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How to Mitigate and Treat Tattoo Peeling

Whether you’re covered in tattoos or you just got your first one, going through the peeling and flaking phase of tattoo healing can be highly unpleasant. Seeing large, colorful flakes of your tattoo peeling off may lead you to believe that your tattoo is losing color and ink or that something is wrong with it. However, tattoo peeling and flaking is a natural part of the healing process and is seldom something to worry about. But still — the more you can prevent it, the better.

In this article, we’re going to explore the process of tattoo healing, scabbing, flaking, and peeling in detail. We’ll also give some helpful tips for mitigating tattoo peeling and potentially avoiding the worst parts of scabbing by using the wet healing method with Saniderm. But most importantly, we’ll cover some critical DO’s and DO NOT’s for avoiding scabbing and flaking, as well as taking care of a peeling tattoo.

 

What is Tattoo Scabbing?

 

It may not be obvious to some, but your new tattoo actually begins as an open wound. During the tattoo process, needles penetrate your skin thousands of times per minute. Your skin’s natural response to this trauma is to form scabs over the wound as a protection mechanism. But these scabs won’t usually present themselves like a typical bloody scab you may get from scraping your knee. Instead, the tattooed skin will harden, forming a protective layer of skin in an attempt to keep potential contaminants out of the wound. This thin, hardened layer of skin will naturally peel and flake off, unveiling a newer, healthier layer of skin. 

 

tattoo scabbing

This is an example of typical tattoo scabbing — a step up from peeling and something that you want to avoid.

 

 

As your tattoo scabs, the skin underneath it begins to regenerate, forming new skin cells. However, when the scab peels off, it will pull off the dead skin that initially experienced the trauma with it, which can include the topmost layers of your new tattoo! For obvious reasons, that is bad. This can result in a patchy, distorted, and dull design. So for that reason, it’s highly important to take preventative matters to avoid scabbing and mitigate peeling.

 

What is Tattoo Peeling?

 

tattoo peeling example

This is a typical example of tattoo peeling/flaking. Once again, it’s completely normal and nothing to be concerned about, but the more you can mitigate it, the better.

 

Essentially, tattoo peeling is the epidermis layer of your skin going through extreme exfoliation. Exfoliation is something your skin does naturally on a daily basis, disposing of millions of dead skin cells. You don’t normally notice that your body is doing this because the exfoliation level is very minor. However, when you get a tattoo it becomes almost impossible to ignore. Unlike normal exfoliation, the skin flakes will be significantly larger in size and contain tattoo ink. This can certainly be alarming, but it is usually nothing to stress about. Luckily, the bulk of your tattoo ink will be safely embedded deep under the dermis. Some tattoo peeling is inevitable, but you still want to mitigate the peeling as much as possible to avoid distortions in your tattoo. Less peeling means a much lower chance of scabs forming and less itchy unpleasantness.

 

When Does Tattoo Peeling Start and How Long Does it Last?

 

On average, new tattoos begin peeling around day 4 or 5. This will vary from person to person. Some may experience peeling as early as day 2 and others may not experience it until about a week later. Once the peeling begins, it usually subsides within a week or two. There is a myriad of reasons why some tattoos peel before others. And there are many reasons some tattoos peel more than others. These include the location of the tattoo, size, color, saturation, and how rough deep the needles penetrated the skin.

Additionally, whether or not the tattoo has been covered with Saniderm, if aftercare products are at play, and which products are being used can determine the time and frequency of tattoo peeling. Areas that are exposed to friction and flexion, like fingers or elbows, will likely take longer to peel.  Exfoliation happens much less frequently in these areas since the skin is naturally suited to endure more wear and tear. Normal tattoo peeling can last anywhere from 2 days to 1 month. However, we have found that you can lessen the duration and amount of tattoo peeling by using the wet tattoo healing method.

 

What is the Wet Tattoo Healing Method?

 

The wet tattoo healing method involves the use of a dermal tattoo bandage, like Saniderm. Applying a tattoo bandage over a new tattoo protects your tattoo from unwanted contaminants, significantly decreasing the likelihood of infection. Common contaminants include pet dander, dust, bacteria, dirt, and other environmental elements. 

It also keeps your body’s natural healing elements at the wound site and prevents them from forming scabs. This results in a clean, moist (or wet, hence the term “wet” healing), nutrient-rich environment for your tattoo to heal.

