How do you soothe an itchy tattoo when you shouldn’t scratch it?
I know it’s tempting to rub around it and press on it, but please don’t. You certainly shouldn’t slap a tattoo if it itches, either.
You’re likely to damage the design or cause an infection.
Use the best anti-itch cream for tattoos instead.
It’s a kind of moisturizer that provides relief for itchy tattoos. You might try a topical anesthetic, too.
How long will the tattoo itch?
Your new tattoo will likely start itching two or three days after you get it. Then, you’ll be resisting the urge to scratch for as long as two weeks while you heal.
But it could be worse.
A few people have an allergic reaction to tattoo ink. Sometimes, the reaction will show up right away. But other times, it could take years to happen.
If you’re allergic to ink, you’re likely to have hives, redness, and severe itching. In that case, you should go to the doctor as soon as possible (1).
Also, there is an autoimmune condition called sarcoidosis. It inflames old tattoos from years past and leads to intense itchiness.
How to deal with an itchy tattoo
Any wound may itch while it heals, and tattoos are certainly no exception. But they require extra caution because of the consequences.
If you scratch at them or pull off scabs, you’ll likely need a touch-up to restore the ink. Then, the healing process begins all over again.
Don’t give in to the urge to scratch. Wear gloves at night if you must.
Distract yourself with anything that absorbs your attention. I’ve personally found that if I can wait out the itch for a few minutes, the worst will pass, and I’ll forget about it. (I pretend that I’m a spy being tortured and I must stay strong!)
Happily, just applying a moisturizer may solve the problem. When the skin isn’t dehydrated, it’s less likely to itch.
Stick to fragrance-free lotion if you can—dab on a small amount to avoid saturating and over-moisturizing the skin.
Aftercare products like tattoo balm are helpful as well.
But, I know you’ve got questions about anti-itch creams like Benadryl and lidocaine. Let’s explore the topical anesthetics first.
Best Anti-Itch Cream for Tattoos
Americaine Hospital Formula Maximum Strength Benzocaine Topical Anesthetic Spray
The key to taking good care of a new tattoo is to keep it clean and moisturized. That means avoiding products with drying alcohol.
Luckily, this anesthetic spray doesn’t have alcohol in it. Instead, it’s loaded with 20% benzocaine to numb the skin.
You can use it on open wounds like cuts and scrapes, insect bites, and burns. Therefore, it’s probably okay to use on a new tattoo. I recommend you discuss it with your doctor or tattoo artist to be sure.
H2ocean Nothing Tattoo Glide and Soothing Balm
Aftercare experts H2Ocean developed the Nothing Balm to take the edge off pain during the tattooing process.
It contains 4% lidocaine, a potent topical anesthetic that blocks the pain signal. It’s also formulated to reduce irritation and swelling.
It has no petroleum in it, so it won’t suffocate the skin. It’s even safe enough to use around the eyes.
I know that some tattoo collectors depend on it to stop the itching while their tattoos heal.
Numbskin Numbing Cream 5% Lidocaine
Numbskin cream deadens the skin in preparation for tattooing, piercing, and other procedures. The effects last up to 4 hours after it’s applied.
It’s a Canadian product that’s free of harsh ingredients. It gets to work in as little as 15 minutes.
The problem is that you shouldn’t apply as much cream to a healing tattoo as you would to prepare for getting a tattoo. You could mess up the ink, for one. Therefore, it may not work as well.
If you have Numbskin on hand already, you could try applying a thin layer to see if it helps with the itching.
Hush Anesthetic Tattoo Numbing Gel
Hush Gel is another topical anesthetic product used to prepare for tattooing or piercing. It features 4% lidocaine to numb the skin for up to two hours.
In its favor, it doesn’t contain drying alcohol, and it isn’t greasy. Plus, it was created for sensitive skin. That’s why it contains aloe, chamomile, and botanicals to promote healing.
