Tattoo Scabbing – How Much Is Normal and What Should You Do?
During the tattoo healing process when your skin is peeling, scabbed, and scratchy, the tattooed area can look awful. Just remember that this is your body’s natural way of healing itself after receiving a distressing open wound.
Your peeling, scabbing tattoo will be irritated, itchy, and constantly annoying. The piece will also look absolutely nothing like the work of art you envisioned when you were filled with adrenaline at the tattoo shop.
It will get there. You just need patience and to maintain self control.
What is tattoo scabbing?
A scab is the protective tissue covering that forms after your skin has been damaged by a cut or abrasion. The scab is unsightly but looks after the healing skin underneath.
Just like with the formation of other wounds from cuts or gouges, a tattoo is an open wound which needs to heal and knit over time. Trying to speed up the process can in fact be counterproductive.
Is tattoo scabbing normal?
During the proper tattoo aftercare process, nearly all people experience skin scabbing, peeling and flaking. Treat the phenomenon as inevitable, but something that you can mitigate, and you’ll have a better time if you stay patient during the healing stage.
The peeling and scabbing stage is the time when inexperienced or anxious tattoo enthusiasts freak out. The skin generally looks rough and horrible, and much of your brilliant, beautiful artwork is obscured by scabs formed by healing skin.
A tattoo scab does not necessarily mean you’ve done anything wrong. The skin’s healing process is different for every individual.
Some factors that contribute to differing speeds in tattoo scabbing include:
- Your skin type and sensitivity
- Your personal healing rate
- The steps you’ve taken during the aftercare process
- The size, placement, color and type of ink
- Other factors such as weather, diet, general fitness, and hydration levels
Early Doors: Days 1-3
During the first 3-4 days of getting fresh ink, you’re unlikely to have much in the way of peeling or scabbing. The tattoo itself will look good; however, it will be red and swollen as the initial wound heals, bruising subsides, and everything settles down.
When Scabbing Begins: Healing Time Days 4 to 6
The initial redness and bruising should have started to fade by this point, and if you’re using the wet healing method of aftercare, you’ll have begun applying ointment or salve to the new tattoo.
You’ll probably notice some very light scabbing over the tattoo as the outer layer skin starts knitting back together over the wound.
The scabs will be raised a bit but shouldn’t be thick and tough like those from a cut or nasty abrasion. Don’t pick at the scabs – this can cause significant scarring and ink drop out.
Keep washing the tattooed area three times a day with antibacterial soap as your tattoo heals. Apply a thin layer of moisturizer, a suitable antibiotic ointment or balm to keep the skin hydrated and healing well.
Peak Scabbing: Healing Time Days 7 to 14
By the time you reach the end of your first week after getting a fresh tattoo is when you’ll see the most tattoo scabbing. The thick scab has usually hardened and will begin to flake off in scales and small chunks.
It’s imperative that during this part of the process – when your tattoo is looking and feeling it’s absolute worst, that you let it heal without picking, poking, prodding or scratching at your skin.
If you mess up during this phase of the process, you could pull out the ink and leave scars, tattoo discoloration, or also prompt infection.
At this point the dead skin is highly likely to feel very itchy. Gently rub on a moisturizer several times a day to relieve the itching, or if the itch and pain is extreme try an antihistamine tablet or hydrocortisone cream (at recommended levels).
If your tattoo is still red and swollen at this point, you might have an infected tattoo. Go back to your artist, see a doctor, or do suitable research to see if your tattoo is okay if this is the case and is causing you worry.
Nearing the Finish Line: The 3rd Week
Near the end of this healing stage, the thicker scab will completely flake off on its own. Although it will likely be itchy, it’s still important not to scratch because the tattoo is still healing.
Again, healing times can vary between individuals and will depend on the care you give your new tattoo. If you still have watering from the wound or the scabs are not drying out, you can consult your tattoo artist to find out if they have any suggestions on how you should change your tattoo-care routine.
When to worry about tattoo scabbing
While the tattoo scabbing process is normal, there are unusual circumstances you should keep an eye out for that could mean issues with the tattoo healing process. These include:
- Overly thick and tough, heavy scabbing
- Deep red areas developing at the edges of the scab that could mean an infected tattoo
- Excessive oozing and swelling
- Bleeding and pain
If you have concerns, it’s best to first visit your tattoo artist and get their advice on your healing tattoo. They’ve seen it all before and will be able to assist you if there is a problem, whether it necessitates a trip to the doctor or a change in aftercare product.
Tattoo Scabs and the Dry Healing Method
The dry heal method is tattoo aftercare that refrains from the use of product, lotion, balm or moisturizer in caring for freshly inked skin.
After you take off the original tattoo shop issued tattoo bandage or wrap, all you do during the rest of the healing process is wash the tattooed area with mild antibacterial soap and warm water to periodically cleanse the tattooed skin.
Choosing this minimalist method will affect how your tattoo peels and scabs. It’s highly likely you’ll find that the scabby ink looks worse and feels worse for a much longer period in weeks two-three of your tattoo healing process.
It’s important to make sure that you leave the tattoo alone to heal, and not interfere with the scabbing and peeling when attempting a dry tattoo heal.
Tattoo Scabbing Do’s and Don’ts
DO follow a proper tattoo aftercare plan and stick to it, even if you do the dry heal method of aftercare. Be patient and proactive with looking after the tattoo area and it will heal nicely.
DON’T pick your scabs. No matter how crazy it makes you get with the irritation and itching, allow the scabs to heal and fall off on their own. Picking a scab off too early could pull out ink that has settled and may result in blotchy ink or pitted healing.
DO make sure you use an antibacterial soap when cleaning your tattoo three times a day. Use a small amount of warm/hot water and make sure to pat dry with a clean paper towel or soft cloth.
DON’T soak your tattoo with any type of water during the healing stage, and especially when your tattoo scabs. This can create an infection or shake off the scabs long before they’re ready.
DO seek assistance if there’s even a slight problem – tattoo infection or allergic reaction should be avoided at all costs. It’s easier to be thought a fool, than found proven to be one.
DON’T scratch around the scab, as you’ll end up with the exact problems picking and prodding creates when messing with your healing tattoo.
Your new tattoo is not only a permanent work of art, it is also an open wound that will most likely scab as it is healing. If there’s tattoo scabbing, keep the scabs moisturized, and don’t pick at them. Within two weeks, your scabs will begin to fall off by themselves.
If you try to rush the process by picking at your scabs, it can affect your tattoo ink, leaving discoloration on your healed tattoo where the scabs were. As tempting as it is to pick your tattoo scab off every time, leave them alone.
Have you enjoyed this article on tattoo scabs and healing? If you’re looking for more important tattoo aftercare information, click on the links below for more insight into the process: