Tattoo Peeling 101 – Why Your Newly Inked Skin Is Flaking Off
Your new tattoo is peeling. You now know what it feels like to be a snake only you’re itchy, uncomfortable, and your new ink looks downright gruesome.
Not to worry, the healing and peeling process process happens to everyone from first timers to ink veterans with years of experience in the chair.
A tattoo is a flesh wound. You experience the itch as your skin flakes off and may be a little intimidated by the not so pleasant appearance. Even though it looks bad and feels bad, doesn’t exactly mean it’s all bad.
In fact, it’s a good thing! In reality, it’s all a part of the natural healing process. You should be happy to know that you’re on the right track with your new ink. Sure the color peeling off can add a sense of worry, but sometimes you can’t just let your eyes fool you.
Today, I’m going to help you discover what’s really going on when your tattoo peels, plus give you great tips on how to deal with the itching and more. From start to finish, I’ll cover everything you need to know about this stage.
When does the peeling start?
Regardless if you’ve been following the wash, dry, ointment routine religiously, your flaking stage may come sooner or later than others.
For some flaking starts early at a mere two days, for others it can take up four days or even a full week to begin.
It will eventually happen; soon enough you’ll be seeing what looks like Fruity Pebbles shedding everywhere. Be patient while your epidermis does its thing and you’ll have cleanly etched bad ass looking tattoos for good.
Tattoo peeling means your skin epidermis is exfoliating
You are literally shedding off your skin during this part of the healing stage.
You do this daily in the form of millions of skin cells regnerating, often without even realizing it. Only this time the flakes are noticeable in size and they’re being carried away with some of the left over colored ink too.
It’s hard to miss, and truth be told the experience freaks a lot of people out the first time they go through this part of tattoo healing.
However, not to worry. All of your tattoo ink is resting safely deep under the dermis (the second layer of tissue), so it won’t fall out or flake off provided you don’t do anything silly. It’s just that messy top coat that fools our eyes into believing something is wrong, when in reality it’s really not.
When peeling your tattoo looks bad and feels worse
While the whitish flakes and cracking skin appear unsightly, you should be thinking of them as a good thing. In reality, this is exactly how the skin naturally repairs itself after significant trauma. Think how a stitched wound knits together, or the peeling phase after a nasty sunburn – a tattoo peel is the same sort of experience, if a little more unique.
In the meantime, applying lotion will more than just help to keep your skin moisturized and less itchy, it will also improve the immediate appearance of your tattoo. Sure, it’s only temporary as the skin will continue to peel, however if you want your tattoo to look it’s best both short and long term, the right lotion or moisturizing balm helps considerably.
A great choice is Hustle Butter Deluxe, which is a natural vegan friendly formula that helps moisturize and soothe your skin while it heals. It’s useful for every stage of the healing process. Others utilize a choice of other aftercare products and lotions that can be specific for tattoos or more general purpose, such as Aquaphor and A&D Ointment.
Your skin is like a desert. It’s itchy and super dry
During the peeling process you must continually moisturize your skin. Unless you’ve decided to adopt the dry healing method, keeping the skin hydrated is of paramount importance
It will feel a lot like a bad sunburn, and with it often comes the annoying itching too.
Lotion will be your best friend during this stage, and you should apply it in a thin layer regularly until the tattoo is fully healed and looks fresher than when it was first etched by your tattoo artist.
If the itching is too intense you have a few options at your disposal. First, you can simply slap it gently and lightly. Yes, I know it sounds incredibly silly but more than often it works! Try it. Go on!
Secondly, you can take an antihistamine such as GoodSense All Day Allergy to calm the intense itching sensation. As a final resort, a hydrocortisone cream like this one from Basic Care can pretty much guarantee elimination of most if not all, itching.
Just know that it’s really not something you want to reach for immediately if you’re just slightly annoyed with the itchiness. Read the instructions please, and follow the recommended usage. It should never be used long term or on a frequent basis in helping your itch.
My Tattoo is also scabbing
Relax, tattoo scabbing and peeling go hand in hand. If you’re scabbing and you’ve followed the proper tattoo aftercare process it doesn’t always mean you did something wrong.
For some people their bodies will scab regardless of what they do; it’s can be just as unavoidable as peeling.
When this happens, just remember to keep your scabs moisturized, and never under any circumstances pick at them!
Within 2 weeks you’ll see most if not all of the scabs start to come off naturally. If you try to rush this part of the process you’ll damage your ink, creating light spots of discoloration or ink fallout all over your new tattoo.
Regardless of how tempting it is, don’t pick, rub, or fondle your tattoo!
You might also enjoy knowing that more than often, the last scabs that fall off are usually in spots where the heaviest ink has been laid.
Tattoo after peeling 101 – hydrate!
You’re flake free, finally!
At this point, you’re new tattoo will have changed from a peeling flaky mess into a shiny, waxy, almost healed piece of body art.
However, this doesn’t mean the healing process is over, you still have a good two to four weeks left to go before it completes the top layer of healing.
During this time period you’ll want to keep applying your lotion. How often you apply it really depends on your how dry your skin becomes or how often you moisturize as part of your daily skincare regimen.
Just ensure that you’re nourishing your skin with plenty of moisture to hydrate when it needs it.
Remember, even thought it looks sort of healed, your skin still has no UV ray protection. That means no sun exposure; it will fade your tattoo and leave it vulnerable.
If you have any colors like yellow, white, orange, etc they will dramatically lose their vibrancy if you don’t care for your ink properly. Even black ink will fade if you spend enough time out in the sun.
Some believe they can apply sun block and sort of bypass the healing process. It just doesn’t work like that! Your skin is no longer abraded or exposed, yet it’s still going to be incredibly sensitive to the sunlight, regardless if you use sun bock or not.
You may still have what feels like overly tight or even tense skin. For some it’s really uncomfortable, but there’s a surefire way to care for it. Instead of applying lotion try a little cocoa butter or coconut oil, it will often do wonders for your skin’s suppleness and tension.
Tattoo Peeling FAQs
Can I use neosporin on my new tattoo?
Some medicated ointment’s properties have an adverse effect on tattoos. The patch of skin that has been ‘traumatized’ by several needles pricking it over and over needs oxygen with a thin layer of moisturization in order to heal the best way possible.
Using some medicated products, like Neosporin and Bacitracin could cause the body to reject it or heal too quickly, creating an allergic reaction that could involve a significant rash or series of tiny red dots.
Can I go swimming after getting a new tattoo?
You can get your tattoo wet during the tattoo aftercare process, but make sure you don’t swim or soak in water of any type for at least 3-4 weeks or until the tattoo heals in full.
Natural water systems and chlorinated water can interfere with the healing process itself or cause infection to the tattooed area. This would increase the time the tattoo needs for healing – or necessitate the ink being fixed or treated – and can punish the ink and tissue underneath.
What else should I avoid after getting a new tattoo?
The following behaviors or products are not recommended during the initial tattoo healing and aftercare period:
- Doing nothing after getting a tattoo
- Exposure to direct sunlight
- Touching, picking, scratching, and rubbing
- Shaving the body
- Neosporin and medicated ointment
- Excess exposure to water
- Avoid tight fitting clothes that don’t breathe well
- Pick one: wrap healing, wet healing, or dry method
- Over treating the tattooed area
- Excess sweating
- Avoid excess drugs, cigarettes and alcohol
- No fondling
- Re-bandaging the new ink