Home » Tattoo Peeling: Why it Happens and How to Care for it?

Tattoo Peeling: Why it Happens and How to Care for it?

Imagine you get your very first tattoo, and you notice it starts peeling from your skin a couple of days later. Wouldn’t that freak you out? It would if you weren’t aware that a certain amount of tattoo peeling is normal during the early stages of the healing process. What’s happening is that the wound created by a fresh new tattoo affects the dry skin cells. The peeling, then, is a natural response to get rid of the dry skin cells affected by the tattoo process.

Tattoo peeling is of concern when it happens in excess, resulting in inflammation or an infection. It’s important to know if your tattoo is peeling naturally and normally versus excessively and needing special care. 

Luckily, there are plenty of remedies to treat the natural peeling discomfort. The remedies help make the tattoo aftercare process more efficient by letting the tattoo heal at a normal and desired pace. In this guide, you’ll get all the essential details about the tattoo peeling process, with an emphasis on when tattoo peeling happens and how to care for it.

When Does Tattoo Peeling Happen?

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The intensity and duration of the tattoo peeling process are unique to each individual’s body as also the size and type of tattoo. Nevertheless, peeling skin is bound to happen during the initial tattoo healing process, and there is no way around preventing it.  

If you’ve gotten inked for the first time and don’t know what it’s like to go through the process, you could get intimidated by the tattoo peeling stage in particular. What you should know is that peeling is a normal and natural part of the tattoo repairing process. 

That said, the peeling process may happen anywhere from a couple of days after getting the ink to around four days later. Further, it’s not unusual for it to happen to some as late as a week after getting the tattoo. Whenever your tattoo starts to peel, you’ll know it vividly. It won’t be like the millions of dead skin cells each of us shed daily without realization. When the tattoo causes the shedding (peeling), the dead skin cells will contain the tattoo pigment.

Large, colored chunks of dead skin and pigment shed off, but you can rest assured your tattoo isn’t fading. It’s your epidermis that’s shedding. The epidermis is the topmost layer of your skin, which is the healing skin situated a safe distance above the thicker layer containing the ink. Your tattoo, if inked as per proper plan, should be under your dermis.

How Long Does The Tattoo Peel For?

As mentioned earlier, the peeling process starts about two to four days after the tattoo is inked, causing the epidermis to shed. A peeling tattoo appears hazy, whitish and cracked before finally peeling off. In most cases, the peeling process ends a week or two later.

On the brighter side of things, once the peeling ends, the tattoo looks brighter, fresh, and sharper as its true colors are revealed once the epidermis has shed.

What If A Tattoo Doesn’t Peel?

Don’t panic if your tattoo doesn’t begin to peel. In all likelihood, it’s still healing. Not all tattoos have to peel to indicate they’re healing normally. Very little or no peeling can be perfectly normal too. The way your tattoo has been applied and the quality of its immediate aftercare may help minimize the healing discomfort. 

The way your skin peels after you get a tattoo depends on a lot of factors. First, it depends on the size and type of your newly inked tattoo. Second, it depends on where your tattoo placement is on your body. Finally, it depends on the quality of your tattoo’s aftercare and how severely the tattoo has scabbed.

Got yourself a big tattoo? Well, look forward to greater peeling and flaking since a larger skin area has undergone protrusion by needles, which was quite distressing for the skin. It’s not just size that matters though. There are areas of skin on our bodies that are more resistant to peeling and will peel away slower. It’s the most exposed elements that are more immune to peeling since they’ve been made tough by excessive exposure and use. 

If you’re not keeping your skin hydrated during the tattoo aftercare stages, the skin will dry out and flake more easily. The key is to moisturize the area with any of the best lotions available to let your tattoo heal quicker and more comfortably. 

Tips To Care For A Peeling Tattoo

Adequate care of your new tattoo during the healing stage is critical for optimal results of how good your tattoo finally looks. When the tattoo stops peeling, that’s when you know the topmost layer (the wound) has healed, and now, in another few weeks, the ink would be stabilized within the intended, deeper layer of the skin. 

The healing period of the top layer of the tattoo could be a maximum of 4 weeks (including a couple of weeks of peeling), and that’s if the tattoo is large and colorful. If you notice that period extending beyond that and the skin still hasn’t fully peeled off, that’s when you need to consult your physician for further instructions, as it’s likely there’s an infection. For proper healing, you need to follow a recommended tattoo aftercare regime, including the following care steps for efficient, natural, and timely tattoo peeling: 

1: Moisturize Your Tattoo

It’s essential to keep the tattoo moisturized during the peeling process. Before the onset of the peeling stage, the new tattoo should be kept clean by keeping it washed, pat dried, and treated with ointment regularly. The cleaning regime should continue at the onset of the peeling process as well. 

From the time the peeling begins, you should start applying a recommended moisturizing lotion to keep your brand new tattoo moist. The moisturizer also aids in keeping the healing skin hydrated for faster repair. An effective, all-natural tattoo aftercare product that’s a fabulous moisturizer is the Mad Rabbit Tattoo Balm & Aftercare Cream. This cream is specially formulated for tattoo aftercare.

Moisturizing your tattoo helps end the itching. Most moisturizer lotions and ointments have vitamin and mineral-rich ingredients, which help speed up the healing process. Moreover, you won’t have to worry about the skin tightening sensation caused by the scabbing, as moisturizing brings back the skin’s original elasticity.

2: If Your Tattoo Is Scabbing, Don’t Pick & Pull The Scabs

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The tattoo peeling and scabbing stages are a natural part of the healing process. Generally, both these stages happen in the middle part of the healing process. Picking and pulling the scabs during the peeling stage is not recommended at all. It may be tempting to extract the peeling skin, yet even at the very mature peeling stage, the skin is still attached to ‘live’ skin. So, it’s best to let it shed off completely, naturally. 

