How Long Do New Tattoos Peel For?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 21, 2019
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

Imagine the shock, you’ve got a tattoo, and everything seems great. Suddenly though, out of the blue, it begins to peel. Sounds worrying, right? There’s no cause for concern. Tattoo peeling is a perfectly natural process and is a good sign. It means the tattoo is healing.

If your tattoo is peeling:

  • It’ll last approximately one week
  • The length of time varies for each person
  • This time is influenced by tattoo size, location and aftercare quality

Is It Normal for a Tattoo to Peel?

It’s completely normal for all tattoos to peel as part of the healing process. When you get a tattoo, the piercing from the needles causes a wound in that area. Your body, being the amazing healing vessel that it is, naturally acts to heal this wound by forming a scab over the area. This, in time, peels away to reveal the healthy skin underneath. 

How Long Does It Take for a Tattoo to Peel?

Peeling will usually occur in the first week. By this time, the body has begun the healing process. Expect to experience the first signs of peeling between three and seven days. Everyone is different, and your body will react in its own time. 

How Long Does a Tattoo Peel For?

This varies from person to person. Everyone has a unique skin type, which determines the peeling phase. On average, a tattoo will peel for one week. 

The amount of peeling will be different for each person and depends on several factors, such as:

  • Size
  • Location
  • Aftercare

Tattoo Size

A bigger tattoo results in the formation of a bigger scab. This means that the peeling process generally lasts for longer. Smaller tattoos will usually look better, quicker.

Where’s the Tattoo Located?

Certain areas of the body are more sensitive than others. Tougher locations will be more resistant to peeling, thus increasing the time for the old skin to peel away.

The skin on your elbows and wrists is tough because it’s continuously exposed and being moved around. This means the skin doesn’t peel easily, which results in a longer peeling phase. On the other hand, the skin on your back is generally quite soft, so it’ll peel quickly.

Take Care of Your Tattoo

Following the correct aftercare steps can reduce the time taken for the skin to peel fully. Moisturizing a tattoo reduces the amount and time it takes to peel. This is because it prevents the scabs from drying out too quickly.

If you can see the scabs, it’ll give you an idea as to how much peeling should be expected. Peeling will occur wherever there’s scabbing, and the thicker the scabbing, the heavier the peeling will be.

This tattoo is scabbing quite heavily, so will probably peel away in larger flakes

A Second Round of Peeling

It’s possible for a tattoo to peel twice, which is a perfectly normal occurrence, so don’t worry!

The first time will be heavy. This will then be followed by a subsequent phase of light peeling. Sometimes, this second phase goes unnoticed because it’s so light.

Here are a few steps you can follow to make the peeling as comfortable as possible: 

  1. Don’t pick
  2. No scratching
  3. Keep the area clean
  4. Take care when drying
  5. Moisturize, but not too much
  6. Avoid razors
  7. Be patient!

Don’t Pick

Although it’s very tempting, refrain from picking the peeling parts of a tattoo. If you start picking before it’s had time to heal, it’s possible you’ll pull ink that hasn’t fully settled. This will leave the tattoo looking patchy and unfinished — something you’ll want to avoid.

Very colorful peeling

No Scratching

We all know that when a wound is healing, it can become unbearably itchy. Remember being told off as a kid for scratching an ‘ouchy?’ Tattoos are no different. 

If you start scratching at the tattoo, you’ll tear the skin off. Similar to picking, scratching can cause the tattoo to look irregular, where the skin with ink has been removed.

The more serious side effects of scratching a tattoo are the risks of:

  • Irritation 
  • Scarring 
  • Infection 

Scratching a tattoo can disrupt the healing process and can cause scabs to fall off prematurely, which can lead to scarring. Remember that the area around the tattoo is an open wound. This means that any contact, including scratching, risks the transmission of bacteria, which can cause an infection.

Pussy scabs on this tattoo mean that it’s probably infected

If you have some itching around the area, you can try tapping the tattoo. It can also help to take a mild antihistamine. If the itching is unbearable, use hydrocortisone cream on the area. Even so, take care if you feel you need to use lots of hydrocortisone, and consult a doctor first.

Cleanliness Is Key

By keeping the tattoo clean, the risk of infection will be limited. It can also speed up the healing process as it helps to open the pores.

Try to avoid using a loofah or sponge when washing a peeling tattoo. The roughness of these objects can pull off skin that isn’t ready to fall. This can remove some of the ink and make the tattoo look faded or smudgy. 

Be Gentle When Drying

Just as you don’t want to use a shower sponge, you shouldn’t rub a tattoo with a towel when drying, for the same reason. Instead, try to pat the tattoo gently and allow it to air dry. Ensure the tattoo is dried thoroughly every time it’s washed. 

Moisturize in Moderation

Applying moisturizer to a tattoo is advised as it reduces the amount of peeling, making this phase less uncomfortable. The idea of moisturizing isn’t to prevent the peeling, though, but to soothe the process. Tattoos should be allowed to peel to some extent, as this is how they heal.

Moisturizing too much can cause clogged pores and lead to the growth of bacteria within the tattoo, so don’t go crazy!

This is FAR too much lotion and some should be blotted off with a paper towel

Stay Away From the Razor 

Shaving a peeling tattoo is definitely something to avoid. Not only would it be painful and difficult, but it’ll damage both the tattoo and your skin. The razor blade will pull off the peeling skin before it has time to heal. This might remove some ink and also spread bacteria to the area. 

Patience Is a Virtue 

We know; you want your skin to look clear and your tattoo to be perfect instantly. Unfortunately, you need to be patient while your tattoo is peeling. This is a natural process and needs time to allow the area to heal fully.

Even after healing, a tattoo can continue to look scaly for a few extra months, but this is normal and the effect should diminish with time.

Making It Through the Peeling Process

The experience of getting a tattoo is unique for everyone. For some, it’s a walk in the park. For others, it requires a little bit more time and patience. The length of time that a tattoo peels for is different for each individual. The peeling process is entirely normal and an indication that the wound is healing.

Remember to be patient and allow your tattoo the time it needs to peel entirely, which will be about a week. If you look after the area carefully while it’s in the peeling stage, it’ll heal quickly and easily. You’ll soon see the tattoo you’ve been waiting for!

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