skin cancer is extremely low. However, skin cancer can occur anywhere on the skin, including the tattooed areas. Red, itchy patches on the skin are also a symptom of skin cancer.

If you have ruled out all other potential causes of your tattooing itchy, you should go to the hospital to have your skin cancer checked.

Skin care after tattooing

The solution to the itchy tattoo will depend on the cause of the itch. If you have eczema or psoriasis or have an allergic reaction, go quickly to a dermatology clinic. Properly following the skin care instructions after tattooing will help minimize bad cases affecting health in general and tattoos in particular. Therefore, itching should be no longer of concern.

Itchy tattooing will no longer worry when you take proper care of your skin after tattooing

Some ways to reduce itchiness during the self-healing process that you can consider to apply are:

  • Avoid scratching the tattoo
  • Do not peel off the peeling abrasive
  • Avoid using harsh wipes or scrubs
  • Apply the cream or ointment emitted after the tattoo. Can be stored in the refrigerator cooler to soothe the itch when applied
  • Avoid using products that irritate your tattoo
  • Protect tattoos from the sun
  • Avoid exposing the tattooed area to water for the required length of time
  • If you have a mild allergic reaction, you can take allergy medications as directed by your doctor
  • A cold compress can also relieve itching


Seek medical help promptly if you experience more serious symptoms such as:

  • The itch is getting worse
  • Extensive redness
  • The skin is more swollen
  • Fever
  • Blistering of the skin
  • Drainage, pus may be present
  • Many measures have been taken but still no improvement after a few weeks

It is quite common for tattooists to experience itchy skin, especially if it’s a new tattoo. The skin will heal itself after the injury, so the skin reacts similarly to a tattoo. This process of the body will often cause itchy skin.

In addition, other causes can also be the culprit causing the tattoo itch. Identifying the correct cause makes up 70% of the treatment, but be careful not to scratch the itch. Wish you have an enjoyable but still safe experience when deciding to get a new tattoo!

The articles of Hello Health Group and Health CPN are for reference only, and are not a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment.

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