Are Tattoos Supposed to Peel?

Author: Samantha Cook
Tattoos are supposed to peel.

If your tattoo is peeling and scabbing, it is generally not a cause for concern. Peeling and scabbing are part of the skin's healing process.

Why Does a Tattoo Peel?

Skin peels when it has been injured, which is why it will peel following a sunburn. The top layer of your skin, called the epidermis, sheds when damaged, revealing the healthy layer of skin below. A tattoo is essentially a large skin wound.

What Do I Do for Tattoo Peeling?

Common aftercare instructions to manage tattoo peeling include keeping it very clean and well moisturized. The key is keeping it lightly moisturized, but not saturated. You will likely be advised to use a thin layer of a recommended antibiotic cream initially. Using too much ointment can cause moisture to become trapped beneath the layer of ointment and the tattoo and can result in bubbling.

Once you have entered the ‘peeling phase' you will stop using the ointment and switch to a hand lotion. You should allow the tattoo to air dry as much as possible, but should always cover it when there is any chance that it may get dirty or be exposed to germs and bacteria.

It is important to follow your specific aftercare instructions to the letter as infection can readily set in. The peeling should subside within a few days to a week, depending on how fast you heal.

Be Careful Bandages Can Stick

When you need to place a bandage on your tattoo, you should take precautions to ensure that it doesn't stick to the healing wound. Applying a thin layer of an antibiotic cream to a non-stick bandage creates a moist protective layer between the wound and the bandage.

Signs of Infection

Because the skin is being penetrated during the tattoo procedure, risk of infection is always a possibility.  Peeling is normal.  Increased bleeding at the site, redness, swelling, and pus are not.  Call your physician immediately if you notice any signs of possible infection. 


Works Cited

New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
Health Standards and Recommendations for Tattooing

Board of Body Art Practitioners: Oregon State Government
Aftercare & You: Requirements and Beyond

Transcend Tattoo Gallery
All References

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"Are Tattoos Supposed to Peel?." Sophisticated Edge. N.p., n.d. Web. . <>.  

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