Furthermore, tattoo bandages are not to be confused with traditional cling wrap. Cling wrap is a thin plastic film, designed for trapping in moisture and keeping oxygen out. Saniderm is a polyurethane acrylic adhesive medical bandage that has been engineered specifically to heal tattoos. Oxygen and water vapor being able to enter and exit a healing wound is extremely important. 

Saniderm bandages are permeable enough to allow oxygen and water vapor to move through but secure enough to block water and contaminants from entering the bandage. Essentially, Saniderm works by locking in your body’s natural healing fluids, moisturizing the tattoo and minimizing scabbing, peeling, and scarring. 

 

Wet healing with Saniderm

 

DO’s and DO NOT’S When Caring for a Peeling Tattoo

 

By now, you should have a solid understanding of how the tattoo healing process works and what the timeline for tattoo healing looks like. Read on to learn what to do and what not to do should you experience tattoo scabbing and peeling. 

 

DO’s While Caring For a Peeling Tattoo

 

  • DO – Wear loose clothing.

Tight clothing may rub and pull against your tattoo, potentially pulling off scabs prematurely. Ideally, you should wear loose and comfortable clothing throughout the entire tattoo peeling process. The less you have rubbing up against your tattoo, the better. 

  • DO – Give your body time to heal through its own natural processes.

As anxious as you may be to show off your new ink, it probably won’t look pleasant until  after it’s healed. It will likely look dry, patchy, and flaky for a few weeks. Remember that your skin has undergone trauma and will need time to regain health. Be kind to your body and give it time to heal. Additionally, following a careful tattoo aftercare routine can help your tattoo heal faster.

  • DO – Keep the freshly tattooed area clean.

Cleaning your tattoo is a crucial part of the tattoo healing process. If you’re healing your tattoo with the wet healing method, you’ll need to clean your tattoo with a mild soap before and after each new bandage application. Regularly cleansing the tattoo will rid the area of any dirt, plasma, blood, or oil that might be clogging your skin pores. To promote faster, healthier skin growth, be sure that your tattoo is clean and able to breathe. Additionally, make sure you’re wearing clean clothes and using fresh towels and sheets.

  • DO – Keep your tattoo moisturized.

After removing your first bandage and cleaning the tattoo, using an aftercare product will help prevent itchiness. Petroleum-based products should be avoided, as they are known to clog pores. Instead, opt for a mild and gentle aftercare product formulated specifically for tattoos, like Sanibalm. If you plan on applying a second bandage, apply the product directly on the tattoo only. Keep the surrounding area dry, as the adhesive on the bandage will not adhere well to a moist area. 

 

DO NOT’S While Caring For a Peeling Tattoo

 

  • DO NOT – Pick or pull on the scabs/flakes.

As tempting as it may be to help pick away dead skin that is barely hanging on, DON’T DO IT! Your scabs are probably still attached to healthy skin and if removed prematurely, the wound may reopen and bleed. If this happens, it could disturb the ink from the skin, distorting the tattoo design. 

  • DO NOT – Itch, scratch, or rub your peeling tattoo.

Although you may think your hands are clean, your fingernails are great hiding places for bacteria. Rubbing or scratching may transfer bacteria from your nails to your open wound, risking infection. Additionally, itching may peel or flake off scabs prematurely, damaging your tattoo design. 

  • DO NOT – Submerge your tattoo in water.

Whether you’re using a tattoo bandage like Saniderm or not, submerging your tattoo in any liquid should be avoided for at least a few weeks. Taking a normal shower with your Saniderm bandage on is fine but submerging it will weaken the adhesive. Once the adhesive loosens, it may allow water, soap, dirt, bacteria, etc. to enter the wound site. Again, allowing contaminants to enter to wound site will increase your chance of developing a tattoo infection.

 

tattoo peeling

This is an example of tattoo peeling at the end of the healing process.

 

In summary, tattoo peeling is a common and natural part of the tattoo healing process. But, you can significantly minimize peeling and potentially avoid scabbing by following the wet tattoo healing method. In addition to using Saniderm, following our guide to new tattoo care will teach you all you need to know about caring for your tattoo.  We’ve formulated our products to help you heal your tattoos quickly and with ease, resulting in stunning tattoos you can be proud of for years to come. 

 

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