There’s even a bit of menthol to soothe irritation on contact.
Aveeno Maximum Strength 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream
If you’re having an allergic reaction to the tattoo, hydrocortisone cream may help. It’s the kind of product you might put on poison ivy or a bee sting.
It’s not ideal for new tattoos, though. Fortunately, it has plenty of healing ingredients like vitamin E, aloe, and a triple oat complex.
Go easy when you apply it as it’s a creamy product. Apply a thin layer and wait at least fifteen minutes to feel relief.
Vanicream 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Cream
Vanicream makes their cream as gentle as possible. They leave out perfumes and masking fragrances, as well as parabens, dyes, lanolin, and formaldehyde releasers. There’s not even any gluten.
It’s mild enough to use on your face as it won’t clog pores. It’s also helpful for eczema and psoriasis.
CeraVe Hydrocortisone Cream 1%
Out of all the hydrocortisone creams, I’d recommend this one. It promises maximum relief for up to 12 hours.
It’s enriched with moisturizers like glycerin and hyaluronic acid. Plus, there are skin-soothing ingredients like aloe and oat.
Since CeraVe is the manufacturer, it also has ceramides to seal in moisture.
Dryness is precisely what you want to avoid when your skin is itchy. That’s why a water-based anti-itch cream like this one comes in handy.
I mentioned avoiding alcohol when you treat new tattoos. Don’t panic when you see cetearyl or benzyl alcohol on the label. The first one is an emollient that conditions the skin. The second is a preservative that has beneficial effects. Neither one will cause dryness.
Benadryl Original Strength Anti-Itch Relief Cream
What about Benadryl for an itchy tattoo?
First off, I’m not charmed by the “inactive ingredients.” It contains two kinds of parabens, plus diazolidinyl urea, which releases formaldehyde. Somehow, it’s still recommended for children aged two and up.
On the other hand, it has zinc acetate to protect the skin and diphenhydramine hydrochloride to calm irritation. The latter is a histamine blocker.
It’s made to relieve symptoms caused by insect bites or poison ivy. Therefore, it’s probably not ideal for fixing a tattoo that’s itching.
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream for Itch Relief
I wholeheartedly recommend this anti-itch cream for treating tattoos (as long as you’re not against petrolatum). The active ingredient is 1% pramoxine hydrochloride.
In a clinical trial, 100% of the participants using it felt rapid relief. Most felt better after only two minutes. Moreover, they continued to enjoy the effects up to 8 hours.
It’s non-comedogenic and contains no artificial fragrances or steroids.
Sarna Sensitive Anti-Itch Moisturizing Lotion
Sarna’s anti-itch lotion has the same active ingredient as CeraVe’s cream: 1% pramoxine hydrochloride. It’s also fragrance-free, and it does not contain parabens.
Even better, it’s been accepted by the National Eczema Association. It was formulated specifically for sensitive skin.
Just be aware that it contains petrolatum, so don’t apply a thick layer.
Gold Bond Medicated Body Lotion Extra Strength
I know some people swear by Gold Bond lotion. Personally, I’m unhappy with the ingredients, but I can’t deny that it works well for some people.
It has menthol and dimethicone to soothe and protect irritated skin.
Sadly, it also has parabens, an artificial fragrance, and a formaldehyde-releaser. I’d recommend looking elsewhere.
Barker Goods Organic Tattoo Balm
Now, let’s move on to non-medicated anti-itch creams. Many times, a little moisture is all you need to calm an itchy tattoo.
This tattoo aftercare product is USDA-certified organic. It’s made by a family-owned business in Iowa.
The odorless salve promises to take good care of new ink while relieving pain, swelling, and itching.
In case you don’t love it, it comes with a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
Hustle Butter Deluxe Tattoo Butter
What’s the best healing cream for tattoos? Some artists say it’s Hustle Butter.
They prefer it because they use it throughout the tattooing process. It’s handy as a glide to lubricate the skin, an excellent as a moisturizer during healing.
