A tattoo is an investment into a piece of art on your skin. Whether it’s your first or your fifteenth, the pride of new ink never fades. But nothing can cause more panic than a cut, scratch, graze, or injury on your ink. What do you do to care for it? Will it permanently alter or scar the design?
Whatever your worries, we’ve got you and your tattoo covered.
The concern of a cut depends on whether this has happened on a new tattoo or an old tattoo. A new tattoo is classified as any tattoo under one month old, and depending where it is in its healing stage, there could be problems.
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A new tattoo is already classified as an open wound or abrasion, and getting a cut on your tattoo can amplify the trauma. This may cause your tattoo to take longer to properly heal.
The scabbing of a new tattoo is a complicated process, which we cover in our article Tattoo Scabbing - Your Complete How To Guide. Introducing another injury, especially one that extends deeper into the dermis and leads to bleeding, could cause further or more severe scabbing over your tattoo.
The issue with additional scabbing comes down to a few factors:
Just like excess scabbing, a cut, slash, or abrasion on your new tattoo could lead to tattoo distortion, though this could be rectified with a touch up.
The primary concern with a cut or graze on a new tattoo is that you open up the already existing wound to more opportunities of being exposed to bacteria. This, in turn, may lead to a risk of infection. Extra care needs to be taken with cleansing a wound on top of a wound.
If your tattoo is less than a month old, it will be significantly more sensitive to injury. A cut or a graze on a tattoo less than a month old is more prone to:
This is why it is recommended that during your first month of healing a new tattoo, you take extra care and precaution which includes proper aftercare, wearing loose fitting clothing to create a barrier over your tattoo, and avoiding activities that could put your tattoo at risk such as exercise or laborious work.
When your tattoo is older, your skin has regenerated and is not as sensitive any longer. Usually cuts or grazes will not have any impact on an old tattoo because the ink is well settled in the dermis and the skin is recovered. In addition, on old tattoos you are free to use products like Polysporin to help speed up the healing of your injury, which cannot and should not be used on a new tattoo.
As expected, the severity of the impact of a cut on a tattoo depends on how deep the injury goes into the skin. Most skin injuries such as cuts, grazes, or burns, extend slightly below the epidermis but never reach where in the dermis your ink is settled. These slight injuries will have no impact on your tattoo after it has healed.
You can usually determine how deep a cut is by how severely it bleeds. More severe or deep cuts may cause infection to the area around your tattoo, or permanent distortion through scarring.
While we cannot avoid all accidents and injuries, it may be helpful that if the depth of a wound concerns you, discuss this with your tattoo artist who may be able to recommend a product or care routine to help protect your tattoo.
As soon as you sustain an injury on your tattoo, you should immediately proceed to washing the area with antibacterial soap. You must be rigorous when working to prevent infection, as this could severely damage or distort your tattoo.
If you are in the first month of healing your tattoo, you should be aware of the pressure you are putting on the injury to stop the bleeding, and you should not wrap it with a bandage as this may compromise the healing of your tattoo. You should use the same cleaning methods on the injury as you do with your tattoo; check out our article How Do I Clean My New Tattoo? - An Ink Aftercare Guide.
For an older tattoo, you don’t need to worry about the pressure you are putting on the cut or injury, and you are free to wrap the area in order to prevent bacteria from infiltrating the wound.
If you fear your cut may be infected, you should speak to a medical professional immediately, so you can handle the concerns while simultaneously protecting your ink.
Signs of infection may include:
No matter when a cut or graze happens on a tattoo, whether it's new ink or old ink, you should begin a thorough aftercare process of the wound and tattooed area. Here are a few articles that we recommend for ensuring your cut and ink are well cared for:
Your immune system plays the biggest role in combating the damage done from a cut or graze on your tattoo. Skin is the biggest organ in our body, and taking care of it consistently helps aid with healing injuries down the line. It also maintains the beauty of your older tattoos, so proper skin health is a great investment.
You should keep your skin moisturized year round, protect it from sun damage, stay hydrated to encourage the elasticity and healthy aging of your tattoo, and avoid things such as smoking and drinking alcohol. A healthy diet also encourages positive immune and skin health, and this will assist with combating bacteria and accelerating the healing of both tattoos and cuts.
You should allow your body one month to fully heal the injury, much like you would with a tattoo. At that point, you will be able to assess how much damage may have been done to your ink.
More often than not, any leftover scarring or scabbing will disappear over that time, but should you notice some permanent concerns, these are usually easily rectified by your tattoo artist.
You could ask your artist for a touch up on the tattoo, to repair any small spots or to cover any minor scarring. You could also ask for a blowover, which is when your entire tattoo is covered with something new. Scars can be tattooed, but they are significantly more sensitive, and they require a professional who has experience tattooing scars.
A cut or a graze that causes significant damage to a tattoo is usually very rare. Your primary concern when an injury happens is to keep the area meticulously clean and free from bacteria so it heals quickly and without damage to your inked area.
If you notice a bit of impact on your tattoo after your cut is healed, a quick chat with your artist can usually rectify any of your concerns with helpful product suggestions, or they may simply recommend a touch up.