Find Relief from Itchy Tattoos: Discover the Causes and Solutions

Experiencing itchiness during the healing process of a new tattoo is a common occurrence. It can happen at any stage of healing and is a result of the skin being damaged with needles and ink. However, it is vital to refrain from scratching the tattoo, as it can cause serious damage to the tattoo and the surrounding skin. In case of suspected infection, please seek medical advice immediately.

Keep reading for more information about the reasons behind itchy tattoos and how to treat them.

Causes of an itchy tattooItchiness is not uncommon with fresh tattoos, but old tattoos can also cause itchiness. The following are some possible causes:

  • Normal healing process

    When you get a tattoo, the skin tissue is in recovery mode, trying to repair itself, making itchiness a common phenomenon.


Within the first two weeks of the healing process, a new tattoo is vulnerable to getting an infection, which can result in itchiness, along with swelling, redness, and discharge. If this happens, it’s best to seek immediate medical attention.

Allergic reaction to pigment

Allergic reactions to the actual ink used for tattooing may cause severe itching along with hive-like bumps, redness, etc.

Ink contamination

Symptoms can also result from tattoo ink that’s been contaminated, even if the label says "sterile," according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Preexisting skin conditions

If you have preexisting skin ailments like eczema or psoriasis, you may not be the best candidate to get a tattoo. However, even after getting a tattoo, you may experience flare-ups, causing red, itchy patches of skin anywhere on your body.


Sarcoidosis is an autoimmune condition that can affect an older tattoo, causing extreme itching and inflammation decades later, even affecting internal organs.

Reactions to MRI Scans

MRI scans are used by doctors to diagnose a variety of health conditions. While it is rare, reports from the FDA indicate that some individuals have experienced reactions to MRI scans on older tattoos. Symptoms can include itchiness and swelling, although these typically resolve on their own without medical intervention.

The way an itchy tattoo is treated depends on the underlying cause. It is especially important to exercise caution after getting a new tattoo to avoid damaging the ink or skin and risking infection. However, older tattoos can also be susceptible to skin damage in some cases.

OTC Creams and Ointments

It is generally not advisable to use over-the-counter creams and ointments on new tattoos because they can disrupt the natural healing process of the skin. However, for an itchy older tattoo, topical hydrocortisone may provide relief.

Cool Compresses

Using cool compresses can both alleviate itchiness and reduce swelling. Before using any compresses on a new tattoo, it is important to consult with your doctor; it takes about two weeks for new tattoos to heal, according to The Nemours Foundation.

Moisturizing the Area

If your skin feels itchy and dry, moisturizing may help. For older tattoos, use an oatmeal-based lotion or a thicker moisturizer made from cocoa butter, avoiding products with fragrances and colors that may irritate the skin. Consult with your tattoo artist before applying any moisturizer on a new tattoo.

Oatmeal Bath (for old tattoos only)

Colloidal oatmeal baths may provide relief for itchy skin, including older tattoos. However, they are not recommended for new tattoos, as they should not be submerged in water for at least two weeks.

Medications for Skin Conditions

If you have a preexisting skin condition causing the itchiness, your doctor may prescribe topical creams, especially for conditions such as eczema, rosacea, and psoriasis. If you are diagnosed with sarcoidosis, you may require immunosuppressants to prevent itchiness and immune complications.

Tattoo Removal

If the ink itself is the cause of the itchy tattoo, professional tattoo removal by a dermatologist may be necessary and involves laser treatments or dermabrasion. However, darker pigments may be more challenging to remove, and permanent scarring is also possible.

While there are various causes for an itchy tattoo, most are treatable. Nonetheless, it is crucial to avoid scratching the affected area to prevent further complications, scarring, or distortion of the tattoo. If you suspect an infection, immediate medical attention is important to prevent serious complications.

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