arm with tattoo - no tattoo peel

Ask Better Tattooing – Why Does My Tattoo Peel?

Seeing your new tattoo peel can be scary for those who have never healed a tattoo before. Little flakes of skin, slowly falling off and covering your nice clean clothes, are what seasoned tattoo clients are accustomed to seeing; but how do we know what is normal and what is not?

Why do Tattoos Peel?

The process of getting a tattoo involves a grouping of needles puncturing through the epidermal layer of your skin and depositing pigment into the top layers of your dermis. This mechanical action destroys the cells that make up the skin and will leave you prone to infection if not cared for properly.

The process of healing your tattoo is called aftercare.

More on aftercare can be found by clicking one of our links:

Tattoo After Care Products – The Different Types of Products Used.

All wounds that your body are exposed to need to be repaired, and a tattoo is no different. During the initial inflammatory phrase, straight through the final strike of the needle, your body will produce serous fluid (exudate) to heal the wound caused by tattooing. Exudate moves to the site where the tattoo has been done, bringing with it all manners of healing stuff which promotes healing and protects the body from infection.
peeling tattoo on an arm

As the tattoo wound heals the dead skin cell raise to the surface creating a flaky-looking layer on top of the tattoo. This is the normal part of healing a tattoo and is nothing to worry about. Once your body has repaired enough of the damaged tissues your body sloughs off the dead cells revealing healthy looking, repaired skin.

Why Does my Tattoo Have Scabs?

Sometimes the tattoo procedure results in excessive damage to the skin. Scabs are a sign that the tattoo was done in an area that has little subcutaneous tissues, is more mobile than other body parts, or has been overly taxed, during after the tattoo session.

Scabs on your tattoo can also come from the tattoo artist overworking your skin, or if you have an allergy to the pigment or part of the pigment dispersion that was inserted in your skin.

a healing tattoo that is peeling

Scabs signal a deeper wound that needs longer to heal. That means if you see scabs you should be ready to be extra cautious when healing your new tattoo. Whatever the reason behind scabs occurring on your new tattoo you must be cautious to follow aftercare instructions well. If you do not the chances of scarring increase.

One More Thing About Scabs and What Causes Them.

Some pigments, particularly white inks (TiO2) will cause eruption and irritations to the skin. The chances of larger scabs forming increase if white pigment or white blended pigments are used in a tattoo.

When do Tattoos Start Peeling?

Peeling of a tattoo will normally occur within the first 7 days. This time frame may change given the amount of tattoo work you had done (hours in the chair), where the tattoo was done on your body (softer tissues versus thicker skinned areas), and how much damage the artist inflicted on your skin (were they “heavy handed”)

  up close picture of a tattoo peeling

What if my Tattoo Does not Peel?

Do not worry your tattoo doesn’t peel, as long as the tattoo looks good. Your body shed skin cells at an alarming rate, around 200,000,000 per hour, so chances are your skin did peel, you just did not notice it.

If your body has little to no sensitivity to the pigment used, if the tattoo was smaller in size, and /or if techniques used during the tattoo session resulted in less damage to the skin, there is a greater chance your skin will not have a “normal” peel during healing.

One more reason why the skin may not peel is generous application of aftercare products, especially those that do not overhydrate the skin surface. By applying lotion multiple times within a day, you are effectively exfoliating the skin surface. This will remove dead skin cells as you moisturize which in turn decreases the chances of seeing skin slough off.

Is Seeing Peeling on Your Tattoo Normal?

Peeling is a completely normal part of the tattoo healing process.