Getting a new tattoo is always exciting. I enjoy the entire process. I have far too many pins saved on Pinterest with ideas on thousands of tattoo ideas. Once I finally decide on which design I’m going to go with, the next decision is where it’s going to go. I think about everything, so these first two steps are usually long for me.
Next, it’s time to meet with an artist and get my appointment set! This step brings on a new wave of excitement and butterflies. This gets magnified once I’m actually in the chair and getting the ink.
The part the I don’t enjoy though – the aftercare. I hate having it wrapped, especially after I just endured the loonnnnnggggg journey of making a multiple decisions. I want to see it and admire it! Then there’s the what if’s. What if it doesn’t heal correctly. What if it gets infected. (Have you picked up on the fact that I’m a control freak?).
As I’ve built this website, I’ve tried to begin devoting attention to the aftercare portion of the process. It’s incredibly important and so many factors can cause a multitude of situations for each person.
One of the areas that is rarely discussed is the peeling process of new tattoos. I had always heard your tattoo is suppose to heal, but then when one of mine didn’t – I panicked. In the article below, I go thru all the different things that can impact whether you tattoo may or may not peel. Hopefully once you finish reading, you’ll be at ease with whatever scenario you are experiencing with your new ink!
The way a tattoo heals depends on many factors, like your skin condition, where the tattoo is placed, how well you take care of it after getting home, as well as how clean you keep it. There could be various reasons that a new tattoo wouldn’t peel and for the most part, you shouldn’t worry if it doesn’t. Some of these reasons include:
- How Well the Skin Heals – Some people are fortunate enough to have skin that heals very quickly if that is the case you may see little to no peeling at all.
- Linework – If your tattoo is small, delicate, and made of up of mostly line work, the peeling could be very minimal where you may not even notice.
- Type of Ink Used – The quality of the ink could be a small factor of why a tattoo may not peel.
- How Deep the Ink Goes – Another small factor could be how deep the artist goes with the ink.
Do All Tattoos Peel?
Not all tattoos peel and if your tattoo never peels, it doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong.
However, a majority of tattoos will peel as a natural part of the healing process. This is because getting a tattoo causes trauma to your skin and as your skin heals, old, dry, dead skin will fall off and new skin will replace it.
Follow any aftercare instructions your artist gives you. Not all states or artists are required to provide aftercare instructions but basic aftercare instructions should include:
- Leave the covering on for up to 24 hours.
- Before removing the covering, wash your hands.
- Gently wash your tattoo with unscented antibacterial soap.
- Pat dry with a clean washcloth or paper towel.
- Apply a small amount of unscented lotion or ointment.
- Wash and apply unscented cream or lotion 3-4 times daily.
It could take up to 4 weeks for a tattoo to completely heal. During that time refrain from swimming, soaking in hot tubs or the bath, sunbathing. As your tattoo heals, you may experience scabbing, peeling, itching, or nothing at all.
Whether you experience peeling or not, avoid scratching or picking at the area. This can lead to infection and/or damaging your tattoo. Once your tattoo has healed, always wear sunscreen on it to keep it from fading, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors.
How Long After Getting a Tattoo Should It Start to Peel?
Typically a tattoo will begin to peel within 3-4 days or up to a week after removing the bandage. Before your tattoo begins to peel you may experience itchiness and scabs. Your tattoo may also
seem to look dull or faded but this is a build-up of old, dry skin waiting to flake off. As your tattoo heals, the color will look bright again. You may also experience pink or red, slightly swollen skin contained in the tattooed area.
Just remember that everyone’s skin is unique and will heal differently. You may even experience that tattoos heal differently on different areas of your body. As mentioned before, most tattoos will take about 4 weeks to completely heal.
If you are getting a larger tattoo that requires more than one sitting, you may have to wait up to 6 weeks or more for the entire area to heal before going back in.
Can You Help A Tattoo Heal Faster?
Sort of. In addition to following aftercare instructions, having a healthy skincare routine, in general, will help your tattoos heal quicker and keep them looking new for longer. Such things like:
- Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water and green tea
- Eating a healthy diet made up of fatty fish like salmon, sardines, cod or mackerel, olive oil, avocados, broccoli, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, dark chocolate, watermelon, walnuts, oranges, pecans, almonds, walnuts, eggs, peppers, berries, oats, kiwi and mangos.
- Regular exercise where you sweat, is great for your skin, just not while your tattoo is healing.
- Use body soap with a gentle exfoliant
- Quit smoking cigarettes
- Cut back on drinking alcohol
- Always wear sunscreen
- Moisturize every time you get out of the shower
Is It Bad If My Tattoo Doesn’t Peel?
Not at all! More accurately though, all tattoos will peel because the body naturally sheds layers of skin. Some peeling is just more noticeable than others. It is possible for a tattoo, especially small ones, to seemingly skip the peeling phase and go right to looking healed. If you have any questions or concerns, you can always ask our tattoo artist for advice.
What Does A Healed Tattoo Look Like?
Once your tattoo is completely healed there will be no scabs or flaky skin. Your skin should match non-tattooed skin. You should be able to run your finger over the ink and it’s not raised or bumpy. If your tattoo is in color, the colors should appear bright and vibrant.
When Should I Be Concerned?
For the most part, if you’ve gone to a reputable tattoo show or artist and followed your aftercare directions, your tattoo should not get infected. But, life is life and things happen.
Causes of Tattoo Infection:
- Expired or contaminated ink
- When tattoos are done at home or in an unsterile shop
- If you have a weakened or compromised immune system
- Not following aftercare instructions
- Allergic to the ink
- An intense rash, redness or swelling in and around the new tattoo
- Persistent fever, chills, and sweating
- Bloody or puss-filled scabs
- Bad smell
- You can use Tylenol or other NSAIDs to reduce pain and swelling.
- Benedryl or other antihistamines if there is an allergic reaction
- Hypoallergenic creams and ointments
When to See a Doctor:
You should see a doctor if you experience a fever and blood or puss oozing from your tattoo. If the skin around the tattoos has a rash or feels hot to the touch are also reasons to go see your doctor.
Don’t panic if your tattoo becomes infected. It is typically easy to treat and most likely your doctor will prescribe some sort of antibiotic to take care of the infection. They can prescribe either an oral treatment or a cream.
After the infection clears up and heals completely, you may have to get a touch-up, so be sure to let your artists know if it becomes infected.
How To Reduce The Risk Of Infection
- Go to a reputable tattoo shop or artist that uses new needles and tools for each tattoo
- Make sure the artist cleans your arm with an alcohol wipe
- Always wash your hands before touching your new tattoo
- Wear loose clothing or nothing so that fibers don’t get stuck to it
- Gently clean your tattoo frequently
- Moisturise appropriately
- Allow your skin to breath
- Look into using Saniderm (Amazon Link)
- Do not go swimming
- Do not soak in a hot tub
- Avoid excess sweating
- Avoid getting sunburnt by using sunscreen – (This is my favorite tattoo sunscreen – Amazon Link)
- As obvious as it seems, don’t let other people touch your tattoo
Final Take Away:
While a majority of tattoos will have noticeable peeling during the healing process, it is not of any major concern if yours doesn’t. This is especially true if your tattoo is small and has a lot of line work.