Why Isn’t My New Tattoo Peeling?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on January 7, 2020
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

If your tattoo isn’t peeling after a couple of weeks, there’s likely nothing for you to worry about. Although flaking skin over the new tat happens more often than not, a tattoo not peeling doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong with it. 

Whether you’ve had work done before or you’ve just got your first one, if weeks have gone by and your new ink is still intact, you may be starting to worry. How do you know when a non-peeling tattoo is a problem or not? We’ve got you covered.


Why Would a Tattoo Not Peel? 

Speed of Healing

Some of us take weeks to heal from a bruise. Others can slice and dice themselves and be healed up by the next week! 

For some, tattoos heal with minimal peeling, or sometimes no peeling at all. It’s simply the way their skin works, and it’s not something they can control, just as some can’t magically heal faster.

Fineness of Tattoo

If your tattoo is mainly linework and doesn’t have a lot of solid color, it may heal without visibly flaking away. 

Solid colors or pieces that take up a large surface area are more likely to peel in larger chunks due to the size of the patch of skin that’s been poked and prodded with a sharp object.

Think of this in terms of a finely lined tattoo being like a papercut, and a solid color tat being more like a dog bite. Naturally, the papercut is going to heal faster and with far less scabbing than the bite!

Of course, the body does still needs to heal the wound (no matter how big or small), so the damaged skin will still be flaking away while a new layer is grown underneath, but this process will be on a much smaller, less-visible scale.

Smaller, delicate tattoos are much more likely to heal without any significant peeling

External Factors

The type of ink used, the depth of needle penetration, and the density of colors can affect how much the tattoo peels. 

This isn’t something you can control, and you shouldn’t be worrying about it, provided you chose a reputable tattoo artist!

When Should I Be Worried? 

If you show other signs in addition to not peeling, you should go and get it checked out. 

  • Rash 
  • Excessive itchiness 
  • Pain or swelling 
  • Hot to the touch 
  • Discharge

Rash

Red, bumpy skin could be a sign of an allergy to the ink, so if you spot this, it’s a good idea to get it looked at by a doctor or dermatologist. 

A rash could also cause dry, flaky skin in its own healing process. It may not be the tattoo itself peeling, but rather the skin affected by the rash.

Excessive Itchiness

Light itching is a sign of healing, but if it’s driving you insane, it might be a sign of something different. It’s best to have your tat looked at by a skin professional in this case, because if you do end up scratching your art badly, it could ruin the end product and cause an infection.

Scratching could induce peeling, but not in a healing kind of way. Scraping at the skin can cause it to flake away unnaturally and damage your ink in the process.

Pain or Swelling

Although slight swelling and discomfort are usual, especially in areas where the skin is thin, extreme pain and swelling aren’t

Get your tattoo looked at as soon as possible, as it could have disastrous effects on the result of your tattoo. Remember, this is your body working at fighting a foreign substance that it perceives as a threat, and it could end up discoloring the ink or causing your tat to fade. 

Excessive swelling could also hamper your skin’s ability to peel due to the extra trauma going on in the already affected area.

Hot to the Touch

Although this isn’t necessarily a sign of infection, if it occurs in conjunction with other symptoms, it’s a pretty clear sign of something being wrong. 

If your artwork is hot to the touch AND you have a fever, it’s most likely your body is fighting off an infection in the area of your tattoo.

Discharge

Discharge can often inhibit peeling because it doesn’t allow the skin a chance to dry out. If there’s bad-smelling or milky colored fluid coming out of your tattoo, it’s not a great sign. These symptoms, whether or not accompanied by peeling, should be looked at by a doctor! However, if the fluid has no smell or color, it could be plasma, which is fairly normal.

What Causes a Tattoo to Peel? 

Remember, the top two layers of your skin have been subjected to some traumatic needle poking, so the outer layer needs time to heal, just like any other wound would. 

Peeling happens when the damaged skin becomes dry and flakes off to make way for new, healthy skin to take its place. It’s a natural form of exfoliation, really, and isn’t a bad thing.

When Should My Tattoo Start Peeling? 

There’s no way to say for sure when your tat will start to peel, but most new ink begins to peel within a week or two. 

Once again, this is something that varies from person to person, so if yours peels after a few days, don’t worry about it. If it only begins to flake after a month, it’s nothing to stress about.

As long as you look after your new tat according to the instructions from your artist, you’ll be all good, no matter how long your tat takes to peel — or even if it never does. 

Signs of a Healed Tattoo

If your tattoo hasn’t peeled, it may already be healed. The skin around the tattoo should be light-pink with no redness. You’ll most likely experience some mild itching, which is a sign of healing skin cells.

The Bottom Line 

Not all tattoos will peel, and some will only flake very lightly. If your tattoo isn’t peeling, it’s not a cause for concern unless it’s accompanied by other signs and symptoms, in which case you should see your doctor. But if your ink is smooth, vibrant, and isn’t peeling, itching, or aching, you could just be one of the lucky few who can do the healing without the peeling.