The formula has no petrolatum and no parabens. Instead, it’s packed with natural ingredients like shea and mango butter to soften the skin. Other botanicals prevent infection.
It’s useful for itching as it cools the skin with mint and green tea.
Purao Skin Protection Gel
If you’re like me, you hate chapped lips. But what does that have to do with itchy tattoos?
I bring it up because this gel heals everything from chapped skin, burns, bites, and bites. It states explicitly that it’s suitable for tattoos.
The secret is Manuka honey from New Zealand. It’s medical-grade as it’s used in hospitals to heal wounds.
The gel is actually more like a cream, yet it absorbs quickly. It creates a barrier to seal in moisture and relieve dryness while it encourages healing.
Redemption Tattoo Care Aftercare
Here’s another tattoo balm that doubles as a lubricant during the tattoo process. It has no petroleum in it, although it resembles Vaseline.
Since it comes in a jar, please be sure to wash your hands before using it to avoid contamination.
The organic formula features itch-relieving ingredients like arnica, chamomile, and calendula. What’s convenient is that it doesn’t just soothe the skin, but it also accelerates healing.
Tattoo Goo Aftercare Lotion
A little lotion might be all you need to soothe the itch. This one was developed especially to care for new tattoos.
The dermatologist-approved formula is fortified with vitamins A and D, just like that famous diaper ointment you’ve heard about. But it has no petroleum or lanolin in it.
It’s water-based so that it absorbs quickly and never feels greasy. You can even use it on your face as it won’t trigger acne.
After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer
If you’ve watched Ink Master or NY Ink, you might’ve noticed this lotion. It’s used by artists around the world.
It’s a vegan moisturizer that’s made in the USA. Plus, it’s been tested by dermatologists for sensitive skin.
Feel free to anywhere on your face or body. It’s soothing after permanent makeup procedures and laser tattoo removal, too.
Platinum Rose Tattoo Butter
This tattoo balm is 100% organic and cruelty-free. It has no synthetic ingredients, which makes it healthy for new tattoos.
It speeds up healing so that you can get back to everyday life as soon as possible. The ingredients reduce redness and itching and prevent scabbing.
As an artist, you can also use it as a lubricant while you work. But you should know that it has a rose scent that comes from plant oil.
Eucerin Skin Calming Lotion
If you’re on a budget, tattoo specialty products might seem a little pricey. Try Eucerin’s calming lotion instead.
It’s a rich moisturizer enhanced with oatmeal to calm itchy skin. The hydrating effect lasts up to 24 hours.
Thankfully, it doesn’t leave a greasy residue, and it has no artificial color or fragrance.
Aveeno Skin Relief Fragrance-Free Moisturizing Lotion
Aveeno’s fragrance-free lotion is appropriate for treating an itchy tattoo.
With a soothing triple oat complex plus shea butter, it alleviates dry skin for up to a full day after it’s applied.
Of course, once you wash your tattoo, you’ll need to put on more.
Curel Itch Defense Calming Body Lotion
Curél’s lotion has been allergy-tested. It’s recommended by dermatologists and pediatricians.
It’s also approved by the National Eczema Association. But is it safe for new tattoos?
If you don’t glob it on, it should be fine. It’s a water-based lotion that happens to contain petrolatum. Too much petrolatum will stifle the skin and keep it from breathing.
But what’s interesting is that the formula has benzalkonium chloride, which is an antibacterial agent. Therefore, the lotion may help reduce the risk of infection.
While I hope that your new tattoo won’t drive you crazy as it heals, it might be itchy.
Get anti-itch cream to treat it. Then, you won’t have to struggle not to scratch it.
If you found your new favorite tattoo aftercare product today, come back and tell us about your experience with it in the comments below.
1. https://www.healthline.com/health/itchy-tattoo#treatment by Kristeen Cherney, published July 31, 2018, accessed September 22, 2020