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  • What You Need to Know About Tattoos and Massage

    person with large tattoo on their back, getting back massage

    I’m currently caring for a fresh tattoo, a large piece that takes up most of my back. It’s my third tattoo and each time I get some new ink I get loads of questions about being able to give and receive massage while the tat is still healing.

    If you’re considering getting your first tattoo, or your first large tattoo, you may be wondering how that will impact your ability to get massage and for how long.

    If you’re a veteran of both tattoos and massage, you may already know everything, but if my experience of massaging people with fresh ink is any indication, you might be missing a few pieces of information.

    Consider this when booking a massage after getting a tattoo

    • A fresh tattoo is an open wound. It’s literally thousands of small puncture wounds
    • You may bleed a little bit for the first 2-3 days
    • It takes about 2 weeks for a tattoo to stop itching and peeling
    • It takes 2 weeks for a tattoo to stop needing a lot of aftercare
    • Getting a tattoo while you’re also healing from another injury (like, I don’t know, a broken ankle. Or maybe that’s just me) can slow the healing of each
    • During the first two weeks of healing, it’s advised to wash and dry your hands before you touch your tattoo. Remember, it’s a wound

    So, Can You Get a Massage With a New Tattoo?

    • If it’s a small piece: Yes, with a couple caveats. First, it must be past the stage where it might bleed. Second, we will massage everything we normally do, except for the healing tattoo and the area surrounding it for 2 weeks. After that, you’re good to go unless it still itches or is sensitive to touch
    • If it’s a large piece on an extremity: Maybe. It really depends how it feels and where it’s located…
      * A half sleeve on the lower leg or forearm could be easily avoided and not risk touching any area of your body that has massage oil on it as long as you’re past the point where it might bleed (2-3 days)
      * A half sleeve on your upper arm will be hard pressed to not rub up against the oil on your torso, especially if it wraps all the way around. It’s best to wait 1-2 weeks before getting massage
    • If it’s a small piece on your back: You’ll probably want to wait at least 1 week, possibly 2 before getting a massage and… you’ll want the back done last so the oil on the rest of your back doesn’t wick into the bottom sheet and spread to your tattoo. It needs to be comfortable to lie on for 20-40 minutes and needs to be past the uncomfortable, itchy phase of healing. The earlier you come in, the more likely it is that we’ll massage around the tattoo, so if you want you’re entire back done you’re better off waiting til the 2 week mark
    • If it’s a large piece on your back: You will really want to wait at least 2 weeks. That way you’ll be able to comfortably lie on it, you’ll be able to get your back massaged (it’s not a favorite area for nothing), and it won’t start itching partway through your massage

    As for massaging with a fresh tat, it depends where it is. When I had my forearms done, I just didn’t do any massage with my forearms while the tattoo healed. My back piece requires me to not wear a bra for about 2 weeks, so during that time you’ll find me wearing more casual, baggy shirts in the office.

    Do you have other questions about tattoos and massage? Be sure to ask me in the comments below.