You’ve just gotten that fresh piece of ink you’ve been dying for. You’re following all the aftercare instructions to the letter and you’re on track to have a perfectly healed tattoo…but life doesn’t always go as planned and, for whatever reason, you’ve wound up with a scrape on your fresh ink! What now? Is it ruined? Did you just mess up your hefty investment? Are you going to be stuck with a spoiled tattoo on your body for life?
There’s no straight, across the board answer to these questions. There are many different factors that can affect whether the scrape, scratch, or cut will damage your fresh ink. What stage of the healing process you’re in, how deep the cut or graze is, and how well you’ve been caring for it from the beginning can all affect whether you will see any long-term damage.
When you damage your new ink, you can expect to see a prolonged healing time. While every person’s body is different, and you may not see any difference at all, your skin is already in the process of healing itself from the actual tattoo and a cut or scrape has just added more for it to heal. This can slow the process, but usually isn’t anything to worry about if you’re caring for your ink properly.
If the cut, scrape or graze is deep enough to draw blood, you’re likely to experience some scabbing. Scabbing can often be part of the healing process for a tattoo, so it’s nothing to be too concerned about in general…however, you need to be very cautious if you experience any scabbing (whether from the cut or the tattoo) and not rip off any of the scabbed skin prematurely as this can cause patchiness in the tattoo. Be careful with the type of clothing you wear over it—avoid anything scratchy or irritating—and try not to sleep on the area if possible. Avoid leaning on the area or putting any unnecessary pressure on the area and, whatever you do, don’t scratch it!
If your cut is severe, you may possibly be facing some visible blemishes in the tattoo. Ink sits in the layer of skin called the dermis, the second layer of skin. If a cut is deep enough, it could potentially disrupt the layer of skin holding the ink and cause breaks in the concentrated ink. As with any cut, there’s a risk of infection; however, a cut in a fresh tattoo is more susceptible to germs and bacteria as the skin is already vulnerable from withstanding the tattoo process.
Any additional injury to a tattoo that is still healing does give you a larger chance of lasting damage than a tattoo which has already healed. The first two to three weeks are the most vital, so take extra precautions to protect your new tattoo as much as possible. Yes, accidents happen, but try to avoid anything that could put your inked skin at risk for the first few weeks.
As a tattoo heals, the ink begins to settle, allowing the upper layers of skin to renew. If you cut your tattoo after this has happened, it’s less likely that the cut will disturb the layers containing the ink and therefore leave the tattoo undamaged in the long run. Obviously, a deep cut may still run the risk of upsetting the ink below but a run of the mill scratch, cut, or graze will give off a worse appearance than will remain after healing.
If by some unfortunate instance, you do find yourself with a cut in your fresh tattoo it is vital that you treat it with the highest care and consideration. Keep the area clean and protect it from any further damage to help minimize the risk of infection. If you believe it may be infected or if you notice any symptoms of infection, visit your doctor right away for treatment to narrow the chance of any damage to your tattoo.
As with any situation where your body is healing, drink lots of water, get plenty of sleep, and eat a balanced diet. Your body is healing, both from the tattoo and the cut, so you need to be extra vigilant in providing your body with all the nutrients and tools it needs to do its job and heal. If you believe you have damaged the tattoo—remind yourself that your body is still healing. Give it at least two to three weeks before declaring the tattoo damaged.
Although the appearance of the cut may imply serious damage, most cuts often disappear without leaving any trace behind. However, if the tattoo still appears disrupted after several weeks have gone by, consult your tattoo artist. A high-caliber artist should be able to cover or blend the damage so that it flows better with the tattoo—depending on the severity of the damage, of course.