Don’t panic – an ingrown hair won’t ruin your tattoo. Although it may be unsightly and uncomfortable, it won’t affect the dermis, the layer of skin where the ink is. However, if you pick at it or it gets infected, you might end up with problems. That’s why we’re writing about how to treat ingrown hair on a tattoo.
What is ingrown hair?
Ingrown hair happens when the hair shaft curls back under the skin or else isn’t able to grow out of the hair follicle after it’s been cut. Some people, like those with curly or coarse hair, are more prone to ingrown hair than others (1).
Once the hair is trapped, the skin responds to the inflammation with redness, swelling, and a pus-filled bump. Sometimes it’s called razor rash or razor bumps because it happens after shaving or hair removal.
Does getting a tattoo increase the risk of ingrown hairs?
Not really – a tattoo does not make it more likely that you’ll end up with ingrown hair because tattooing doesn’t affect the hair follicles or cause folliculitis. But remember that the artist is going to shave the hair from the skin before inking you. As someone pointed out, most tattoo artists aren’t barbers, and the quality of the shave also depends on the razor they use. Therefore, getting a tattoo may indirectly lead to an ingrown hair as the hair grows back.
Can you get a tattoo over ingrown hair or razor bumps?
No self-respecting artist is going to risk tattooing broken skin. That’s just asking for infection. If you have a skin injury of any kind including razor rash or ingrown hair, it needs to heal before you get tattooed.
How is an ingrown hair on a tattoo treated?
If you’re following all the recommended tattoo aftercare, an ingrown hair should go away on its own. If you’re worried about developing an ingrown hair, just remember to wash and moisturize the tattoo twice a day. Use tattoo wash like the product below to keep the skin clean and hydrated.
L:A Bruket 189 Tattoo cleanser
This tattoo aftercare soap soothes the skin and wards off infections with natural antimicrobial ingredients like lavender and tea tree essential oil. Use this anti-inflammatory cleanser morning and night to calm razor rash and ward off ingrown hairs.
The gentle formula has no alcohol, parabens, or artificial fragrances to protect sensitive skin.
- Naturally antimicrobial ingredients reduce inflammation and calm the skin
- Features anise, aloe, lavender, and tea tree essential oil
- No alcohol, parabens, or perfumes
Eucerin Advanced Cleansing Body and Face Cleanser
You don’t have to spend a lot of money on tattoo aftercare products to take good care of your skin. Eucerin’s face and body wash is the perfect cleanser for newly tattooed skin. It has no artificial fragrance, dyes, or soap so it won’t cause dryness. Moreover, it’s non-comedogenic and won’t clog pores.
Although it has a creamy texture, it doesn’t make a lot of lather. Still, it rinses easily and doesn’t sting on sensitive skin.
The trick with ingrown hairs is to keep the skin healthy and moisturized so that they don’t get trapped in the first place. That’s why a tattoo body wash like this one is the perfect choice.
- Safe for sensitive skin and cleansing new tattoos
- Non-drying formula keeps skin hydrated
- Non-comedogenic and free of fragrances, dyes, and soap
- Not a sexy tattoo aftercare product, but perfect for cleaning new tattoos
What’s the best way to remove hair from a tattoo?
Let’s be specific – what’s the best way to remove hair from a tattoo so that you don’t get ingrown hairs? The experts recommend using a single blade razor and high-quality shaving cream. Don’t dry shave or reuse an old razor even if it’s sanitized (if you’re tattooing at home).
Why a single bladed or safety razor? It may seem old school, but a single blade is less likely to cause ingrown hairs. Multiple blade razors lift and cut the hair very close to the skin, increasing the risk of the hair being trapped underneath as it grows back.
FYI: most disposable razors used in tattoo studios are twin blade. But if you are practicing tattooing at home, you can use a safety razor with a single blade. In either case, lather up with a good shaving cream the one below.
Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel
A lubricating gel like this one allows for a close shave while it prevents ingrown hairs and razor bumps. It’s fortified with vitamin E and oat but has no added fragrance to protect sensitive skin.
- Fragrance-free shaving lubricant for a close shave without razor bumps
- Soothes the skin with vitamin E and oat
- If you’re getting a tattoo done at a studio, you may have to put up with whatever shaving equipment they use. However, you can also prepare the skin yourself by carefully shaving at home before going to the appointment
How to treat an ingrown hair on a new tattoo
Whatever you do, don’t pick at an ingrown hair on a new tattoo. Don’t try to tweeze it out, either. Just leave it alone because it will go away in a few days.
Meanwhile, keep the skin clean and moisturized. We can’t emphasize that enough.
Picking at the ingrown hair can spread bacteria and infect the tattoo, leading to nasty complications that might require medical intervention or at the very least, a touch-up at the tattoo studio to repair the damaged ink.
If you’re afraid that you’ll scratch the spot in your sleep, apply a waterproof dressing like Saniderm, SecondSkin, or 3M Tegaderm. The advantages of bandaging a new tattoo are many, including protection against dirt and water and less time spent cleansing and moisturizing as the bandage can stay in place for several days.
Saniderm Tattoo Aftercare Bandage
This transparent, latex-free bandage is ideal for tattoo aftercare. It keeps the skin clean and safe from abrasion, dirt, and water, allowing for quicker recovery.
Use a bandage to cover up the ingrown hair and let your body take care of the problem on its own.
