Why Do New Tattoos Peel?

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

If you’re not prepared for the tattooed area to start peeling, it can cause alarm, but it’s not necessarily something to worry about.

Getting a tattoo is an invasive procedure, for the skin is penetrated with a foreign object and foreign matter. This process will cause the skin to act out in several different ways to attempt to combat this interference. One of which is peeling.

Tattoo peeling occurs as a sign of:

  • Your body carrying out its natural healing process
  • An Infection
  • A delayed allergic reaction

Peeling Is Healing 

Our bodies are complex, and so there’s no single answer as to why the skin peels after getting tattooed.

Tattoo Process 

Peeling can be a sign that the body is working healthily and stably. 

The tattoo needle has to pass through the epidermis layer of skin, which consists of five sublayers. Once the needle has successfully passed through here, it enters the dermis tissue layer of the skin. This lays just below the epidermis layer. Here, the ink is dispersed.


This, of course, will damage the layers of the skin, and a process called phagocytosis comes into play. The ink is a foreign particle in your body, which triggers the body’s immune response. Phagocytes — free-living, one-celled organisms — begin to devour the unfamiliar ink pigment particles. 


In the early stages of tattoo recovery, visible peeling will occur in almost all tattoos. The tattoo needle penetration has damaged the epidermis skin tissue layer, and so this layer begins to shed.

Through more and more of this shedding, a buildup of dead skin cells will occur on the surface layer of the skin. Underneath, in the dermis tissue layer, the ink pigment remains safe and enclosed.

Very colorful peeling

The body must clean up this damage and does so through its very own scaling process. This skin layer flakes away. It’s your body’s way of natural healing, and it’s telling you all is working as it should be. Don’t be concerned! 

The appearance of the inking during this process may look rather worrying. The peeling of the dead skin cells can cause partial fading in the tattoo appearance or even a little discoloration.

You’ll also see natural peeling as the body removes scabs. These scabs are a buildup of excess plasma and ink pigment excretion that the body must rid itself of.

Peeling Could Be a Sign of Infection

Tattooing Can Be a Health Hazard

Although peeling is natural, it can also indicate that something’s wrong. Don’t panic, though!

Excessive and long-lasting tattoo peeling or flaking could be a symptom of a delayed infection from the components in the tattoo ink. An infection extends beyond the tattooed area and affects your whole body, so you may experience feelings of fever and chills. 

Pus-filled scabs over a tattoo is a common sign of infection

An infection can also come from improper parlor health standards, such as unsterilized equipment.

If you’re worried, seek professional medical attention as soon as possible. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

You May Be Having an Allergic Reaction

Excessive peeling may also be an indicator or a delayed allergic reaction. This could occur when your skin responds negatively to compounds in the ink particles. 

If your tattoo is peeling excessively and showing signs of an allergic reaction, you may have contracted contact dermatitis. A common culprit of this specific reaction is red ink.

Other Signs of Infection or Allergic Reaction

Keep an eye out for these further symptoms if your skin is peeling around the tattooed area:

  • Inflammation and swelling
  • Severe rashes 
  • Consistent itching urges
  • Excessive scarring
  • Excretion of substances from the area

How to Implement Good Aftercare Into Your Post-Inking Routine

You can’t wholly avoid peeling, although you can ensure that you take excellent care of your skin to speed up the healing process and take care of yourself.

Poor Aftercare

Ideally, your skin will follow its natural remedial process. The body’s innate function will allow the ink pigment particles to be accepted by the skin tissue. At the same time, dead skin cells peel off.

This natural bodily process may, however, be stunted through inadequate tattoo aftercare. Excessive picking and bothering of the healing area will irritate the healing skin tissue.

Soothing Your Tattoo

To maximize the health of the skin tissue, and soothe any peeling discomfort, try these tips and tricks:

  • Cleanse: Ensure that the area is always properly cleansed, to rid the area of resting dirt or bacteria
  • Moisturize: After cleaning the skin, apply a non-scented, gentle lotion or ointment
  • Don’t pick: Excessive picking and bothering of the healing area can halt the healing process and, in turn, cause long-lasting scarring
  • Hydrate: Drink plenty of water to keep the body hydrated and ensure you skin retains its elasticity throughout healing
  • Minimize sun exposure: Your tattoo will be very sensitive to light in its early healing stages. Cover your tattoo when going out
  • Sunscreen: applying an SPF can protect against UV rays

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

When will My Tattoo Finish Peeling?

Healing can range from several days to several weeks. Factors such as size, placement, and how your body works will alter this. If your healing process goes well, the peeling could finish by week two.

Is My Tattoo Coming Off?

No, this is simply part of the natural healing process. The dead skin cells are peeling off, and the ink is further down in the dermis layer. If you see flakes of inked skin pull away while cleaning the tattoo, don’t worry, this is normal.

Tattoos can peel a lot while being washed, but this is completely normal.

The Body Is a Wondrous Thing!

It’s normal to be concerned about your tattoo peeling. Skin is one of the most interesting entities of our body — it invites curiosity.

Note that a natural healing process will occur as the ink pigment is accepted into the skin tissue. Peeling is a crucial element of this process.

Keep a close eye on the tattoo, though. Excessive peeling can be an indicator of a more serious issue, although the majority of the time this is not the case, as long as no other symptoms of infection are present. Seek professional medical advice if your general concern leads to further stress or anxiety.

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