Why Does My Tattoo Look Cloudy?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 11, 2020
    Last Updated: November 11, 2020

During the healing process, it’s common for people to question what happens to their tattoo and wonder if something went wrong. From scabs to bleeding and swelling, there’s a lot that is concerning about the tattoo healing process. However, most of it is completely natural and necessary.

One of the most common concerns people have is that their tattoo begins to look cloudy, which is understandably concerning. A cloudy-looking tattoo is pretty normal, and we’re about to explain why it happens so can calm your worries and look forward to a clear, vibrant, fully-healed tattoo in no time.

Why Tattoos Look Cloudy While Healing

During the healing stage, your tattoo is more than likely to appear cloudy or faded. It usually occurs towards the middle-to-end stages of the healing process around the time your tattoo begins to start peeling.

This cloudiness is the result of the repeated poking and damage caused by the tattooing needles, which causes the current skin cells in the area to die, prompting your body to regenerate brand new skin over the tattooed area. 

As this old, damaged layer of skin is discarded by the body, it sits on the surface for a while, forming a translucent layer over where the tattoo ink was inserted, giving it a faded, cloudy appearance. Remember that your skin will also be dry and unhealthy at this point, so the dryness can also contribute to the cloudy look.

If this is your first tattoo, it’s only natural to feel slightly alarmed or disappointed if this happens, but your tattoo should soon regain its vibrant look within the next month or two.

While it can take some time for your tattoo to look completely clean and sharp, be rest assured that the cloudiness will dissipate over time as more and more dead skin cells continue to flake away.

The Cloudy Phase

The cloudy phase of healing is closer to the end of the process, just before you’re finally healed. So what happens beforehand? There are three broad stages of tattoo healing: inflammation, visible recovery, and invisible recovery.

The inflammation period takes place during the first three days following your tattoo appointment. At this time, you’ll feel swelling and some mild irritation in the affected area. There also may be some oozing of blood, plasma, or ink. It’s all normal. However, you should notice your symptoms improving as each day goes by. 

In the second phase, visible recovery includes the typical scabbing, flaking, and itching associated with tattoo healing. During this roughly two-week period, it’s pivotal to avoid tight clothes and the urge to scratch. You also want to keep it out of sunlight and water as much as possible. 

In the third phase, just before healing, you’ll problem experience some degree of cloudiness. By this point, your scabs should have already fallen off. The ink’s cloudy look below the surface just cause by a much thinner, fresher scabbing process that will also eventually peel away, much like a sunburn.

After the third phase is over, which can take a month or two, your tattoo should be looking great again.

Clear ink breaking through

How to Care For Your Cloudy Tattoo

It can be tempting to pick at the skin to speed up the shedding process and reveal your art below; however, that could do much more harm than good.

Continue taking close care of your tattoo through the healing process up until the end. To do this, aim to do a few things:

Hands Off

Keep your hands off of the area. That could mean wearing long sleeves to keep it out of sight, out of mind. Do whatever you need to do to keep from picking or peeling at your tattooed skin.


You need to protect your tattoo from the sun for proper healing. Stay in the shade as much as possible and slather the area with sunscreen any time you go outside.


The best thing you can do to combat cloudiness and speed up healing is to keep the skin healthy and hydrated. Appling a tattoo healing lotion regularly can be a great way to nurture the skin back to full health.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan-friendly aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.

Final Thoughts

While concerning at first, a cloudy tattoo is a perfectly natural part of the body’s healing process after getting a tattoo.

The cloudiness comes from your final layer of dead skin that will need to shed before healing is complete. While you can’t speed up the process, you can maximize your chances of getting the best final result by taking care of your tattoo through the aftercare stages.