- Waterproof bandage can be left in place for several days
- Accelerates healing and cuts down on new tattoo maintenance
- Protects against abrasion and keeps tattoo from leaking on bedding
- You may need someone to help you wrap a larger tattoo
How to treat an ingrown hair on an old tattoo
If you notice an ingrown hair on an old tattoo, stop shaving the area for a few days. Don’t do any type of hair removal because even a product like Nair might irritate the skin and aggravate the problem.
Picking, squeezing, or piercing the inflamed bump is a real temptation, but it might cause infection or a scar. Instead, clean the skin thoroughly with mild soap. Then, hold a warm, damp washcloth on the spot for ten minutes every few hours. This softens the skin and helps the hair break through on its own.
Another option is to exfoliate the skin by rubbing it in gentle circles with a new soft toothbrush. This feels really nice if the skin is itchy.
Another option is to put a Band-Aid on top and ignore the problem for a couple of days. Chances are that it will be gone when you look.
Lastly, if you just can’t stand it any longer, sanitize tweezers by soaking them in rubbing alcohol and clean your hands and the affected skin with mild soap. Use a warm compress for a few minutes to soften up the spot then free the ingrown hair with the tweezers. Clean the skin again and apply moisturizer. Everything should be fine after that in a day or two.
If you absolutely want to avoid infection, try using an antimicrobial soap like the one below.
PROVON Antimicrobial Lotion Soap PCMX
Hospital-grade antimicrobial soap is excellent for wound care and tattoo aftercare (since that’s basically the same thing). Use it to scrub your hands before touching your tattoo and you will ward off infection better than garlic against vampires.
After your tattoo is healed, you can use the same soap to treat bug bites, scratches, and so on. After all, it’s a non-drying formula with skin conditioners like aloe and vitamin E.
- Hospital-grade with top-notch antimicrobial action
- Enriched with conditioners like vitamin E and aloe to prevent dryness in the face of repeated washing
- Pricier than Dial Gold but better for your skin
How to prevent ingrown hairs on tattoos
Even if you’re genetically predisposed to ingrown hairs, you can still take action to prevent them.
First, lower your risk by shaving with a safety razor and a fresh blade. Use shaving oil or shaving cream to lubricate the skin.
Second, wash a fresh tattoo twice a day and apply moisturizer. This keeps the skin hydrated and calm, allowing hair to grow back normally.
Third, don’t shave old tattoos unless you must remove hair from them. Try using an electric razor even though it doesn’t provide as close of a shave because the slightly longer hair is less likely to get trapped underneath the skin. Or switch to hair removal cream.
Fourth, once your tattoo is healed, exfoliate the skin at least once a week. This keeps dead cells from building up and suffocating hair growth. How to exfoliate? It’s as simple as using a washcloth and your regular body wash. Another option is to use an exfoliating body wash like the ones below. Choose the best one based on your skin type and needs.
Alpha Skin Care Moisturizing Body Wash
If you have naturally dry skin, this exfoliating body wash is made for you. It features glycolic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid that dissolves the bonds between dead skin cells so they slough off naturally. It’s not painful at all and doesn’t cause redness unlike body scrubs or loofahs.
Persons with keratosis pilaris (KP) find it helpful for reducing the keratin buildup on the backs of their arms and legs so that they no longer have chicken skin. And the people who use it regularly are less prone to acne, razor rash, and ingrown hairs.
Although this product is NOT recommended for a new tattoo, it’s ideal for keeping old ink vibrant. The hydrating formula leaves skin soft and smooth with aloe, vitamin E, and pea protein. Just use it a few days a week to enjoy the benefits.
- Prevents ingrown hairs, razor rash, and acne
- Renews and smooths the skin with glycolic acid
- Conditions with vitamin E, aloe, and pea protein
- Not safe for new tattoos
- Contains an artificial fragrance and artificial color
CeraVe Body Wash with Salicylic Acid
Salicylic acid is one of the best anti-acne medications you can get over-the-counter. It’s a chemical exfoliant that unclogs pores and gets rid of dead skin. It’s best for oily skin, but this particular body wash is mild enough for other skin types if not used daily.
The hypoallergenic formula is fragrance-free and contains no parabens. Instead, it offers hyaluronic acid and three essential ceramides to keep skin hydrated and healthy. Alongside these is niacinamide to calm inflammation and redness.
Just don’t wash a new tattoo with it. Save it for after the skin has healed. Then, wash with it regularly to clear up body acne and prevent ingrown hairs.
- Exfoliates dead skin and unclogs pores
- Prevents ingrown hairs and clears up acne
- Non-comedogenic, hypoallergenic formula with no parabens or artificial fragrance
- Not suitable for a new tattoo
Is there a tattoo aftercare balm that prevents ingrown hairs?
If your skin is healthy and moisturized instead of dry and irritated, it’s much less likely to develop an ingrown hair. Applying tattoo aftercare moisturizer is an excellent way to prevent problems on both new and old tattoos.
Sanibalm Tattoo Aftercare by Saniderm
Yes, you can use Saniderm’s Sanibalm on ingrown hair. It comes in a handy tube that allows you to treat the spot without having to scrub your hands clean first. Moreover, you can put it on multiple times a day to reduce inflammation and itching.
Apply a thin layer and enjoy relief within moments. After your tattoo is healed, the balm can help make the ink look brighter and crisper.
- Safe and effective aftercare balm for new tattoos
- Promotes healing while relieving itching and inflammation
- Packaged in a tube for no-mess application
1. https://www.skinmds.com/blog/dealing-with-ingrown-hairs/ Dealing with Ingrown Hairs by Berman Skin Institute, published January 31, 2020