Guides for Beginners

Tattoo Scabbing: How Good or Bad is the Healing Process?

Tattoo scabbing is one of the most challenging concepts to explain to first-time clients.



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 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 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 with 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 that need to heal. Like when you bruise your knee or get cut on other skin surfaces, scabs appear during the healing process.

As 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.

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.

The tattoo only shows redness during this period and will still look good.

The skin has been distressed but has not kicked in with the external healing process yet.


The body is still working underneath.


Stage 2: slight peeling off

By the 4th to 6th day, some peeling and scabbing will start to show up.

At this stage, the outer layer of the skin tries 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 occur. The earlier light scabbing thickens and even begins flaking off to give way for more scabbing.


Stage 3: more significant 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 specialized 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.


Tattoo scabbing affected


When you know what to look out for, you can quickly nip the issue before it decays.


First signs

The most typical 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 highly thick and tough coverings.

Likewise, experiencing bleeding and pain signifies that you need to get that tattoo looked at.

If you have other symptoms, like the development of redness around the tattoo’s edges, you should see your doctor.


The Do’s and Don’ts

You can ruin a perfect 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 reworked.

Either way, this is never a pleasant situation for everyone involved.

These suggestions could reduce the possibility of a horrible experience happening.


Good practices

Ask the professionals

Please speak with your tattoo artist on what aftercare practices they recommend.

In my experience, less is more with aftercare. Please keep it clean and use cream.

Each body can react differently, BUT some light from your artist won’t hurt.


Antibacterial soap

Wash the tattooed 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, applying a small amount of moisturizing/balm to the tattooed area as the skin heals is a good practice.

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 crucial to seek out a doctor immediately.


After a shower

Always dry the tattoo off with a very soft cloth 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 pace.


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 the ink that was supposed to seal into your skin.


Soaking your tattoo in water for long periods

Some believe this will soothe them and help get rid of the scabbing/ itching quickly. But you are inviting infection to your skin.

Also, avoid swimming pools, saunas, spas, or the ocean. Bacteria are all over the place; chemicals such as Chlorine are 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!

Your fingernails will likely 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 normal for tattoos to scab.

It is known that some rare and lucky people experience very mild scabbing. These cases are rare, and we don’t always reference them at all.

As 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 tricky 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).

– Diet.

– Frequency of hydration.

If in doubt, you should 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 good and bad scabbing.

Tattoo Scabbing Wrap Up

Once the tattoo is fully healed, 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.



Hi!, I'm Thomas, the driver of TMA. Tattoos are a way to express our thoughts, right? but how can we do it without the right tattoo machine? Thanks to my tattoo artist friends, I can transfer their point of view about their experiences in the industry.

2 thoughts on “Tattoo Scabbing: How Good or Bad is the Healing Process?

  • I don’t know rather I have an infection or not I’m not sure this my first tattoo with ink. It’s scabbing good but looks like my meat is showing unless that’s just the ink underneath. It still kinda hurts when I move it but other then that it’s okay. I got it a day before thanksgiving and it’s already been 4 days.

    • Hi Chelsea,
      thanks for sharing. If you have strong discomfort, it is possible there is an infection.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy