Tattoo Peeling: How to Care for a Peeling Tattoo

Peeling is a natural part of your tattoo's healing process. In this article, we cover why your tattoo peels, how long it is expected to peel for, and how you can take care of it.

Getting your first tattoo is a very important decision, quite literally a life-changing one. You’ve gone through the trials of choosing your tattoo, choosing your artist, and getting the tattoo done. After a couple of days, you notice your tattoo starts to appear a little flaky. You might also notice that your skin has risen slightly.

Well, don’t worry, this is completely normal. It’s all part of the healing process. Read on to find out why your body does this and why tattoo peeling is an essential part of getting a tattoo.


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Why Do Tattoos Peel?

After a few days, you’ll notice that your tattoo has started to crack and flake. It might even cause you concern. Don’t worry, this is normal.

During the process of getting your tattoo, the ink has to go deep into your skin to ensure that your body doesn’t naturally shed it away. As your body begins to heal the tattooed area, it will peel away the “damaged” layer of the skin on top.

You might be concerned about parts of your tattoo peeling away, but you can rest easy knowing that your tattoo sits deep in a layer of the skin called the dermis, so it won’t peel away that easily.

Your body treats your freshly peeling tattoo as a wound. This is because it is. When your tattoo starts to peel, it’s your body shedding dry skin. Shedding dry skin is part of the tattoo healing process.

You should never peel skin from your tattoo yourself. Instead, let your body handle it. Of course, if the peeling skin comes off in the shower, this is normal.

When to Expect Tattoo Peeling to Stop

Now that you know why your tattoo is peeling, you’re probably wondering when it’s going to stop. After all, nobody likes the look of freshly tattooed skin peeling from their arm.

Your tattoo is going to peel for at least one to two weeks. After that, peeling should have either completely subsided or reached the point where it’s very minimal.

Even when your peeling has stopped, it’s important that you continue to keep your skin hydrated using a scent-free lotion or moisturizer. This is because the tattoo is still healing.

How To Deal With Peeling

While peeling is to be expected, there are a handful of things you can do to make sure you’re treating your tattoo right with a refined tattoo aftercare routine. Here are some tips for proper peeling tattoo care.

Shower With Warm Water

Your skin will be sensitive for the next week or so. Even though your skin is sensitive, it’s important that you’re having warm showers. Warm showers (paired with a scent-free soap) keep your tattoo clean during its healing phase. The warm water also cleans the peeling skin away easier.

It’s critical that a scent-free soap is used for the entire healing process, as scented soaps have been known to over-dry the skin, which could have an adverse effect on the healing of the tattoo.

Keep Your Skin Hydrated

You will want to follow your tattoo artist’s suggestions for when you need to start moisturizing. Once you have the all-clear to moisturize your tattoo, you want to moisturize at least twice daily, ideally once in the morning and once at night. You can keep this up for as long as you want, but generally, you want to keep at it until the skin no longer peels, and no longer feels tight.

You can apply moisturizer or lotion three times a day depending on how fast your skin dries out. Be mindful not to apply too much, as too much moisturizer or lotion can clog your pores.

Don’t Itch or Pick Your Tattoo

No matter what you do, you should never itch your healing tattoo. Your tattoo is a wound in its healing process. The more you touch your tattoo, the higher chance there is of getting an infection. There is bacteria under your fingernails that can easily infect your tattoo. Itching could also have an impact on the appearance of your tattoo, and could cause unnecessary scarring.

Don’t Soak in Water

Avoid baths and pools while your tattoo heals. Water can contain bacteria that, when exposed to your tattoo, can cause infection. Not only this, but the chlorine in pools can irritate your skin.

The same is true when it comes to sweat. Avoid activities that may cause you to sweat excessively.

While it may seem like a good idea to de-stress after your tattoo sessions with a relaxing bath, hold off until your tattoo is healed. You won’t regret it.

