Do Sugar Scrubs Help Heal Tattoos?

To scrub, or not to scrub?

When it comes to exfoliating on tattooed skin, the answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no. It depends on which stage of healing your tattoo is in. 

As we’ve talked about in previous articles, sugar scrubs are a natural exfoliant. Exfoliation is the process of sloughing dead cells off the surface of the skin. A buildup of cells can cause the appearance of dull skin, clogged pores and dark spots. Removing this excess buildup will create space for new, healthy-looking skin to emerge from underneath. 

On virgin skin (non-tattooed skin), exfoliation is a relatively risk-free method for enhancing the skin’s natural radiance. Given that you’re not exfoliating wounds or damaged skin, using a sugar scrub once or twice a week will have no side effects. But scrubbing on tattoos is a different story. 

Sugar Scrubs and Healing Tattoos: Do’s and Don’ts

To better understand how to safely use a sugar scrub on a tattoo, you should have a good sense of what’s really happening when you use a sugar scrub — and what happens when you get tattooed. 

Your skin is made up of three layers: the epidermis (outer layer), the dermis beneath the epidermis, and finally the subcutaneous fat. When you get a tattoo, the ink settles into your dermis. This means that, contrary to popular belief, you won’t fade a tattoo if you scrub it, because sugar scrubs don’t reach past the epidermis layer. In fact, using a sugar scrub on a fully healed tattoo can actually help brighten its appearance, especially if the tattoo is in color. It’s like restoring an old painting: wiping off any accumulated dust will make the painting look shiny and new. 

Newly tattooed skin, however, is essentially a weeping wound. You wouldn’t want to exacerbate an open cut or sore on your skin by rubbing sugar granules in it; for the same reason, you don’t want to use a sugar scrub on a fresh tattoo. 

After about a week or two of healing, you’ll probably notice some dry skin peeling off your tattoo. This is normal, and it should be ok to very gently buff away some of that excess skin with a sugar scrub. The key here is gently, because scrubbing too hard could lead to irritation. 

How long it takes to completely heal will depend on the size of your tattoo and on each individual, but generally it will take about a month. Some other tips to keep in mind while your tattoo heals are: 

  • Keep the bandage on for a few hours after your tattoo is complete. 
  • Once you take the bandage off, wash your hands and gently clean the tattoo with unscented soap and water twice a day. 
  • Use alcohol-free moisturizer and keep that tattoo hydrated! This will also help ease any itching or irritation. 
  • Apply SPF on the tattoo to shield it from sun damage. 

Then, once your tattoo is fully healed, feel free to scrub away! 

For more resources on tattoo healing, check out this article here.

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