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Can You Scrape Off a Tattoo

Risky activity for your tattoo?

Let us clarify the question you may or may not be asking. If you’re pondering some sort of medieval way to remove an unwanted tattoo we instead encourage you to read about the only solution for tattoo removal, which does not involve brutal excisions. Instead, this article is for those of you who are concerned about accidentally scraping off a tattoo. This is a common concern for people involved in certain professions (construction, etc.) and especially individuals who participate in activities such as skateboarding, cycling, mountain biking, and anything else that can put your unprotected skin in contact with concrete and other rough surfaces. Can this actually happen? Here’s what you need to know.

What You Need to Know About the Potential for Accidentally Scraping Off a Tattoo

It’s Extremely Rare

When applied under the careful hands of a reputable tattoo artist, the ink penetrates five layers of the epidermis, which is approximately 1/16th of an inch into your skin, or 6.25% of your skin if it makes more sense to you when worded accordingly. That may not sound like a lot, but physiologically it actually is, which is why good tattoos last a lifetime for even the most active and “exposed” (to the elements) people. Essentially the normal scrapes that scratches that occur when you tumble off of a board at your local skatepark won’t have an impact on the integrity of your tattoo.

Let It Heal Before Freaking Out

We’ve fielded our fair share of calls and studio pop-ins from past clients who had a wipeout while biking (etc.) and subsequently sustained a major abrasion over their tattoo. Upon initial inspection they assume that the scraped area is now devoid of ink. If this is you, take a deep breath and wait to see. Ninety-nine percent of the time the tattoo will remain as it was before the abrasion. It may not appear that way, but that is because the design is visually distorted by the trauma, as it temporarily becomes infused with blood, dirt, and upper layer skin particles. Within a couple of days scabbing will follow and also distort the appearance of the tattoo, which is also completely natural and normal. Resist the urge to scrub-off or flick away the scab to check and see if your tattoo is OK, as doing so stunts the healing process which may indeed harm the integrity of your design. Be calm, apply the appropriate ointments (as recommended by your physician) and allow the abrasion to fully heal. When the bandage comes off your tattoo will more than likely look just fine.

New Tattoos At More Risk

There is a major caveat to the sense of calm we provided above. If you recently received a tattoo (6-months and under) then there is a much higher risk of lightening, smudging, and general disruption. This is because it can take months for some tattoos to completely heal and fully “immerse” themselves permanently into one’s skin. It’s for this reason that we ask clients to take extreme care for at least two-months after getting their tattoo and avoid extreme activities that may lead to an abrasion. That said, we know that isn’t always viable, especially when there is a profession involved. Should the latter be the case, please do not leave your tattooed skin uncovered and exposed. Wear thicker clothing around it, and if participating in an extreme activity (skateboarding, etc.) consider wearing padded or neoprene coverings over the new tattoo. It may not look “cool” but it will protect your recent artistic investment.

What to Do if the Tattoo is “Scraped-Off”

In some rare instances the abrasion may indeed be so deep into your epidermis (below the 5th layer) and distort your tattoo. If this occurs, the wait-and-see process still applies. Take optimal care of the injured area, not only for the sake of your general health, but to ensure that the less-impacted areas of your tattooed skin do not become infected. Once the trauma has fully healed you can then schedule a consultation with a trusted tattoo shop near you. We can asses the damaged area and scarring to determine the viability of correcting the missing or distorted part of the design. View more on whether or not you can tattoo over a scar. In most cases (nearly all) we can successfully repair your damaged tattoo. Alternatively we may perform a series of laser fading procedures to provide a coverup, if that becomes the only reasonable course of action.

If you had sustained an abrasion that resulted (after healing) a visibly compromised tattoo, contact an Adrenaline Studios in your area (Vancouver and Toronto) to get your tattoo back, or create an even better one.