Why Does My Tattoo Look Milky?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 6, 2020
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

Whether you’re getting your very first tattoo or adding another one to the collection, it’s natural to be concerned about the healing process. One thing many people may notice as their tattoo heals is a milky looking appearance. 

Naturally, this can be very concerning. Is the milkiness caused by an infection or something worse? Is this a natural part of the healing process?

We’re going to break down the cause of a milky-looking tattoo to better understand why it happens and how to nurture it through the aftercare phase and into its final form.


Why Your Tattoo Might Look Milky

After getting the ink you’ve been dreaming of for months or years, it’s easy to become impatient with the healing process so you can admire your new body art in all its glory. However, you can’t rush the process, including all steps – including the milky phase.

The Milky Phase

A milky-looking tattoo is so common that there’s a period of the healing process that is commonly referred to as “the milky phase.” This phase happens after the scabbing stage is over, but before the tattoo takes its final form.

Since a tattoo is technically a wound, your body reacts as such. The minute your tattoo artist penetrates the dermis layer to adhere the tattoo to your skin, your body will begin working to heal the wound. The milky look is part of this healing process that takes place before the tattoo is completely healed.

Timing and Expectations

To relieve some of your concerns about a milky tattoo, here’s what to expect from the milky phase of healing. 

The milky phase is also known as the peeling phase that occurs just after most of the scabbing has fully formed. 

Eventually, the milky layer will also peel off to reveal fresh, bolder ink below. However, this milky phase may last somewhere between one and two weeks (and sometimes up to a whole month) and can’t be rushed. Your body will take as long as it needs to heal properly and keep you safe from infection. 

As for what to expect after the scab falls off, you’ll notice a dull-looking version of your tattoo that may feel dry and a bit tight. Many people think this dull portrayal means their tattoo is somehow ruined, but that’s not the case. It’s simply an extra layer of dry skin over the tattoo that hasn’t yet peeled off.

This extra layer of skin serves as a defensive maneuver of the body to keep the skin fresh and protected while it finishes healing. If you let your body move through its process naturally, you’ll be able to see the vibrancy of your healed tattoo sooner rather than later.

Care Tips for the Milky Phase

During the milky phase of healing, it’s critical to keep your hands off of the area. While it might be tempting to pick, rub, or itch the skin, these actions will only delay your healing time. Additionally, you may pull off the skin that was not ready to naturally fall off yet, producing new scabs and running the risk of scarring, bleeding, or even an infection.

In addition to not touching the tattooed area of skin, here are some more care tips to keep your milky tattoo healthy as it completely heals:

Moisturize

While most people will diligently apply lotion on their tattoo immediately after and for the first few weeks following the appointment, they may slack off as time goes on. Don’t slack on the moisturizer, especially right now. It will help replenish your skin cells and get rid of the final layer of dead skin.

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.

Avoid the Sun

Keep your tattooed skin out of the sun whenever possible. Sunburn on your tattoo is the last thing your body wants while it’s trying to heal.

Stick to Showers

You want to avoid swimming or baths while it finishes healing. Stick to showers to bathe while the final layer of skin sheds off.

Final Thoughts

Understandably, a tattoo that looks milky could raise concerns about the health of the wound. While milkiness may worry some, it’s a natural part of the healing process that takes place just before the final tattoo is revealed. During this time, the dead skin beneath the previous scab still lingers and must dry out and flake off. Beneath this, you’ll see your finished tattoo product.

To avoid any delays in the healing process, you should keep the area moisturized and stay out of the sun. You should also stick to showers and avoid submerging the area in water. By caring for your tattoo through the milky phase of healing, you can protect your delicate skin and encourage your body to complete the healing process quickly and effectively.