Let It Breathe

Don’t reapply a film over your tattoo. Once you’ve removed the bandage following your session, keep it off. Let your tattoo breathe by wearing short sleeves around the house. When you go out, switch to long-sleeved clothing that’s loose so it’s not rubbing against your skin.

Signs of Proper Healing

In addition to peeling, there are other signs that can indicate that your tattoo is healing correctly and properly:

  • Your tattooed skin is pink or red (but not like a rash)
  • Slightly risen from inflammation
  • Mild and infrequency itchiness

Sign of Improper Healing

Just like there are proper healing indicators, there are signs that your tattoo isn’t healing correctly. This could be the result of an infection, improper care, or an allergic reaction to a product or tattoo ink.

  • There is a wide-spread rash around the tattooed area
  • Excessive inflammation identified by extreme redness
  • Extreme and uncontrollable itchiness
  • Pus or discharge coming from the healing tattoo

Tattoo Peeling Aftercare Tips

To better help you deal with tattoo peeling, take the below tips into account while your tattoo is still healing.

  • Pat dry with a towel – You may need to change the way you dry yourself out of the shower. Always pat dry your tattoo as rubbing your skin can peel away too much skin.
  • Moisturize your tattoo twice daily – Keeping your skin hydrated is essential for healing. Excessively dry skin can cause the skin to crack and bleed. Plus, hydrated tattoos have a nice sheen to them.
  • Avoid itching and scratching – Your fingernails contain bacteria under them. Scratching the tattoo can lead to infections and scarring.
  • Keep it out of direct sunlight – Exposure to UV rays from the sun is bad for fresh and old tattoos. UV rays are absorbed by the skin and break up the pigments. While you may want to apply sunscreen, avoid doing so until your tattoo is completely healed.

Keeping the above tips in mind during your tattoo’s healing phase will result in a healthy, attractive tattoo.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, peeling is unavoidable, and you should go into your first tattoo with that realization. It may not look the best during its peeling phase, but remind yourself that the peeling is only temporary. Your tattoo will heal with time, and once it has, you’ll be left with a beautiful piece of ink.

It’s important to heed the advice of your tattoo artist, as each tattoo artists has a different style, different ink, and different tools. If you’re concerned that your tattoo is peeling too much, reach out to your artist.

No, your tattoo shouldn’t fade after it peels. After peeling has subsided, your tattoo should look fresh and bright with color. Of course, your tattoo will fade over time, but this will take years.

Yes, you need to wash your tattoo regularly, even if it’s peeling. Keeping your tattoo clean and free of bacteria is critical to its healing process.

You can apply scent-free lotion or moisturizer to your tattoo while it’s healing. This will keep your tattoo hydrated to promote faster healing. You shouldn’t apply sunscreen to a healing tattoo, but you can do so after healing has completed.

You shouldn’t be concerned if your tattoo doesn’t peel. If your tattoo isn’t peeling, it probably means your skin has handled the tattoo procedure better than most. Rejoice in the fact that you don’t have to worry about tattoo peeling!

When you get a tattoo, the needle breaks the barrier of your skin. After your tattoo session has finished, your body naturally starts to heal the tattooed area. This is because it treats your tattoo as an injury.

How long for tattoo to heal? Not everyone’s tattoo will start to peel at the same time, though, peeling is to be expected at some point. The degree of peeling will also vary, with some people experiencing only slight peeling, and others experiencing a lot more. Generally, the smaller your tattoo is, the less peeling that will occur.

Peeling tattoos aren’t a good look or feel. It sucks, but it’s all part of the experience. You might be asking yourself “when do tattoos stop peeling?” in an effort to figure out when you’ll be free of it. Although this is different for everyone, you can expect your tattoo to stop peeling within a week or two of when it started.

While it’s not impossible, your tattoo, especially if old, should not continue to peel. If you are noticing that old tattoos are peeling, it could be in relation to an allergic reaction to the ink used. It is definitely possible to have an adverse reaction to the ink used in your tattoo, and this most commonly occurs with colored inks.

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