There are so many things that our body does on a regular basis that we are not aware of or may just take for granted. The cycle of dead cells shedding from the surface of our skin is typically one of those rather benign occurrences. Unless of course you do an exfoliation treatment, and then you may actually SEE an abundance of little particles of skin flaking off.
In the earlier weeks of a tattoo healing, a more extreme cycle of natural exfoliation takes place—this is normal and expected. While the scabs that formed immediately after the tattoo start to peel and flake off, the healthy layer of new skin is restoring itself beneath, and while this is taking place, the dead skin cells start peeling off, making way for the new, healthy layer to surface.
So, what is considered normal peeling, and what are the signs there may be a problem?
If the peeling is in combination with a lot of redness and swelling, this could be a warning sign of an allergic reaction to the tattoo pigment or possible infection.
Also, if the area is extremely itchy, and you feel the constant urge to scratch, this definitely could cause excessive peeling and problems allowing the tattoo to heal completely. In such a case, you need to take steps to have it checked out to rule out infection or allergic reaction.
For some people, their tattoo and surrounding skin may start peeling as early as day 2, and for others it may not begin for a week or longer, and the peeling may go on for as long as 4 weeks. These are all still considered in the range of ‘normal’.
These are a few factors that could cause more peeling:
- The location of the tattoo
- The size of the tattoo
- The colors used and type of ink
- Individual body chemistry/skin sensitivity
During this time, the colors in the tattoo may appear dull and faded—but do not despair! This is not a sign of a problem with the tattoo itself, but due to the dead skin cells that have accumulated on top of your tattoo. Once this phase is over, the color/brightness will return.
When it’s clear the peeling is on the ‘normal’ spectrum and there’s no reason for concern, let’s briefly talk about what you should and should NOT do during this unsightly and uncomfortable phase of healing.
First and foremost, purchase a nice supply of a really good tattoo after care product that will moisturize, soothe and condition your skin. Apply it generously and often, as this is probably the best way to help relieve the itch so you won’t scratch and do harm to the tattoo.
Maintain a good skincare routine. Keep your skin clean but avoid spending excessive time soaking in the tub until the area is completely healed.
Wear loose, comfortable clothing over the tattoo. Garments that are tight fitting or fabrics that are rough can cause extra friction and rubbing over the area, which will just lead to more peeling and discomfort.
By the way, if your tattoo never peels, that isn’t necessarily a sign that something went wrong. Everyone’s body chemistry is unique and our skin heals differently, so you might see some peeling at a much later time, or perhaps not at all.
Needless to say, it’s important to pay attention and trust your gut. If the peeling process continues well beyond a month or so, then it’s time to seek professional advice and treatment.
About the author: Yaffa Baslaw (@yadeinu) is a Freelance Writer with over a decade of experience copywriting and blogging compelling content. She has written for more than 20 companies in the fields of healthcare, skincare, and retail.