Like many others, you undoubtedly spent months preparing for your first tattoo. After explicit Internet research, you were able to decide on a motif and made an appointment at a tattoo studio. When the time finally comes, you bravely face the pain and are rewarded with a body painting, to which you are also directly addressed the next day. Everyone admires it. Until one morning you wake up and discover something strange: Your beloved tattoo is peeling.
Not many things scare you as much as the picture of your peeling skin. Looking at it, you might think you’ve landed in a horror movie. Fortunately, in most cases, there’s no reason to panic – including your tattoo because peeling skin is part of the natural healing process.
To take away your fear for good, we talked to two experts in this field. Tattoo artist Daniel Winter and dermatologist Matthew Lin explain why your tattoo peels and how to properly care for your skin.
Why does the skin peel after tattooing?
Like a piercing, a tattoo hurts your skin – peeling is the body’s natural reaction to that very injury. Even though the ink is not in the top layer of skin, the epidermis, the tattooed area is perceived as a conventional wound. To treat it, your body initiates its own healing process. The result is the peeling of the “injured” skin.
How long does the peeling process usually take?
Usually, the skin begins to peel three to four days after the tattoo. “When the epidermis comes off, the dead skin turns white and cracks. It then peels away, leaving the new, healthy skin,” Dr. Lin explains. The entire peeling process can take one to two weeks.
Can the tattoo fade due to skinning?
Fortunately, no! In fact, it should make your tattoo appear even more vibrant and defined. Dr. Lin explains how this can be possible, “After the skin has completely peeled, the rich colors of the layer underneath are revealed. This is because the ink is deep in the skin, but only the top layer peels.”
Is it normal for older tattoos to peel?
Older tattoos usually do not peel. If this happens to you, you should see your dermatologist as soon as possible. “You may develop an allergic reaction to the ink. This often happens with colorful tattoos or when there are pre-existing skin conditions,” explains Dr. Lin.
How do I properly care for tattooed skin?
All tattoos – no matter how big or small they are – require an extensive care routine. It is important that you clean your tattoo every evening with a washing gel. Make sure to use a gel that is free of fragrances.
After cleansing the skin and patting it dry with a paper towel (don’t rub!), you should apply a thin layer of ointment or fragrance-free lotion. Dr. Lin’s favorite, for example, is Aquaphor’s healing ointment. It usually takes two to four weeks for everything to heal completely. Once the skin stops peeling and the ink is completely absorbed, the healing process is complete. However, if everything is not back to normal after a month, you will need to have it made sure that you have not contracted an infection.
During the entire healing phase, it is especially important that you do not scratch your tattoo under any circumstances. The area can be particularly itchy and you’ll probably want to scratch throughout. But that can lead to infection or scarring, warns Dr. Lin. Daniel Winter agrees, and also reiterates that peeling is part of the healing process and therefore wholly normal. So sit back and relax. In about a month, you too will be able to show off your beautiful tattoo on Instagram.