Scabbing on Your Tattoo

Updated on January 28, 2016
Heavy, thick scabbing on a healing tattoo.
Heavy, thick scabbing on a healing tattoo.

A new tattoo always looks its best immediately after you walk out of the tattoo studio. The tattoo artist will have rubbed in a lotion which makes your tattoo shine. As yet, your skin is only raw, and not yet showing the trauma it just went through.

The moment you step out of that studio door your body begins healing itself. A healing tattoo will start to change over the first few days, through the process no one really talks about: the tattoo-healing process. Read on about what to expect from a healing tattoo.

The entire healing process can take up to four to six weeks. Your new tattoo will begin to develop a light, flaky skin or a thicker scab over its top. This is usually accompanied by severe itching around the tattooed area. It is normal for your tattoo to be intensely itchy while it's repairing itself.

If you have developed large scabs on your tattoo, you need to look after them correctly and help them heal. Scabs must not be knocked, picked or scratched off.

The way you care for scabs on your tattoo during this time can make the difference between a good tattoo and a faded and damaged tattoo. Scabs that evolve from slight flaking to colossal-sized scabs urgently require your care.

What Contributes To Scabbing on a Tattoo?

  • Incorrect aftercare procedures.
  • Blood and plasma drying on your tattoo.
  • Infection developing within your new tattoo.
  • Excessive application of aftercare lotions and creams.

Whatever the size of the scabs you have on your tattoo, they need your care and attention. Scabbing can be a reflection of the type of tattoo work you've recently had done. If your tattoo artist was heavy-handed, or repeatedly passed over a particular area of your tattoo, they may have inadvertently caused excessive damage to your skin.

Beware: Poor tattoo aftercare and heavy scabbing can do major damage to a new tattoo.

The Healing Process and Scabs

Light, minor scabs and peeling, flaky skin are normal on a healing tattoo.

Your freshly done tattoo will go through various stages of healing.

  • The first of these stages is the drying and sealing of your wound (your tattoo).
  • One to three hours after you finish your tattoo session, your new tattoo will begin to secrete a yellowish, crystallized liquid called plasma. There is a direct link between scabbing, particularly scabs that are thick and layered in appearance, and plasma.This fluid, once it comes in contact with the air around you, begins to form scabs on your new tattoo.
  • Plasma and fluid continue to be secreted and can build large layered scabs over a short period of time.

So basically, the dehydrated, crusty mass growing on your new tattoo is coagulated blood, plasma and some excess ink, all dried by the air you breathe.

Your scabs say a lot about the health of your tattoo. When a tattoo is showing symptoms of being infected, or a yellow-and-green ooze begins to develop or pool within the scab—this is when you must go to the Doctor as your tattoo requires medical attention.

Tattoo Aftercare Products Quick Reference Guide

Product
Function
Antibacterial tattoo foam wash
Wash tattoo
Tattoo balm or cream
Soothe and assist with healing
Tattoo lotion
Moisturise and aid healing
Tattoo aftercare products quick guide
Scabbing on a tattoo. It appears the skin is having a major reaction to the ink used. This tattoo will in all likeliness have substantial damage.
Scabbing on a tattoo. It appears the skin is having a major reaction to the ink used. This tattoo will in all likeliness have substantial damage.

How to Avoid Scabs

Considering that some minor flaking of the skin is a natural and required part of the healing process, air drying of the skin is essential. Scabs need to dry, crumble and fall off your mending tattoo naturally.

If your tattoo has developed scabs, and those scabs come off too soon, it could potentially cause fading of color, patchiness, blended lines or missing elements of your tattoo design.

Why Wrap Your Tattoo?

In many countries, the law states a new tattoo must be covered and secured before a client leaves the studio. This is typically done with cling film or muslin cloth.

Wrapping a tattoo is done to:

  1. Protect the tattoo from rubbing and injuries.
  2. Protect your clothing.
  3. Stop dust and microbes from entering the fresh tattoo wound.
  4. Limit the air reaching the new tattoo so that the tattoo doesn't dry and form scabs too quickly.

Wrapping your tattoo with cling film can be a risk. Cling film does not allow your tattoo to breathe and creates a warm environment that bacteria love to breed in. If you only have cling film to wrap your tattoo, do it for the shortest length of time possible. Thoroughly wash off all the fluid and ooze that has formed within the plastic wrap.

