How To Stop New Tattoos Cracking and Drying Out

  • Written By Dan Hunter on August 17, 2018
    Last Updated: January 6, 2021

Tattoo cracking is most commonly caused by very dry skin during the healing process. A tattoo that drys out too much can produce thick scabs that are susceptible to breaking open in multiple areas. Scabs that crack can lead to bleeding, infection, and possible fading or scarring.

Mild dryness and scabbing are to be expected while a tattoo heals, but thick, heavy scabs should definitely be avoided where possible.

Why Does Tattoo Cracking Happen?

When your tattoo begins to scab over in the healing process, the area around the tattoo generally becomes scaly, extremely dry, and also very itchy.

Some tattoos will scab very lightly where the scabs are hardly visible, and some will scab heavily, with thick prominent crusts.

Tattoo cracking
A tattoo beginning to crack

When the scabs lose moisture within them, they will become so dry that they begin to split, break apart, and often bleed. This is what is known as tattoo cracking.

Below are the main reasons why your new ink may begin to crack:

You have many thick scabs

The more thick, dense scabs your tattoo has, the more likely it will be for them to dry out and begin cracking.

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

Bigger, thicker scabs always seem to dry out more often than smaller ones, and they are also much more prone to getting caught on objects and clothing and getting ripped away from your tattoo prematurely; so be extra careful if your tattoo has lots of big scabs currently attached to it.

Getting scabs pulled/picked/ripped off before they are ready can delay healing times, make your healed tattoo look patchy and faded, and can even cause infection, so try to prevent this from happening as much as possible.

Although a few large scabs on a tattoo is relatively normal, a tattoo covered in huge, thick, cracking scabs can mean your tattoo artist was a little too heavy-handed and treated your skin a bit too rough during the procedure.

Your skin is lacking nourishment and hydration

Your tattoo will only be as healthy as the skin that it’s on.

In order to give your skin/tattoo the best chance of healing, it’s best to eat a healthy, balanced diet to ensure that your skin receives all of the vitamins and nourishment it requires in order to stay healthy, scab properly and renew successfully.

Similarly, you should drink plenty of water each day to ensure your skin remains tight, springy, and most importantly, well hydrated. If your tattoo begins to dry out, this is when you need to work fast to give the area some moisture before any cracking commences.

Your tattoo has an infection

Sometimes, the cracking of the scabs on your new tattoo can be a symptom of a skin infection. This happens when your wound hasn’t been kept adequately clean and bacteria have managed to get into it.

A heavily scabbed tattoo which may even be infected

If your tattoo is infected, then along with cracked skin, your tattoo may be accompanied by a rash, oozing spots/sores, and more general symptoms such as a fever.

If you suspect your tattoo may be infected, it’s always best to speak to either your tattoo artist or a doctor to get a professional opinion as quickly as possible.

The sooner an infection is treated, the less dangerous it will be to both the appearance of your tattoo and also to your general health

How To Prevent Cracking Tattoos

If your tattoo has begun to crack, or if you’re worried about it beginning to crack in the future, it’s best to start applying a good skin-sensitive and fragrance-free cream or tattoo lotion onto the area 2-3 times a day.

Natural ingredients such as cocoa butter and coconut oil can also be used to re-hydrate a dry and cracking tattoo.

Always ensure you apply the lotion after cleaning your tattoo, as warm water can dry the area out even more.

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.

You will only want to rub a very thin layer of lotion over the area to ensure you don’t suffocate the healing skin by starving it of oxygen.

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

Applying too much lotion can also cause something called tattoo bubbling; especially if you apply large amounts of lotion to your cracked tattoo before it is completely dry after washing it.

A bubbling tattoo

You can also try to prevent thick scabs from appearing by ensuring you thoroughly clean your tattoo the first few days after getting it done.

By making sure you continue to wipe away any oozing blood/ink/plasma within these first few days, you’ll be helping to prevent any large buildups which could otherwise eventually form into thick scabs.

Read our article on how to properly clean a new tattoo here, or watch the video below:


Tattoo scabs that get so dry they begin to crack is definitely not desirable and is something you should try to prevent.

Scabs that fail to get enough hydration and therefore begin to crack can potentially open up and begin to bleed and pull away prematurely, which often results in appearance issues, even after the tattoo has fully healed.

However, by following the steps outlined above, you can hopefully go on to have some beautifully healed, perfect looking ink with no tattoo cracking in sight.