Getting a tattoo is something to be excited about, but while admiring your latest ink, can you touch it? find out about tattoo aftercare!
Unsurprisingly, one of the things people with new tattoos like to do is touch them. After all, your skin has changed! However, this is probably not a good idea.
Your hands are home to thousands of microorganisms, and because a new tattoo is essentially an open wound, you can transfer bacteria to the area, increasing your chances of developing an infection.
If touching a fresh tattoo is unavoidable, you should only do it after cleansing your hands thoroughly, avoiding any harsh or abrasive contact.
Can You Touch a New Tattoo?
Yes, you can touch it – touch is just making contact with your skin. Should you feel a new tattoo, though? No!
However, this is common among new tattoo enthusiasts and their friends and family. To avoid infection, do not touch your tatted skin and don’t allow anyone else to feel it either until it has had time to heal fully.
How long does it take before you can touch a tattoo?
Day 1 – Fresh Tattoos
Tattoos are considered medical procedures, so they require proper aftercare since they are open, fresh wounds. At least overnight, your tattoo should be wrapped and protected on the first day. The tattoo should not be touched and you should wear loose clothes.
Reasons Why You Should Never Touch a New Tattoo
If you’re still not convinced that touching your freshly tattooed skin is a bad idea, here are more details about why you should never touch your new tattoo:
1. It Causes Infection
Your fingers and nails are naturally coated in bacteria, and newly inked skin presents an exposed wound that is ideal for the spread of infection. New tattoos are most frequently associated with Staph infections. A painful abscess or a weeping, blistering, or pustular rash could result from this type of infection.
As you appreciate your tattoo, refrain from touching it yourself or allowing anyone else to feel it. Many people seem to forget that freshly inked tattoos are wounds and should be treated as such.
If your tattoo isn’t healing, you notice redness or puss has started to form; contact your tattoo artist or doctor for advice on how to treat it.
2. It Could Ruin Your Tattoo for Good
Generally speaking, playing around with your tattoo outside of the aftercare routine is not a good idea. It needs time to heal and space to breathe.
A little touch is all it takes to ruin a tattoo. From blurring the lines to removing patches of ink and even causing a blowout or reducing the intensity of the color, touching your tattoo can cause more harm than you might think.
While it’s common for tattoos that have fully healed to require touch-ups due to issues with the skin’s ability to absorb the ink, a tattoo that has undergone the healing process will require additional work, which will obviously cost more.
Contact with Newly Tattooed Skin
As we’ve already mentioned, a tattoo is an open wound, so as with all open wounds, harsh or abrasive contact can cause severe damage to the skin and invite infection.
What counts as harmful contact with a new tattoo? Here are some actions to avoid within the first four weeks of getting a fresh tattoo:
As your tattoo heals, it will start to itch. However, scratching it can be harmful for a number of reasons. First, your nails can be sharp, and remove the scab that forms as a tattoo heals. This exposes it to bacteria and slows the healing process.
Moreover, your fingernails contain thousands of microorganisms that often remain, even after you’ve washed your hands. This means that while your nails expose your skin, they also promote infection by transferring bacteria to the area.
To relieve the itch, you may also be tempted to rub your new tattoo. However, this is also not advisable because rubbing the skin can cause irritation and inflammation since it generates heat.
Picking and Peeling
A common mistake tattoo enthusiasts make is picking at their fresh tattoo or peeling off the scab. Like scratching, this also opens your tattoo up to infection. This could also ruin the appearance of your new tattoo.
Instead, you should let it heal on its own and allow the scab to fall off naturally rather than picking it off yourself.
Another way to relieve itching skin is by slapping, which is also a no-no when it comes to newly tattooed skin. Not only does this irritate the skin, but it can also cause an ink blowout.
Tattoo ink is injected into the dermis. This is a layer of skin sandwiched between the epidermis (upper layer of skin) and a layer of fat below. Slapping your new tattoo can force ink to leak into the fat layer below, essentially ruining it.
If the itch becomes too much to handle and you find it impossible to refrain from these forms of contact, you can apply an anti-itch cream to help soothe the area.
Talk to your tattoo artist or pharmacist for more information on ointments and creams that are safe to use on tattooed skin.
When Can You Touch Your Tattoo?
Aftercare requires the routine cleansing of the area to prevent infection. You should not touch your tattoo unless it is to cleanse or moisturize it.
Cleansing Your New Tattoo
Tattoo artists recommend cleaning a fresh tattoo three to four times a day with a mild, fragrance-free liquid or bar soap. This is done to remove bacteria that could cause infection and sweat that could ruin your tattoo.
How to Clean a Fresh Tattoo Properly
When cleansing the area, you should always be gentle. The skin is sensitive and prone to damage and infection, so never use anything abrasive, such as a washcloth. Instead, use your hands to apply mild soap to the area and cleanse in circular motions.
Do not soak your skin in water – this could cause waterlogging, pushing the ink out of the skin.
Next, rinse the area thoroughly with water, ensuring that all soap has been removed. Pat the area dry gently.
Your tattoo artist will recommend a suitable ointment or cream to help soothe your skin and keep it hydrated. Once you have cleansed the skin and patted it dry, you can apply this to the affected area.
The truth is that your skin is a barrier that protects you from the elements, chemicals, temperature changes, and microorganisms. However, when you get a new tattoo, you’re compromising that barrier, which makes the skin in that area more prone to damage and infection.
To make matters worse, your hands are teeming with microbial life, so touching the tattoo will only lead to infection. Touching could be in the form of picking, peeling, scratching, or rubbing, so you should avoid these types of contact if you want your tattoo to heal quickly.
The usual aftercare rules will no longer apply if your tattoo gets infected, so check with your tattoo artist about what to do next. Typically, it’s a case of taking antibiotics at the doctor. For tattoo maintenance, however, simply avoid these no-nos and you’ll be fine.
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- Rostron, A., et al. (2015). Aftercare should not be an afterthought: Current tattoo aftercare methods [Abstract].
- Tattoo-associated nontuberculous mycobacterial skin infections — multiple states, 2011–2012. (2012).
- Think before you ink: Are tattoos safe? (2017).