Exfoliating Over A Tattoo: Skincare Or Skin Nightmare?

Few things come close to the feeling of getting a new tattoo for which you've been saving your money. Before you're ready to show it off to your friends, there are vital steps to ensure that your new ink is healing properly. It can be easy to make mistakes when it comes to aftercare, especially if it's your first-time tattoo. At the first sight of peeling skin, you may be tempted to exfoliate it off, but doing so improperly can have unintended consequences.


Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells and dirt from the skin by using a slightly abrasive surface, like a brush or washcloth, and/or chemical products. Exfoliation carries with it myths you should stop believing, but for the most part, it should be an essential part of everyone's skincare routine. While it can be a great way to brighten and soften your skin, overdoing it can leave your skin feeling irritated and full of breakouts. So, should you be exfoliating over your ink?

The problem: too early and too much

When it comes to tattoos, it's important to be extremely careful with how you treat your skin, especially while the tattoo is still healing. In the weeks after getting your tattoo, the ink is located in the outermost layers of the skin. Your body reacts to the ink like it would with a scratch or burn — with redness, itchiness, swelling, and peeling. While you may be tempted to exfoliate, doing so in the early stages of healing can not only be painful but also ruin the appearance of your new tattoo by removing parts of that outer, protective layer of skin. This will only disrupt the healing process and cause your beautiful tattoo to fade.


Depending on the size and location of the tattoo, it can take one to three months for the ink to heal in the deeper layers of the skin. Even after six months, your tattoo still needs proper cleaning, moisturization, and protection from the sun. Once you know your tattoo has properly healed, you can start exfoliating to keep your ink vibrant and looking new. You don't, however, need to make exfoliating part of your daily routine. A simple scrub once or twice a week will do the trick. Exfoliating too much, even over tattoos you've had for years, can dry out your skin and lead to irritation.

Understand your skin's needs

No one knows your skin as you do. Everyone has different skin types, so make sure you're properly exfoliating according to your own needs. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests that people with sensitive and acne-prone skin try a mild chemical exfoliator and a washcloth, while those with oily skin can seek out stronger exfoliants. No matter what your skin type is, always be gentle and follow up with a moisturizer to give your skin the proper hydration it needs to shine and thrive.


Remember to have open conversations with your tattoo artist. They are your best friend when it comes to giving your tattoo adequate care and solving any problems with your skin. Don't gloss over the aftercare instructions given to you, no matter how badly you want to speed up the healing process. These are experts in their field, so never be afraid to share any concerns or questions you may have about caring for a new tattoo. No question is ever a bad question.