Is Your Tattoo Peeling? Here’s What You Need to Do Immediately

Tattoos are a form of expression. They represent the artist as much as they represent the person who’s getting tattooed. Tattoos are usually meaningful, well-thought-out, and close to the heart. This is especially true if you’re getting tattooed for the first time. However, as artistic as it may be, it is still somewhat of a medical procedure – you’re having your skin penetrated by dozens of needles at a rapid pace, essentially creating an open wound. Your skin will suffer for a brief time until it’s fully healed - usually, this takes the form of tattoo peeling.

It may look unpleasant, especially if you’re a tattoo newbie. You might think that something is wrong with your new tattoo – we have to admit, scabs and flakes do look scary and a bit gross but there’s nothing to worry about. In this article, we will talk about tattoo peeling, why it happens, and how to solve it. 

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Is Tattoo Peeling Normal?

A less complicated answer would be yes, it is completely normal. All tattoos peel, but some peel more than others. Whether your tattoo peels or not depends on multiple factors, such as skin type, skin condition, tattoo aftercare, and the tattoo artist’s level of skill. Moreover, some areas of the body flake more than others. For example, your hands and other body parts that you use frequently will have thicker skin, which will result in lengthier healing times and more peeling. 

This is an unavoidable step for your tattoo to heal correctly. A tattoo is essentially a wound and will need to heal. So if this is your first tattoo, and you’re scared about your skin peeling away – don’t fret. Instead, keep the area moisturized and wait for it to fully heal.

Why Does Tattoo Peeling Occur?

When you’re getting tattooed, a large number of needles penetrate your skin at a rapid rate. As we have briefly touched on already, this causes tiny tears and wounds on your skin that need to heal. The healing process will include peeling and scabbing. What people often don’t realize is that they shed thousands of skin cells every day. However, when it comes to tattoos, the peeling is more noticeable because a larger area of the skin has been put under a lot of stress and the color change will make the peeling more obvious. 

The good news is that your amazing, new, bold tattoo is hiding underneath, waiting to be fully exposed. Shedding this extra skin will also increase your tattoo’s saturation and make the color brighter. Another critical thing to mention is scabbing. Just like peeling, scabbing is a normal part of the healing process. However, thick, painful scabs appear if the skin is extremely sensitive, the aftercare hasn't been followed properly, or if the tattoo artist caused significant damage to the skin.

Some people simply can’t avoid getting scabs after a tattoo because their skin heals more aggressively than others. Although this is entirely normal, if you don’t take proper care of the scabs, your tattoo can get damaged. If you notice scabs, make sure not to pick at them! This will break your skin open, including the tattooed part, which will damage the tattoo and potentially pull ink out of it. But what do you need to do if you notice peeling and scabbing?

What to Do When Your Tattoo Is Peeling?


Even though the skin only starts peeling between day three and day seven post-tattoo, your aftercare process needs to begin immediately after you leave the shop. First, make sure that your tattoo artist cleans the area, applies a petroleum ointment, and wraps it. This is an integral part of the process because it prevents any bacteria from entering the skin and causing an infection.

  • Day 1 – Ask your artist when to remove the wrapping from your tattoo. This is usually after 3-5 hours if your artist has used cellophane to wrap the tattoo. Gently clean the area with lukewarm water and a scent-free soap. Then, apply a thin layer of ointment and do not cover it again. Repeat this process in the morning and evening for the next 5-7 days.
  • Days 2-3 – Your tattoo might look a bit cloudy or blurry now. Don’t worry, the peeling is about to start, and your incredible tattoo will be fully healed soon. During this phase, make sure to continue washing the area with water and applying the ointment. There should be minimal swelling, but some redness is normal. 
  • Days 4-6 – This is the time when scabs start appearing. If you notice them, don’t pick at them. Just continue moisturizing the area and avoid scratching the area if it gets itchy. Wash your tattoo once or twice a day.
  • Days 6-14 – The peeling process should be underway by now. Don’t pull on the loose skin, or you will damage the tattoo. Your skin might be feeling itchy, so it would be a good idea to keep the area moisturized at all times. We recommend applying an ointment at least three times a day during this phase. If your tattoo is still red and swollen, you might have an infection.
  • Days 14-30 – Your tattoo should be almost healed by now – no more scabs or flakes. By week two and three, your skin should have recovered. Keep moisturizing the area. Around month two, your tattoo should be bright, crisp, and vivid. This is when you will be able to determine if you need any touch-ups. 

Additional Tattoo Aftercare Tips

  1. Don’t Use Moisturizers With Scents

We recommend staying clear of moisturizers with strong fragrances. Regardless of whether the scent is natural, or artificial, any fragrances can irritate the skin. This is especially important for tattoos because your moisturizer has to be applied to raw skin. The last thing you want is to irritate the area and cause further damage.

  • Stay Hydrated

Regardless of whether you’re applying moisturizers multiple times a day, if your body isn’t hydrated, your tattoo will suffer the consequences. Make sure to increase your daily water intake, or even introduce some electrolytes, so that your skin will retain moisture.

  • Avoid Direct Sunlight

Direct sunlight is a huge problem when it comes to tattoo healing. The sun’s UV rays can irritate the area and fade the ink. Although you can use sunscreen once your tattoo is fully healed, we recommend opting for covering your tattoo up. Read more about the dangers of direct sunlight on your tattoos here

Signs That Your Tattoo Isn’t Healing Properly

  • Rash and severe itchiness – If you notice a post-tattoo rash, this could be a cause for concern. You might have had an allergic reaction to the ink, an already-existing skin condition flare-up, or you were allergic to a different product your artist used. If this happens, consult your tattoo artist and a healthcare professional to make sure that everything is okay. You may need to take an additional allergy medication to control the rash. 
  • Swelling and discharge – Although your skin will inevitably swell up a bit, massive blisters are a huge red flag. Combined with discharge, it is a cause for concern. As soon as you notice this, go to the ER immediately. You might have an infection that can cause harm to both your body and your tattoo.
  • Scars – Once healed, tattoos should be smooth on your skin. If you notice some texture or scars, that means that your tattoo hasn’t healed properly. Scars can damage the tattoo, which is why you should consult with your artist and decide on the best course of action. 

Getting tattoos requires patience and dedication. Although the tattooing itself usually lasts only a couple of hours, the aftercare process can last for months. That is when and why the peeling process occurs. Bear in mind that aftercare is extremely important! You should be as diligent and careful as possible to avoid any damage or infections. Soon enough, you will be able to show off your new piece in all its glory. 

Do you have any crafty tips or tricks for tattoo aftercare? If so, we would love to hear them! Make sure to share your experiences, tips, and thoughts in the comment section below.

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