New tattoo? Time to brush up (or should that be ‘scrub’ up) on the importance of exfoliating your newly inked skin
The benefits of exfoliating tattooed skin are clear. They include removing dry or dull skin, increasing blood circulation, and brightening and improving your tattoos, to name a few.
But after getting a new tattoo, it can be a job to know when to begin all that buffing and scrubbing. How soon is too soon? What’s more, with a range of exfoliating products on the market, what’s best to use for tattooed skin?
Thankfully, as experts in everything to do with tattoo aftercare, we’re here to help.
In this post we’ll take a closer look at exfoliation and tattoos, including when to start, how to do it, and what to use.
Why is dead skin a problem for tattoos?
If done carefully, exfoliating can be one of the best things you do for your skin, period. And what’s good for your skin tends to be good for your tattoos.
Why? Studies show humans lose 200 million skin cells every hour. In fact, during a 24-hour period, a person loses almost five thousand million skin cells.
The problem is, not all of the old skin cells actually shed away. In fact, some can remain on your top layers of skin, resulting in dry, flaky patches. Or even worse; dull tattoos.
What’s more, the build-up of dead skin cells can lead to excess oil accumulating and clogging pores which in turn leads to problems like blemishes and acne. This is where exfoliation comes in.
By scrubbing and removing the layer of dead skin, it helps the natural shedding process. Not only does this leave your skin looking and feeling super smooth, but it can help moisturisers penetrate more deeply into the skin.
And because there’s not a layer of dead skin cells covering your ink, tattoos appear more vibrant.
How to exfoliate a tattoo
Exfoliation methods can vary, and it can be a good idea to consider your skin type before starting a particular exfoliating regime.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association has some great info on how to safely exfoliate at home and lists the following types of skin:
- Sensitive skin: may sting or burn after product use
- Normal skin: is clear and not sensitive
- Dry skin: is flaky, itchy or rough
- Oily skin: is shiny and greasy
- Combination skin: is dry in some areas and oily in others
Regardless of your skin type, one of the best pieces of advice we have is to go gently when exfoliating tattooed skin, especially on recently inked skin (even if your tattoo appears fully healed).
We’ve designed our Exfoliating Body Wash to be gentle enough to be used daily if you wish. Simply apply the wash to your skin in the shower, rub in gentle, circular motions and rinse thoroughly afterwards. It’s also totally fine to use on non-tattooed areas of your body - in fact, it works great!
But be aware, some exfoliators aren’t designed for such regular use and in this case it’s best not to overdo it. Scrubbing too hard and too regularly can remove some of your skin’s natural oils and/or cause your skin to become dry and sore - something we’re trying to avoid!
Typically speaking, about twice a week should suffice for most areas of your body.
When can I exfoliate my new tattoo?
This is a really common tattoo aftercare question. And thankfully, the answer is (reasonably) simple….
For new tattoos, it’s only safe to begin exfoliating once the tattoo is healed. For some people this may take two or three weeks, but more likely it’s going to take up to a month, potentially longer.
Basically, you want to try and avoid injuring your tattoo while it heals as this disturbs the wound, opening up opportunities for infection or the possibility of disturbing the ink your artist has put there before it’s had a chance to settle.
Before the tattoo is healed, you should continue washing the area gently two or three times per day. Afterwards, gently apply a thin coat of a lotion-based care product. We recommend Stories & Ink’s tattoo Aftercare Cream.
Throughout the healing process (and afterwards), it’s also really important to avoid exposing your new tattoo to the Sun. Sun beds and similar artificial tanning methods are also another no-go.
This is because UV light can increase fading, peeling or cracking of the tattoo, as well as other adverse health-effects on your skin.
FAQ: Can I exfoliate a tattoo after 1 month?
After one month, most tattoos should be healed well enough to use a gentle exfoliating product, such as Stories & Ink’s Exfoliating Body Wash. However it’s still worth noting that some experts say it can take up to three months for your tattoo to fully heal, so it’s best to go gentle while your tattoo is still fresh.
