How Long Until My Tattoo Begins To Scab?

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

Scabbing is necessary for your tattoo to heal correctly. It might be scary — or even gross — to see your skin undergo such a transformation. Don’t be alarmed, scabbing is perfectly natural. There will be itchiness, swelling and even some traces of blood. It should pass in about a week or two once your skin has healed from all the poking and prodding.

Freshly-tattooed skin is essentially an open wound. Ink is injected into the dermis layer of the skin using tattoo needles. These needles puncture the skin and create thousands of small micro-wounds. Your body starts the healing process right away and responds in a variety of ways. Over the next couple of weeks, your body treats the tattoo like any other skin wound and works to repair the affected area.

Tattoos usually begin to scab in two to three days, depending on:

  • Immune system
  • Tattoo detail
  • Tattoo size
  • Aftercare process

What Happens During the Healing Process?

Depending on the products you use and your immune system, tattoo healing occurs over two to three weeks. After that period of rapid healing, a maturation period of deeper, less visible healing begins. This period can last for months or even years, but that’s not our concern here.

Step 1: Hemostasis

After your tattoo is complete, you’ll experience a hemostasis and inflammatory phase. This phase lasts for about 24 hours after the completion of your tattoo. The healing process begins with the shedding of the layers of dead skin above the pigment of the tattoo.

Step 2: Repairing Skin

Your body begins repairing the layer of the skin that contains the ink pigment. This is happening while the other layers are shedding.

Step 3: Scabbing Begins

As the healing tissue comes together, the scabs begin to flake away by themselves. It’s essential to not pick at these scabs — let them fall away on their own. They’ll fall when they’re ready. If you prematurely pull them off, you may damage the skin and cause bleeding. This usually happens between day three and day ten.

If your tattoo doesn’t look like it’s scabbing at all, this is generally fine and is nothing to worry about.

Raised, light scabbing over the tattoo

Step 4: New Skin Forms

You’ll begin to notice a thin tissue forming below the tattoo. This shiny and sensitive skin will transform into normal, healthy skin with time. At this point, it’s critical to use an excellent fragrance-free moisturizer to keep the new tissue hydrated. This happens about a week or two when the scabbing gives away to a new waxy layer of skin.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan 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.​ Click here to buy from Amazon.

Step 5: Return to Natural Exfoliation 

Your body will begin to return to its natural exfoliation process. Getting a tattoo disrupts this process, along with oil production. It can take about two weeks to return to normal. It’s crucial to moisturize here as well, but don’t overdo it and clog your pores. 

Step 6: Fully Healed

After about two to three weeks of your skin healing and regenerating, scabbing and flaking should completely stop. This is when your tattoo is considered fully healed. Your skin should feel healthy and resilient.

Other Factors Can Contribute to Healing Time

Keep in mind that many factors can positively or negatively affect the tattoo healing time and process. Some of these factors include your immune system, the quality of your aftercare products and the size and detail of the tattoo.

Two to three weeks of healing time is for average-sized tattoos, with an average amount of detail. Larger, more-detailed tattoos will take more time to heal — especially if there’s extensive color work done. Pay attention to your tattoo and follow the process above. Scabbing is always a good indicator that your tattoo and the affected skin are healing correctly.


All new tattoos will scab, flake and peel as part of the skin’s natural healing process. To regenerate new, healthy skin while keeping your ink vibrant, the dead skin needs to be shed. As the new tissue begins to form, the skin starts to scab. It’s critical to keep an eye out for this during the first two weeks of the healing process.

Be sure to keep the wound clean and don’t rub at it, even when applying aftercare products. It can be gross to see your skin flake away like this, but remember that your skin needs to do this to return to normalcy. Don’t pick at the scabs and keep the skin moisturized, and your tattoo will be fully healed in just a few weeks.

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