How Long After a Tattoo Can you Shave?
Tattoos are terribly delicate when you first get them inked. The first three days are particularly excruciating—if not because of pain, then because it itches like crazy and you know not to mess with it. However, there is one more thing that may start to bother you as your tattoo heals, and it has nothing to do with pain. Your hair will start to grow back in, and that normally calls for a shave. There’s just one problem. Shaving during a tattoo is absolutely terrible and poses a huge risk to your health. What’s a girl or guy to do when their tattoo starts growing a beard of its own? How long after a tattoo can you shave? Today, let’s cover all of that and more.
Shaving Can Ruin Your New Tattoo if You Don’t Do it the Right Way
To start things off, does shaving damage tattoos? Unfortunately, for new tattoos, the answer is a resounding yes. It will literally shave off your scab, literally opening up your tattoo to infection and damage. The ink rests on the bottom layer of your skin and is not fully ‘set,’ for lack of a better phrase. If you shave while your tattoo hasn’t finished healing, you can quite possibly shave parts of your tattoo off. That is a medical emergency in and of itself.
Anyways, shaving over it would be one of the biggest mistakes you could make. Even if your tattoo doesn’t end up damaged and the razor miraculously doesn’t open the wound, it will greatly extend the amount of time your skin takes to heal. Scabs exist for a reason, you know. You’ll have to stick it out when your hair starts to stick out.
Shaving Before a New Tattoo
If you want to avoid shaving after a tattoo—or if you want to give your artist a break—then you should shave ahead of time. If you would like to give yourself the best experience, then use tattoo-safe moisturizers (here are my favorites) before your shave to make the hair pliable. Shave the entirety of the affected area until the skin feels smooth. Rinse off every bit of soap at this point. If desired, check out some of my recommended tattoo numbing creams to help you get through the pain in sensitive areas.
If you can’t find specialty soap, then check out my list of the stuff. If you don’t have time to wait for that soap to get there before your appointment, then you still need to shave. Use a small amount of your regular shaving cream, do your business, and then thoroughly rinse it off. The reason tattoo-safe moisturizer is preferred is because most soaps and creams contain alcohol that breaks down ink pigments when left in the area. The alcohol works just like removing nail polish or temporary tattoos, since a brand new tattoo has nothing between it and the soap to protect it from destruction. It’s not all doom-and-gloom, though—just make sure you get a serious rinse before going into the shop. You should shave regardless of what kind of soap you get ahold of!
Shaving beforehand doesn’t just stave off the need to shave for a week or so. It also helps your artist do their job. Hair gets in the way of most artists, so many of them will actually shave the area for you (barring the possibility of forgetfulness). Shaving ahead of time reduces the length of your tattoo session and ensures the integrity of your tattoo. Anyways, if you already have your tattoo, this section is probably useless to you. Let’s talk about how to deal with a fresh tattoo once that hair starts growing in!
Shaving Over a New Tattoo
If you see a little stubble peeking out of your tattoo and want to shave it…think twice. In the first few days of tattoo healing, any amount of shaving will pull up your healing tattoo. This isn’t a good method to remove it, but it’s definitely a good way to ruin it. On top of severely hurting yourself from shaving at this point, you’ll end up with a patchy tattoo where bits of pigment peeled away. Read this if you want to know how peeling affects your healing tattoo. Care during the first stage of healing is crucial if you want your tattoo to look good in the future, and any cut from the razor will set your tattoo’s healing process back to stage one.
On top of that, your normal shaving creams won’t cut it. As I discussed in the previous section, there is no layer protecting your tattoo ink from the effects of soap. I talk more about shaving specific parts further down, but here’s a good summary of how to shave over a new tattoo—don’t. If you must get rid of the hairs, you’re better off plucking than attempting to safely shave.
Your Tattoo’s Healing Process
I got into far more detail about the healing process on this page, but for the sake of your question, I want to address the important part here. You can’t shave safely while the tattoo is still healing. The razor will pick up your healing skin and send it backwards in the healing process. How do you know it’s time to shave? Run your finger over your tattoo. If it feels the same as the skin around it, then it should be alright to shave. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be done healing, but it’s a good gauge for how safe shaving will be. If there’s nothing for the razor to pick up, then there’s nothing for the razor to harm.
For the lucky people that got small tattoos, it only takes a few weeks for the skin to go back to normal. For regular people, it takes about six weeks. Skin goes through a six week healing process and will create scar tissue for its first round of healing. This scar tissue invariably sticks up a little bit from the rest of your skin. You have to wait for healthy tissue to start blending this scarred skin in with the rest of your body before you can shave without a care. I talk about how to shower after a tattoo here, and keeping up with that normal hygiene will help get your skin back to its smooth state.
If your tattoo is still in the second stage of healing, or if your tattoo is still peeling, then it’s not ready to go under the razor. Once again, you can read about the details of healing tattoos and what sort of signs to look for in my main article. You can go through the list to see exactly what stage of healing you’re in and determine whether it’s safe to shave on your own!
Shaving Over a Body Tattoo
If you’re going to be adamant about shaving your tattoo—which you really shouldn’t be doing—then go ahead and get some tattoo-safe soap and moisturizer. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this article on why conventional soaps just don’t cut it for tattoos. And speaking of cutting, here’s the single way to prevent that from happening: don’t touch the surface of your skin or scab with the razor. I don’t normally use that many italics in a row, but it’s a pretty important point to drive home. You should only remove the top portions of hair—if any—when you shave. Shaving close to the skin is too risky and will almost always pull up your scab.
Shaving Over a Face Tattoo
I’ll be honest—I’m not an expert on shaving facial tattoos. I am lucky enough not to deal with facial hair. Nonetheless, I’m sure a lot of men out there will really want to show off their new colors! Use the general guidelines used for shaving over a body tattoo. Just focus on using tattoo-safe creams to smooth up the place and then carefully glide the razor over the very top of the skin. If you actually make contact with your face, the razor can and will start to shave off yours scabs. That’s something you seriously don’t want.
Until your tattoo is fully healed, you will have to settle for this ‘mowing,’ process and walk around with a bit of proud stubble. If you need to shave for work reasons, you should approach your superiors before it becomes an issue to let them know it’s unavoidable and will be solved in two weeks. They should be understanding—especially if they have tattoos of their own!
Does Shaving Fade Tattoos?
With all of that knowledge on the table, does shaving over a healed tattoo do anything? I’m happy to say that the only thing it does is get rid of your hair! The tattoo settles on a deep layer of skin, so you’re only going to affect it if you give yourself a serious cut. Injuries like that are better left to doctors, and I go over a bit of what to do here (though, again, talk to a doctor about it). You will probably want to keep your tattooed area shaved, if only to show off your tattoo’s color better!
So, How Long After a Tattoo Can you Shave?
You’ll want to wait until your hands run across the tattoo and feel no sorts of bumps along the tattooed area. Your razor will pick up even the smallest bumps and take it along, so you really shouldn’t risk it. Your skin needs a smooth transition from empty to ink if you want to safely shave. I mentioned some ways that you can shave while your tattoo heals, but you should only use this in an extreme emergency (impatient military officers who need your facial hair groomed, for example) because it is very risky and will result in nicks or cuts if done incorrectly. Shave before your tattoo to prevent this situation as much as possible. Hopefully you take all of this to heart and use safe aftercare (which I talk about here) on your tattoo. Taking care of your body and taking care of your tattoo go hand in hand, so it truly benefits you to wait for shaving!