Can I pick dead skin off tattoos?
Remember, you only want to exfoliate healed tattoos and definitely never, ever pick the dead skin off your new tattoos.
Exfoliating or picking at a fresh tattoo is not only pretty painful, but it could lead to infection or scarring which can end up spoiling the appearance of your tattoo.
If your tattoo isn’t peeling, it’s best to keep following the aftercare guidelines set by your artist and let nature take its course.
Is it normal for tattoos to peel?
While dead skin can be a problem for healed tattoos, it’s worth noting that it’s completely normal for new tattoos to go through a flaky stage as part of the tattoo healing process.
For example, most tattoos peel by the end of their first week. And following this, you may notice scabs forming that also peel as your skin heals. This usually happens towards the end of the second week, although everyone’s skin heals differently so don’t get too stuck on the timing of things here.
Other factors that influence the amount of dead skin on your new tattoos include the size of your tattoo (larger tattoos tend to flake more), how well you’ve kept it moisturised, and its location.
For instance, tattoos on areas of skin such as your elbow, hands or feet are going to move more during the healing phase, so it’s probably going to take slightly longer to peel.
Tattoo peeling no ink underneath
Whether it’s your first experience or the final piece in a full body suit, it’s always a little worrying when some of the ink on your new tattoo starts coming away in the shower.
Don’t stress! This is perfectly normal. While most of the ink is placed deep into your skin by your artist, some will remain on the surface of your skin or collect in scabs over the new tattoo.
As your body repairs itself, it’s normal for some of this excess ink to come away. Underneath your tattoo will still be there and ready to shine in all its vibrant glory!
And as long as you continue to follow your tattoo aftercare regime; blotting tattoos dry with a towel and not rubbing, wearing loose clothing, keeping it moisturised and not picking, your tattoo should heal just fine.
My peeling tattoo looks faded
During the healing phase, you might also notice that your peeling tattoo looks faded or ‘dull’. Again, this is perfectly normal. It happens because a layer of dead skin cells can form on top of your tattoo. Once this layer has been shed away, your colors should look vibrant again.
Note: While peeling is a normal part of the healing process, excess peeling, especially if it’s combined with redness, swelling or itching, could indicate an infection. If you’re concerned, see a medical professional for advice.
Can you exfoliate a tattoo away?
It’s pretty common to worry that by exfoliating your inked skin, you may somehow remove the ink. But as long as you wait until your tattoo is healed to begin exfoliating, this isn’t something to worry about.
Exfoliation only removes the very top layer of your skin, including old and dead cells. Your tattoo, once it’s fully healed, is inked deeper into a layer of skin that’s known as the dermis.
Ink in the dermis tends to last much longer and is beyond the reach of an exfoliator. However, over time your tattoos can still fade, especially if you don’t take appropriate action - you can read more about what causes tattoos to fade in this post.
Best tattoo exfoliators
There’s a load of exfoliating products on the market and choosing the right one can be tricky. Of course, we believe in choosing a product made specifically for tattooed skin!
But why not just pick up any old scrub? Well, there’s a number of things that go into our Exfoliating Body Wash that make it a particularly great tattoo exfoliator.
First up, it contains natural fruit extracts that safely exfoliate dead skin cells to reveal brighter, more vibrant-looking tattoos. Meanwhile, red algae extract tones your skin, giving you a luminous and ultra-refined complexion.
Other benefits include the fact it’s vegan, cruelty-free and gluten-free. And by using natural alternatives to microplastic beads, this is not only better for our planet, but ensures it’s non-irritating to your skin too.
In fact, its gentleness is what makes it really stand out as ideal for people with tattooed skin. Designed to be used daily, unlike other harsher scrubs out there, it ensures your skin is always looking its best, and this means so are your tattoos.
Happy scrubbing everyone!