Tattoo scabbing is one of the most challenging concepts to explain to first-time clients.
THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE OF ANY SORTS. ULTIMATELY, PLEASE FOLLOW THE GUIDANCE OF YOUR DOCTOR IF YOU ARE HAVING TATTOO HEALTH ISSUES.
Trust us, we know that tattoo scabbing can be scary and every person reacts differently.
Most new clients have no idea how to get a tattoo and just want to get it done.
What can we say, not knowing how the healing process makes clients anxious.
By the time the tattoo starts peeling off, they start freaking out too.
As a tattoo artist – or if you are going for your first tattoo – you should know what to expect after a tattoo is done.
Some people say the severity of the peeling effect is also a result of the type of tattoo machine used.
Well, it could be. But regardless of what tattoo machine brand is used by the artist, there is not much direct effect on the healing process.
While scabbing is perfectly normal, it doesn’t always have positive results.
Tattoo Scabbing Process
As any part of your body that gets affected, there will be a distress response. This is the case with scabbing, which is a natural skin healing process.
The tattooing process tears up parts of the skin, which now needs to heal. Just like when you bruise your knee or get cut on other skin surfaces, scabs appear during the healing process.
Like we mentioned in the opening part of this piece, there is healthy and infected tattoo scabbing.
Most people don’t know the difference between the two (2) until it is too late. After all, they were supposed to expect a scabbing, right?
Here’s how to know which is which.
Healthy Tattoo Scabbing
- Stage 1: redness
The first 1-3 days of bliss after getting a tattoo is what tricks most first-timers into thinking tattoo scabbing is a bad thing.
During this period, the tattoo only shows signs of redness and will still look good.
The skin has been distressed, but it has not kicked in with the external healing process just yet.
The body is still working underneath.
- Stage 2: slight peeling off
By the 4th to 6th day, though, some peeling and scabbing will start to show up.
At this stage, the outer layer of the skin is trying to glue itself back together after the cuts it got from the tattoo parlor. Thus, some light scabbing starts forming.
The tattoo should still look good at this stage.
By the end of the 6th day and the start of the 7th day, newbies could be in full panic mode already 😉
This is when most of the scabbing occurs. The earlier light scabbing thickens and even begins flaking off to give way for more scabbing.
- Stage 3: larger scab present
As you approach the third week, a single more noticeable scab should have already started forming over the tattoo.
From the beginning of the third week to the end, this large scan will fall off, revealing a perfectly healthy and beautiful tattoo.
Most likely you will feel the need to scratch it. Please try to resist this urge! Use some specialised creams to help you put up with it.
Infected Tattoo Scabbing
Both healthy and infected tattoos start scabbing the same way, which makes it harder to tell what’s going on.
When you know what to look out for, though, you can quickly nip the issue in the bud before it festers.
- First signs
The most common indication of an infected tattoo is a feverish feeling and an intense soreness in the affected area.
This is the way your body’s way of telling you that something is not right. Note that it might be a coincidence that you are feeling feverish at this time but it never hurts to get yourself checked out.
- Abnormal skin oozing and extreme pain
An infected tattoo could also show abnormal oozing over and underneath the scab. By abnormal scabbing, we mean extremely thick and tough coverings.
Likewise, experiencing bleeding and pain is a sign that you need to get that tattoo looked at.
If you have other symptoms like the development of redness around the edges of the tattoo, you should go see your doctor.
The Do’s and Don’ts
You can ruin a perfectly good tattoo during the scabbing process.
This either leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth for the tattoo artist, or you might have to go back and get it re-worked.
Either way, this is never a nice situation for everyone involved.
These suggestions could reduce the possibility of a bad experience happening.
Speak with your tattoo artist on what aftercare practices they recommend.
In my experience, less is more with aftercare. Keep it clean and use a cream.
Each body can react differently, BUT, some light from your artist won’t hurt.
- Antibacterial soap.
Wash the worked area daily with a preferred antibacterial soap. These products usually won’t have any additives or perfumes.
- Hydrated skin.
Even if you don’t see any scabbing starting yet, it is a good practice to apply a small amount of moisturizing/balm to the tattooed area as the skin heals.
This will also help to reduce the itching sensation at the healing stage.
- Medical advice.
In case you detect some adverse reactions or excessive pain, it is important to seek out a doctor immediately.
- After a shower.
Always dry the tattoo off with a very soft cloth, just by pressing it on. Never dry off aggressively or scratch it.
Things to avoid
- Speeding up the process.
Never try to speed up the healing process by yourself.
There are some dermatological creams that promise to do wonders. This could be the case for skin that has not been inked.
Different body types, skin sensitivity, aftercare processes, weather, diet, and other factors can affect the healing rate. Let the body do its thing at its rate.
- Pick at the scabs.
You stand a higher chance of getting permanent scars around the tattoo area this way. Also, picking at the scabs leads to dropping out of the ink that was supposed to seal into your skin.
- Soaking your tattoo in water for long periods.
Some people believe that this will soothe them and help get rid of the scabbing/ itching easily. But you are actually inviting infection to your skin.
Also, avoid swimming pools, saunas, spas or the ocean. Bacteria are all over the place; chemicals such as Chlorine too.
- Scratching around the tattooed area.
Itch around the scabbing. You might think it is ok since it’s not on the tattoo itself, you are good to go. No, do not!
Most likely your fingernails will have more than some food scraps from lunch. When scratching, the bacteria in there could affect the healthy skin.
The last of the list, don’t panic when the scabbing first starts appearing.
Your body is only reacting to the changes you have made and is setting you up for a more colorful skin when it’s done.
Frequently Asked Questions
It is ok to have questions, even if they sound silly. These are the most common ones.
Are tattoos supposed to scab?
It is perfectly healthy and right for tattoos to scab.
It is known that some rare and lucky people experience very mild scabbing. These cases are so far and in-between that we do not always reference them at all.
Like we have mentioned multiple times, scabbing is one of the body’s ways of protecting the skin underneath from foreign objects while speeding up the healing process.
How long does it take for a tattoo to scab?
This is a hard question to answer. On average, your tattoo should be done peeling off by the end of the third week.
That is the average so the time for your scabbing to show up and disappear might be lesser or longer than that.
These variations are due to factors such as, but not limited to:
- Skin type.
- Skin sensitivity.
- Personal healing rate.
- Aftercare steps.
- Ink properties, size of the tattoo, placement, type (lined or shaded).
- Frequency of hydration.
If in doubt, you should go see your licensed tattoo artist or speak with a medical health practitioner.
What does tattoo scabbing look like?
An image expresses more than a few words. These are two (2) examples of tattoos that have gone through a good and bad scabbing process.
Tattoo Scabbing Wrap Up
Once that tattoo gets fully healed up, you and your friends will be toasting to that beautiful piece of ink on your body in no time – and you’d have forgotten how worried you were when the scabs first showed up.
Please note that tattoo scabbing should be associated neither with the quality of the tattoo machine operated by the artist, nor the length of the session. It is just a natural skin recovery stage.