After getting a new tattoo, it's only natural to want to show it off to the world. Your friends and Instagram followers are waiting—we get it. But, if your ink is located somewhere you typically shave, like on your legs, then you'll need to be patient in order to let it heal properly first. The last thing you want is your beloved ink getting infected after all.
Not sure what should happen to your tattoo afterward or how to handle the healing process? We've got you covered. Ahead: Everything you need to know about the post-tattoo experience and when it's safe to shave.
How Does a New Tattoo Heal?
Tattoos generally go through several different stages of healing. Immediately afterward, your skin might look raw and feel tender to the touch, though this should only last a day or so depending on how large your ink is and where it's placed. For instance, a tiny tattoo on your arm might feel fine after a few hours, while a large piece in a sensitive spot like your ribs could take days to feel normal again.
Use an ointment like Aquaphor or Vaseline to protect your tattoo and ensure it stays moisturized while it heals.
During the middle stage, your tattoo will likely look very dark as it hasn't peeled yet and should be safe to touch and shower with, so long as you're not completely submerging it under water. The last stage is the peeling stage, which tends to occur anywhere from three or four days to a week after you got your ink. Once it scabs over and sheds, your skin will regenerate itself and produce a new protective layer over your tattoo. This is usually when it's safe to shave again, though if your skin is ultra-sensitive, it could still become irritated.
Depending on your tattoo—and your own body's ability to heal—the healing process can take anywhere from five to ten days in most cases.
Why Shouldn't I Shave Right After?
When you get a tattoo, the area will be completely shaved before it's done, so you're starting off with smooth skin. However, after a couple of days when stubble comes in, the urge to shave can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, if you go for it too soon, shaving will be about as rough on your tattoo as a weed whacker. This is because the wound is still fresh, and if you have any scabbing or raised areas, you run the risk of damaging the art by running a razor across it. Oh yeah, and chemical hair removers are just as bad—if not worse—as you never want to put any kind of a chemical solution on a new tattoo because it will burn.
How Can I Tell if It's Safe?
Not sure if your tattoo has healed completely? Try this simple skin test to see if it's safe to shave again:
Close your eyes and run the tips of your fingers across and around your tattoo. If there are any bumps, raised areas, or hard scabs, then you know your skin is not back to normal. The area should feel exactly the same as the skin around it. If you can tell by touching it where your tattoo begins and ends, or feel any skin irregularities, then you simply need to wait a little longer. Patience is a virtue, people.
Are There Any Exceptions?
Great question. While rare, sometimes a tattoo can remain slightly raised for as long as a few months. In this case, if the tattoo is completely healed otherwise, with no open sores or scabs, an electric razor is your best option. You can even use a chemical hair remover at this point, but be sure to leave it on for only the minimum time required to remove the unwanted hair. What's more: If you choose to use a blade razor, exercise extreme caution as your tattoo is so close to being successfully healed at this point, so the last thing you want to do is open it up.
Cleveland Clinic. What to expect when you get a tattoo. Updated October 2, 2020.