To Stop Scabs Forming:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before doing any aftercare.
  • Do not remove the plastic or cloth cover applied by the artist until you can wash your tattoo in a clean place.
  • Use an anti-bacterial foam wash for tattoo aftercare, and gently clean the plasma, blood and ink completely off your tattoo.
  • Book your tattoo sessions for shorter time frames, so you're not over-working your skin and causing extra damage.
  • Follow strict infection-control practices while being tattooed and immediately afterward to avoid infections forming within the tattoo.

What size scabs have formed on your tattoo?

See results

Signs of Infection in Tattoo Scabs

An infected tattoo may have a green and yellowish crust or slimy area. You may also experience red streaking on the tattoo, shooting pain, excessive swelling and fever.

If you suspect your tattoo has an infection see your doctor immediately, not your tattoo artist. Tattoo artists are not medical professionals. If you delay seeing a doctor, the infection will have extra time to develop.

Aftercare For Scabbing on a Tattoo

For scabs to heal, they need to dry out so they can crumble and fall off naturally.

For the non-scabbed sections of your tattoo to continue healing, they will need to have tattoo aftercare cream rubbed into them.

Aftercare Cream and Your Scabs

  • Do not apply aftercare lotions or creams to the scab itself; this is crucial.
  • Go around your scab when applying aftercare creams to the rest of your healing tattoo.
  • Do not pick or scratch off scabs of any size, as this removes ink that should otherwise gradually leach back into the skin.

An amazing owl tattoo. It shines because tattoo aftercare cream has been rubbed in by the tattoo artist.
An amazing owl tattoo. It shines because tattoo aftercare cream has been rubbed in by the tattoo artist. | Source

How to Remove Large Scabs

After approximately two to three weeks of heavy scabs adhering to your tattoo, you can start taking some assertive action to assist the removal of the more stubborn scabs!

When your scab starts lifting and crumbling, be extremely careful when performing any aftercare procedures or doing anything. This is when you must protect the scab the most, particularly from things that may pull or knock off the hanging or lifting sections of the scab: clothing that binds, or people who bump into you in crowds. Wrapping your scabbing tattoo in a hygienic bandage can help protect your scabs from being ripped off.

Practical Tips for Removing Large Scabs

Some of the methods described below come with some risk and may be controversial in the tattoo community. Have personal discretion when following the below options.

  1. Wash your tattoo like you normally would in the shower. Let the warm water flow over the scabs for a few minutes. Gently pat dry with a clean towel. Your scabs with start shrinking and then begin peeling naturally as they dry out again. Repeat each time you would normally have a shower.
  2. When a scab is very thick, lay a clean, wet face cloth over your scabs for no more than two to three minutes while showering. The scab will soak up a bit more water, and as it dries, the edges of the scab will start to lift.
  3. When dealing with scabs that just won't crumble and fall off themselves, you can try this as a last resort. After you lay your face washer over the scab and the scab is reasonably waterlogged, you want to very gently, with a cupped palm full of antibacterial wash or soap, roll your hand over the scab whilst the warm water is still running. This will help the edges start to lift away, but it must be done gradually and very gently.

Important note: This last process, in particular, is quite risky. Only do it in small, repetitive lots and no more than twice a day. This option is a last resort and is done at your own discretion as there's high risk of damage to your tattoo. Unfortunately, that damage may have already been done by the heavy scabbing process.

  • Always pat dry with a clean, hygienic towel. Do not rub or agitate the scab with a towel or a face washer at any point.

All the above suggestions are recommended to be performed in small, gentle, repetitive lots. Excessive friction to remove the scabs could damage your tattoo.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        Karen 

        23 months ago

        What is the best cream to put over my tattoo

      • staceymitchell profile image

        Stacey 

        3 years ago from New Zealand

        Good article. Most of my tattoos have been very minimal to no scabbing at all. A couple of them had pretty yucky scabbing and one was on my foot so as you mentioned, it got kicked by someone outside and yeah..damaged tattoo now.

        Thing is, depending on how bad the damage is, your free touch up from your tattooist should take care of it :)

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, tatring.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://tatring.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)