Is It Normal for a Tattoo to Scab?

Here's What a Tattoo Scab Might Look Like

Model Nabilla Benattia tattoos
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Common sense says that removing scabs before they're ready is a bad idea—it can result in pain, bleeding, and eventual scarring. Still, none of that seems to deter people from doing it anyway. The uncontrollable urge to pick at scabs seems to be ingrained in the human psyche.

The temptation is no less when a scab forms on a tattoo. Makes sense: You don't want a scab to obstruct the beauty of your new body art. But picking at a fresh tattoo is bad news—doing so can actually ruin it by removing some of the ink and leaving a scar in its place. Your tattoo could end up looking patchy. Depending on the severity of the damage, it may not be possible for your tattoo artist to fix it. The best move would be to leave the scab alone and wait for it to fall off on its own, as difficult as that may be.

What Does a Tattoo Scab Look Like

Tattoos might develop light scabbing or some flakiness as they heal. This usually happens within a few days of getting inked. The scabs are generally not big, but even if they are, that might not be a cause for concern. Just keep an eye on them and make sure there are none of the following signs of infection:

  • Pus oozing out from under the scab
  • The scab is very tender or hot to the touch
  • There's redness surrounding the area

If you experience any of these signs, you should contact your tattoo artist. Applying hot compresses can help draw out the pus. After several minutes of that, applying an antibacterial ointment or spray can facilitate healing—go with your tattoo artist's recommendation. If the infection doesn't improve in a day or two, see your doctor.

Caution After Washing or Showering

After taking a shower, you might notice that a scab becomes very soft. It can soak up a lot of water and be easily torn, even just by applying lotion afterward or drying off a little too vigorously with a towel. Be very gentle on the scab during and after a shower. Lightly pat it dry, and avoid touching it otherwise for at least a half hour until it's fully dry.

If you apply lotion after that point, try to avoid applying it directly on the scab, and work around it instead. If the area is very itchy, then you might want to carefully apply just a little bit of lotion to the scab; this can reduce the pain, but you still don't want it to come off until it's ready.

Let It Heal

A tattoo always requires some healing time. Don't be in a rush to bypass any scabbing or flaking; these are a normal part of the process. Resist the temptation to pick at your tattoo—the beauty of your body art depends on it.