Tattoo Peeling and Scabbing 101: Things You Need To Know

By Jason Hamilton / August 13, 2019
Spread the love

Your new tattoo is peeling. Now you know what it feels like to be a snake. Only you are itchy, uncomfortable and your new ink looks downright gruesome.

Not to worry, the process happens to everyone from first timers to ink veterans with years of experience under the gun.

For men, tattoo peeling is a lot like growing a beard. At first, your beard looks awful, it is patchy, spotty and plus it itches like crazy. Those sharp ended beard hairs poke right back into the skin for the few weeks or two. Within time, your beard looks great, it’s filled in and the itching is completely gone!


A tattoo is no different, only we’re talking about a flesh wound here. You still experience the itch as your skin flakes off and maybe a little intimidated by the not so pleasant appearance. Even though it looks bad and feels bad, does not exactly mean it is all bad.

In fact, it is a good thing! In reality, it’s all a part of the natural healing process. You should be happy to know that you are 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, We are going to help you discover what’s really going on when your tattoo undergoing tattoo peeling, plus we will give you great tips on how to deal with the itching and more. From start to finish, We will cover everything you need to know about this stage.


Common Questions We Get If Someone’s Tattoo Is Peeling

Below are just some of the most common questions we heard from those who are new in the tattoo community when their tattoos start peeling. Usually, they will be really concerned or even hysterical about their tattoos! (If you imagine them screaming, yep! That is how they are, trust us.)



Here are some of the answers to some of the most common questions we get about tattoo peeling:

Why Is My Tattoo Peeling Off?

Peeling and flaking of a new tattoo are perfectly normal. Before it actually begins to peel, the tattoo will look like it is covered with a whitish, cracking film. Then you will see white or translucent flakes of old, dead skin start to peel off and some of the flakes may even contain some ink.


tattoo peel


Sometimes you can actually see a duplicate image of part of your tattoo peeling off—it is rather disconcerting, but it is also perfectly normal and there is no need to panic.

tattoo peeling is a lot like a snake shedding its skin. Just add a little lotion to the tattoo to help keep it moist and encourage those flakes to come off. Do not scratch, pick or peel them. It will all be done in a few days and the color of your tattoo will start to return to normal.


When Does The Tattoo Peeling Start?

Regardless if you have been following the wash, dry, ointment routine religiously, your flaking stage may come sooner or later than others.

Remember, we all have different bodies, genetics, etc. For some the tattoo peeling 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 will be seeing what looks like Fruity Pebbles shedding everywhere. Be patient while your epidermis is doing its thing.

It Looks Bad, Real Bad! Should I Be Concerned Of Tattoo Peeling?

While the whitish, flakes and cracking skin appear unsightly and downright awful, you can actually think of them as a good thing. In reality, this is exactly how the skin naturally heals itself.

tattoo peeling

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 is only temporary as the skin will continue to peel, however, if you need to look your best on short notice, the lotion helps considerably. Just follow the tattoo aftercare tips your artist said to you and you will be just fine!

My Newly Inked Tattoo Is Undergoing Tattoo Peeling! Is It Normal If It Looks Faded?

Very normal. Tattoos always look great right after they are done. Most artists take pictures of their work right after they are done as well. The color will come back and be very vivid (depending on skin tone and if the color was used) As long as you keep it moisturized(I put lotion on all my tattoos daily) and keep it out of the sun! The sun is a tattoo’s worst enemy. The Sun will fade the ink and cause the tattoo to “bleed” which then makes the tattoo look blurry and fuzzy. Our sleeve tattoos here in Tats N Rings is a few years old but everyone that has asked me about it wonders if it was just recently finished. You can always talk to your artist as well. They should be more than happy to give you any information you might need.



My Tattoo Is Scabbing! Should I Be Concerned?

Relax, if you are scabbing and you’ve followed proper tattoo aftercare it doesn’t always mean you did something wrong. For some people their bodies will scab regardless of what they do; it’s literally unavoidable.

When this happens, just remember two things: Keep your scabs moisturized and never pick at them!

Within 2 weeks you will see most if not all of them starting to come off naturally. If you try to rush this process you’ll damage your ink, often with light spots all over your new tattoo. Please do not do that, regardless of how tempting it is.

Trust us, they will fall off on their own. They don’t need your assistance, as much as you want to help.

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.

How Should I Deal With The Peeling?

It is important to remember a tattoo is actually just beneath the skin, not on top of it. Because of this fact, the skin above it will begin to peel after the first four or five days. When this happens, simply continue to care for it as though it weren’t peeling at all. Clean it and apply the appropriate lotion multiple times a day and resist all temptations to assist the peeling or scratch the area. If the body doesn’t rid itself of this layer of skin on its own, the appearance of the ink underneath can suffer greatly. It can even lead to loss of ink, uneven healing or fading.


Tattoo Peeling Done! Now What?

When your tattoo is done peeling, you won’t have to worry about flakes of skin falling off your body anymore. Your tattoo will look shiny. However, this does not mean that the healing process is over. A tattoo takes at least six weeks to heal.

Keep applying lotion to your tattoo to keep it moisturized. If your skin feels tight, try applying cocoa butter to it.

