Tattoo Blowout: What Are The Causes & Can You Fix It?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on March 19, 2018
    Last Updated: January 8, 2021

Have you ever seen a tattoo where the lines are blurry or there are various colors of ink which have unintentionally bled into each other, making the area look messy and smudged? Tattoo Blowout doesn’t look very nice, and can potentially spoil the effect of a whole tattoo if you’re really unlucky.

If you think your tattoo might be suffering from tattoo blowout and want to know what can be done about it, keep reading.


What Is a Tattoo Blowout?

A tattoo blowout is a symptom that results from a tattoo artist’s heavy-handedness or inexperience with the needle. This misuse of the needle causes the ink to insert deeper into the skin than it should. A tattoo blowout will cause the ink to look blurry and smudged on the surface of the skin.

What Causes It?

If pushed too deeply into the skin, tattoo ink can spread out into surrounding layers of fat. This produces the blurring effect often associated with a tattoo blowout. Tissue biopsies taken from people with tattoo blowouts have proven that the ink travels much deeper below the skin than is necessary during a tattooing procedure.

The difference in pressure and cell structure in this deeper layer of fat is what causes the ink to disperse along undesired and unpredictable paths throughout the skin’s layers.

Tattoo Blowout

While most tattoo blowouts are somewhat noticeable very shortly after the needle has injected the ink into the wrong layer of skin, it can sometimes take up to a few weeks while your tattoo is healing for the blown-out ink to disperse throughout the layer enough to become noticeable on the surface.

While there are multiple reasons as to why a tattoo blowout may occur, below are the most common:

Needles inserted too deep or at the wrong angle

This is the most common cause of tattoo blowout. As previously mentioned, being too rough and pushing the needles too deep will disperse the ink into a skin layer that shouldn’t have been touched. This can also be quite painful.

The artist could also press the needles in at an ineffective angle, and this could cause the needles to disperse ink into neighboring tissue, causing a blowout effect.

Although more experienced tattoo artists can usually eliminate most of the risk when it comes to causing blowouts, sometimes it’s very hard to prevent in certain areas of skin, and you shouldn’t always jump to the conclusion that your artist has made a mistake. It can sometimes happen to even the most experienced of artists.

Of course, though, the more inexperienced an artist is, the more likely they are to make an error of judgment and potentially overwork the area and cause a blowout.

Tattoo is being drawn on very thin skin

Areas of your body that contain only very thin layers of skin are extremely delicate, and the likelihood of a blowout happening in these areas is much higher when compared to nice thick chunks of skin.

It is much more likely that due to the extreme thinness of these areas of skin, the needle will protrude into the lower layers a lot more easily and thus potentially cause a blowout.
Areas that are more prone to blowouts include wrists, ankle, fingers, toes, and tops of hands/feet.

Tattoos can also be more prone to blowouts if they’re added onto a joint, such as behind the knee or inside the elbow – although this is uncommon.

Again, a professional and experienced artist will be much less likely to puncture too far into these delicate areas when compared to a novice – but it can still happen.

Tattoo artist is stretching and pulling at the skin too much

In order to insert the ink at exactly the right location, artists usually need to stretch and tighten the skin slightly to ensure it’s flat and evenly distributed.

However, if the artist pulls too tightly, especially on a more delicate and thin area of skin, this can cause the needle to protrude at strange angles due to the way in which the skin is stretched, and this, in turn, can lead to a tattoo blowout.

What Does A Tattoo Blowout Look Like?

Tattoo blowouts can appear in several different forms, and can be very mild or extremely noticeable.

In most cases, though, a blowout makes the affected areas/lines on a tattoo look like they’re blurred and streaky, and the ink often spreads to an area outside of the desired parameter.

Think of when you accidentally color outside of the lines inside a coloring book – this is effectively what many tattoo blowout cases look like. And while the tattoo ink may look like it’s been smudged, this isn’t exactly what’s happening.

See below for some tattoo blowout image examples:

Tattoo Blowout Example
What Is Tattoo Blowout
Tattoo Blowout Causes

Body parts prone to tattoo blowouts

Due to skin thinness or body part movement, some areas of the body are more prone than others when it comes to developing a tattoo blowout.

For example, the fingers are a common area to develop a blowout because the skin is so thin here, meaning it’s so much easier for the tattoo artist to accidentally protrude too deeply into the tissue below.

Areas like the wrist are also quite susceptible due to their frequent movement. If a joint is moved too much when a tattoo is very fresh, the movement can dislodge or put pressure on the ink, pushing it out into adjacent areas.

Fortunately, the vast majority of tattoos in these areas turn out absolutely fine, so make sure you choose a good artist, and your risks will be greatly minimized.

Can You Fix A Tattoo Blowout?

Unfortunately, once a blowout has occurred, it generally cannot be revered. Sometimes if only a little ink has been blown out, it can disperse across a wide enough area over time to not be very noticeable.

Luckily, there are a couple of ways in which to reduce the effect of a blowout faster than just waiting to see if it fades over time. While no method is guaranteed to work, they can definitely help depending on the individual circumstances.

Getting a tattoo correction

The cheapest, easiest and quickest way to fix a tattoo blowout is by getting the problematic areas camouflaged with a new tattoo, also known as a cover-up.

While you’ll have to generally wait a few weeks to get tattooed over a previous one to allow the area to heal, the main advantage of getting a cover up is that you can generally maintain the look of your tattoo while at the same time successfully hiding where the blowout occurred.

If the blowout is severe, then you may need a darker cover-up over the area to correct the tattoo. Make sure you look for an artist who is experienced in cover-ups, and their creativity should enable them to do a great job with re-working the tattoo.

Laser correction

An alternative solution is laser therapy. Q-switched lasers can be used to fire energy waves at problematic ink particles, diffusing them further into the skin to make them much less noticeable.

While this method can be an effective solution at removing the blowout and leaving little trace of there ever being a problem, it’s generally perceived to be more painful than getting a tattoo, and it doesn’t come cheap, with the average treatment cost coming in at around $500. You may also need more than one session depending on the severity of your blowout.

Surgical tattoo removal

This should be seen as a last resort. Surgical tattoo removal is an invasive procedure that involves a surgeon removing your tattooed skin and stitching the surrounding areas back together.

While this is the only guaranteed way to completely remove a tattoo blowout, you will be left with long recovery times, varying amounts of scaring, and higher chances of infection.

How To Avoid Tattoo Blowout

While a blowout is sometimes completely unavoidable, you can generally avoid most potential issues by using a highly experienced tattoo artist.

You can eliminate the risk further by opting out of getting a tattoo on any extremely thin areas of skin, as explained above.

Finally, avoid any sudden or extreme stretching, pulling or twisting of the skin once your tattoo has been completed. This should lower the risk of any ink being unintentionally dispersed/forced throughout the wrong layers.

Remember, though – what you might think is blowout, may actually turn out to be something minor, like a bruise or regular tattoo redness.

tattoo redness
Tattoo redness that looks like a blowout, but is not

All of these various effects can all look very similar to one another, so if you are concerned or confused as to what the problem may actually be, go and see your artist.

Although this looks very much like a bruise, it is actually tattoo blowout

A good way to distinguish between these conditions, however, is that bruising or redness should slowly disappear throughout the space of a week, while the appearance of a tattoo blowout generally stays the same.

Summary

There are several reasons as to why tattoo blowouts can occur, and most potential blowouts can be avoided by ensuring you use an experienced tattoo artist.

Unfortunately, it’s very hard to fix a prominent tattoo blowout once the damage has been done, but again, a good artist just might be able to cover it up for you depending on the size and location.