If you experience scabbing even after proper tattoo aftercare, that’s perfectly normal too. Each individual is different, multiple factors determine how fast the tattoo will scab. 

Here’s a list of those factors:

  • An individual’s personal rate of healing.
  • Your skin sensitivity level.
  • The size, color, placement, and ink for the tattoo.
  • Your particular tattoo aftercare regime.
  • The geographic environment, your health, and hydration levels.

The bottom line is, never pick your scabs, always keep them moisturized no matter what. Let them fall off naturally. On average, most of the scabs will fall off naturally within 2 weeks. If you remove the scabs yourself, you’ll end up damaging the ink, cause discoloration, and result in an unsightly ink dispersion of your new tattoo.

3: It’ll Get Itchy, Yet Don’t Scratch Your Tattoo

Let’s admit it, there are multitudes of germs within the fingernails. When those germs enter the pores of the freshly-inked tattoo wound, the skin is prone to infection. Moreover, by scratching a peeling tattoo, the skin gets ripped off. Making it the ideal condition for the ink to drop out of certain patchy areas. Hence, you may scratch your tattoo in the future, but only after it has fully healed first. 

4: Keep Your Tattoo Clean 

Washing your tattoo from day one and onwards, using the recommended steps, is crucial. By doing so, you’re not only keeping infections at bay, but you’re also speeding up the healing process. When your tattoo is kept clean, dirt and moisture are kept at bay, which leads to sufficiently airy pores, hence a speedy repairing process. A recommended soap for your tattoo will aid your tattoo in winning the battle to be infection-free and healed in record time.

Applying the best soap means you’ve gone in for a fragrance-free cleanser to keep your tattoo clean twice a day. Yet, you should be careful not to fully submerge your tattoo in water; not until it’s healed at least. 

As a general rule, you should avoid the pool, bathtub, sauna, and gym. All these activities may lead to excessive moisture, leading to excessively opened pores and the undesirable outcomes of ink fallout and even fading.  

My Tattoo Has Peeled Off, What Next?

You’ll be most glad once the peeling process has ended. Now, the dry, flaky mess ends, and you’ll begin to notice a shiny, waxy tattoo. You would, at this stage, however, be required to show a bit more patience. An additional few weeks will be required before the tattoo fully heals below the surface.

For the tattoo to look incredibly vibrant for many years to come, you have to continue taking care of your tattoo area during, and beyond, the healing process. You need to ensure it’s kept well moisturized and protected from the sun

How frequently you apply the lotion depends on your skin type. The bottom line is your skin should be kept adequately hydrated when the need arises. And, this should be done with high quality, tried, and tested moisturizers. 

Protecting your healing or fully healed skin against UV rays is very important. This holds not just for the health of your skin, but also to ensure your tattoo doesn’t fade due to sun exposure.  

FAQs On Tattoo Peeling

As outlined earlier, during tattoo healing, whitish flakes and cracking, peeling skin are natural phenomena. Though unsightly, all that is a good thing, being a natural process of repairing from significant trauma. 

There are several common questions that enthusiasts often ask, the following are some of the main ones: 

Should I moisturize a tattoo while it’s peeling?

The initial two days after applying the tattoo require regular cleaning and no moisturizer application. After those critical two days, you’ll begin noticing your skin is getting drier, tighter, and beginning to peel off. That’s when you should start applying a layer of a recommended moisturizer after cleaning the area each time you do so. 

What not to do after getting a tattoo?

A lot of folks forget that their brand new tattoo is an open wound. In fact, it would remain so until it fully heals a few days later. Understanding that, you wouldn’t want any oil, dirt, or bacteria to enter the wound. 

Not keeping the wound clean would cause infection let alone ruin your tattoo. This is why you need excellent tattoo aftercare, with the first two days among them being the most crucial ones. 

During the healing stages, keeping your tattoo clean, shielded from the sun, and away from contact with materials that may be irritants should be your priority.

What will happen if I peel my tattoo?

If you’re thinking of picking or pulling the peeling skin or scabs just before it’s about to shed off naturally, anyway, nothing could be worse. By picking or pulling the scab, you’re potentially removing some of the recently deposited ink. This could ruin your tattoo completely and even cause an infection in the interim. 

How do you know when your tattoo is healed? 

When you notice there are no apparent scabs and the skin’s texture is back to the pre-tattoo look and feel, that’s when your tattoo seems to have fully healed. 

Moreover, if you’ve got a colored tattoo and it’s fully healed, there will be no more faded, tight, or irritated look. Once your tattoo has fully healed, you can go about all your regular activities. You no longer have to worry about itchiness, peeling, scabbing, and infections.


Tattoo Peeling is a normal stage that occurs on average during the first two weeks or so of the tattoo healing process. Yet, it’s best to leave it at that — let it happen naturally. 

You should never speed up the peeling by removing the flaky skin yourself. Also, you should clean and pat dry the tattoo area at regular intervals during the whole healing process. Apply a good tattoo moisturizer to speed up the natural healing only after cleaning the area. 

Any scabbing that appears unusually thick and perhaps having pusses should be brought to the attention of your healthcare practitioner. 

Remember to follow the tips in this guide, so that you can ultimately have a wonderfully healed tattoo that looks as shiny and beautiful as you intended it to be.


About Author

Jonathan Corby "Jonny" is a guy who is passionate about Tattooing and successfully running a Tattoo Studio in NY. Through my journey as a Tattoo Artist I have made unforgettable memories. This irrational poetry and sense of freedom of art on skin has given a blissfull experience to my life. Each Tattoo has a story behind it; Lets share one!