It’s also important to realize that while your tattoo looks better, it still has no protection against UV rays. Always cover your tattoo when you go out into the sun. Exposing your tattoo to the sun will fade the ink. Light colors, such as yellow, white, orange, and pink will fade easily when you expose them to the sun. However, even dark colors, such as black, will fade if you stay out in the sun long enough without protection.

tattoo peeling 4

Applying sunscreen to your tattoo instead of covering it up won’t work. Your tattoo is still very sensitive to sunlight, and applying sunscreen simply isn’t enough to protect your ink during the healing process.

After you have gotten a tattoo, you want to protect your ink while it heals. A natural part of the healing process is peeling. While peeling may make your tattoo look and feel bad, it’s a normal part of the healing process. Following the aftercare instructions in this article will help you relieve the discomfort of your peeling tattoo and protect your ink.

Things To Avoid While Your Tattoo Is Peeling

Let’s say you just got a permanent piece of body art and you’re feeling very protective. After all, this thing is for life, so you’re on the lookout for things that can ruin your tattoo. Is it OK to take a shower? It is OK to go out in the sun? The mind reels.

To help you ease your mind, here are some of the things you need to avoid if your tattoo is in its peeling stage.

Picking Or Peeling The Scabs

Like I said above, you’re likely to get itchy, scabby skin during the healing process. Whatever you do, resist the urge to pick or peel, as it can really mess up the color and lines of your tattoo. According to an article on, “You want those scabs to stay on as long as possible, even if it means resisting that itching feeling for weeks. After six weeks, that lighter layer of skin will finally shed away and the final colors of your tattoo will shine.”

tattoo scab


Sleeping On Top Of It

This one can be tough because you can’t really help what happens in your sleep. But if you have, say, a back tattoo, at least try to sleep on your stomach. As Jessica Paige said, “If you can sleep with your tattoo exposed, that would be best. If not, you can place a clean thin towel between you and the sheets.” This will help keep your fresh skin infection-free.

tattoo sleeping

Touching It Too Often

Your hands are dirty, dirty, dirty, so you should resist touching your new tattoo at all costs. As the experts suggested, “Never ever touch your tattoo with dirty hands, fingernails, clothing, shoes, etc. This is the number one reason why infections occur.” And that is the number one thing to avoid.



Showing It Off To Friends

I know, it’s tempting to show off your tattoo. But when you do, people are likely to reach in to touch it. Remember they, like you, have dirty, dirty, dirty hands. So take a photo instead, and show that off until the tattoo is healed.


RELATED: 50+ Amazing Wrist Tattoo Designs You Will Definitely Love

Skin Reactions to Tattoo: What Now?

Even if you get inked by a licensed tattoo artist and follow the aftercare, your skin can react in weird and unexpected ways. Some reactions happen immediately. Others take weeks or years to appear. If you’re having a reaction, here’s what may be happening and what you can do.


When it’s likely to appear: An infection can happen:

  • Immediately after getting a tattoo
  • Days or months after getting inked

Signs of infection: After getting a tattoo, it’s normal to see some redness and swelling. Your skin will feel sore, and you may see clear fluid oozing from your new tattoo. As your skin heals, it can itch and flake. Scabs may form. All of this can be part of your normal healing process.

If an infection develops, your skin reacts a bit differently. You may notice one or more of the following:

  • Redness: It becomes darker or spreads instead of lightening and diminishing
  • Pain: It continues or worsens instead of subsiding
  • Rash of itchy, red, and painful bumps develop within the tattoo (shown here)
  • Fever
  • Chills and shivering
  • Pus in the tattoo
  • Open sore(s) in the tattoo

Take action: If you have any signs or symptoms of an infection, see your doctor or a board-certified dermatologist right away. The sooner treatment is started, the less damage it can do to your health and your tattoo.

Rash: Sun allergy

When it’s likely to appear: After getting a tattoo, some people develop a sun allergy on their inked skin. This reaction can happen every time the sun’s rays hit your tattoo.

Signs of a sun allergy: This allergy can appear within minutes of the sun hitting your tattoo or hours later. You may have a sun allergy on your inked skin if you notice any of the following:

  • Swelling and redness around a tattoo
  • Itchy rash of tiny bumps
  • Blisters or hives

Take action: You can prevent a rash by protecting your skin from the sun. To protect your tattoo and your skin, dermatologists recommend that you:

  • Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside. To get the protection you need, use a sunscreen that offers SPF 30 or higher, broad-spectrum protection, and water resistance. You should apply sunscreen to all skin that will be exposed while you’re outdoors.
  • Cover your tattoo with clothing before going outdoors. To test how well the clothing will protect your skin, hold the clothing up to a bright light. If you cannot see light through the fabric, the clothing offers good sun protection. Dermatologists still recommend applying sunscreen to all skin that will be bare while you’re outside.
  • Seek shade. Staying in the shade is a simple way to reduce sun exposure.

Spread the love
About the author

Jason Hamilton

Jason has been an avid fan of tattoos for over 13 years now. He is currently 35 years old, and he got his first tattoo at the age of 22. Since then, he has added over 20 tattoos to his collection. He is also into writing, which is why he decided to celebrate both of his passion and hobby through tats ‘n’ rings. Jason dreams of having his very own tattoo parlor soon. Jason would be very happy to answer any questions about tattoos that you may have! Leave a comment below and he’ll answer it for you right away!

Click here to add a comment

Leave a comment: Protection Status