If you have an amazing new tattoo, you’ve gotta be pretty excited to show it off. It’s a little hard to put all the lines, colors, and details on display when you have a noticeable amount of stubble bursting through.
What can you do? As much as you’d probably like to shave over your tattoo, hit the pause button. Here’s what you need to consider first.
What Happens To Your Skin When You Get a Tattoo?
While your new tattoo is beautiful, the things going on behind the scenes can get a little gross. A tattoo punctures countless holes into your skin, effectively removing the top layer of skin in the area where you were tattooed.
If not for the ink, you’d see that your skin is sensitive, raw, and exposed in a way similar to a sunburn or a severe scrape. This is a normal part of the process, and it’s going to heal up just fine.
In the meantime, you must recognize your fresh tattoo for what it is. It’s a wound, and you need to treat it the same way you’d treat any other wound.
Great aftercare will help it heal perfectly. Your artist told you everything you need to do to promote the healing process and keep your ink looking good as new for years to come. Your artist is a cool person. Take their advice.
What Happens To Your Skin When You Shave?
When you really think about it, shaving is low-key yucky. Most of the time, it’s completely harmless.
If you keep your shaving equipment clean and use the right technique, it’s very unlikely that anything seriously bad will happen to you as a result of shaving. Still, there’s always a tiny risk that things might not go according to plan.
This is what happens when you shave: the razor scrapes against your skin, lifting off dead skin cells and clipping down your hair from the surface. The process of shaving is slightly abrasive.
It leaves behind little micro-wounds. You may not be able to see or feel them, but they’re there. They usually heal up very quickly, and washing your face can prevent these micro-wounds from becoming infected.
If your razor or face has bacteria (and spoiler alert — most things have bacteria on them), any cuts or open wounds on your face can become infected. You may also experience bacterial acne in the form of whiteheads or develop infected ingrown hairs.
Can You Shave Over a Tattoo?
Yes and no. You can shave over a tattoo eventually, but not right after you get it. A razor will remove parts of the top layer of dead skin.
If you just got a tattoo, you don’t have that layer. The entire surface is a wound that’s attempting to heal. Your body is working in the background to heal from the lower layers and encapsulate your tattoo.
If you shave while a tattoo is still fresh, a lot of things can go wrong. You could remove the ink, cause scarring, or cause your tattoo to become infected. Your skin is pretty tough when it’s fully healed, but a tattoo leaves it defenseless for a little while.
In addition to damaging your tattoo and introducing bacteria into an open wound, shaving over a new tattoo would be very painful. You’d literally be opening an old wound. If you’re here because you tried, felt the pain, and wondered if it was okay to keep going, it totally isn’t.
How Long Do You Have To Wait To Shave Over a Tattoo?
You need to wait at least two weeks to shave over a new tattoo. It’s better to be cautious and wait at least three weeks for the surface of your skin to fully heal.
If you prefer waxing or laser hair removal, wait at least six weeks. These hair removal methods tend to be more traumatizing to the skin. The longer you wait, the safer it will be.
How To Shave Over Your Tattoo for the First Time
Even when your tattoo is healed enough for you to shave over, you need to be mindful about how you shave. Use a new razor. You don’t want to risk the bacteria living on your old razor causing issues for your freshly healed tattoo.
Pro tip: never shave dry.
Dry shaving creates a lot of friction that can lead to skin irritation or razor bumps. Your hair is softest when it’s warm and wet.
If you shave in the shower, you probably already know that. If you shave outside the shower, try using a warm wet washcloth to prep the area first. You’ll use less pressure on the razor and get a clean shave in fewer passes.
There’s also a debate about whether to shave with the grain (in the direction of hair growth) or against the grain (in the opposite direction of hair growth). People who shave against the grain make one really good point. It definitely gives you a closer shave. It’s also way more damaging to your skin.
Razors aren’t designed to trap hair when you shave against the grain. You’ll need to make a lot of passes and use a lot of pressure to catch the hair this way.
Shaving with the grain won’t give you the closest possible shave, but it’s less likely to damage your skin. The difference in growth will only last a day or two anyway. It’s not worth messing up your skin for such a small break from shaving.
After you shave, follow up with your tattoo aftercare products. They’re deeply nourishing and protective. Your skin will need a little extra care after your first few shaves.
You can technically use tattoo balms in place of lotion indefinitely if you want to keep your tattoo nourished and protected. Remember to use sunscreen first if your tattoo is on an area of your body that will be exposed to the sun.
What If I Can’t Stand Being Hairy?
If you’re not a big fan of body hair, plan ahead. Your tattoo artist will shave the area where your tattoo will go if it isn’t already shaved.
If you shave the whole area, it will be less noticeable when patchy hair growth starts to appear. You won’t be smooth, but you won’t have awkward regrowth.
Waxing is the best solution if you prefer your skin to be completely smooth and hairless. Get the area waxed about a week before your tattoo appointment. If your skin is very used to waxing, you may only need five days to recover from a waxing session.
The results of waxing last as long as six weeks. When you’re ready for your next wax, your tattoo will be fully healed. You’ll never have to worry about shaving during the healing process!
Conclusion: Shaving and Tattoos
Friends don’t let friends shave over new tattoos. It can completely wreck your tattoo, damage your skin, and increase your risk for bacterial infection.
Use your tattoo healing time as permission to take a break from shaving. Spend more time on other parts of your self-care routine. Try a face mask. Deep condition your hair. Live your best life.
If not being able to shave is a total deal breaker for you, consider getting the area waxed about a week before your tattoo appointment. Waxing will last until your tattoo is healed enough for hair removal.
What To Expect When You Get a Tattoo | Cleveland Clinic
Hair removal: How to wax | American Academy of Dermatology
Mayo Clinic Minute: Shaving too close can cause skin problems | Mayo Clinic
Tattoo Infection: Signs, Causes, Treatment & Prevention | Cleveland Clinic