Will A Healing Tattoo Leak Fluid?

My tattoo is scabby and tight.
ohsarahrose /Flickr

Congratulations you just got your first tattoo. And, while you took care choosing what image or words will start you on your inked journey, your artist also took care to cover up your new tattoo. He or she did this for a very good reason –to keep air-born bacteria from invading your wound.

Yes, your new tattoo is awesome, but it's also still a wound. Open flesh is a breeding ground for bacteria and infection, and that means you need to leave the bandage on for a minimum of two hours.

And, while I am sure you're excited to show off your new body art, your friends and family will just have to wait awhile. Your health–and the health of your inked art–is far more important.

The only exception to this hard-core rule is if your artist covered your tattoo with saran wrap or some kind of plastic. Hopefully, this was not the case because this can extremely detrimental to a tattoo. You're better off not having any covering as opposed to suffocating your new tattoo with plastic wrap. If your tattoo artist did indeed cover your tattoo, it should be removed immediately.

What Is This Leakage?

This is your worst night nightmare. You finally made the leap to get your first tattoo and it's leaking clear pus. If this happens, don't panic. 

If it's leaking a clear fluid, it's not pus, and it's not an infection. Sometimes a tattoo will leak plasma–the somewhat clear fluid in your blood. This will usually happen if you had a particularly long session and if you had your body inked fairly recently.

This is simply a signal that your body went beyond its normal threshold and that you need to take it easy for a couple of days.  In other words, this is your body's way of telling you that it needs time to heal itself. Think about it. You've applied a sharp metal vibrating object to your body and permanently added ink to your system.

Your body simply has to adjust to the change.

What If It's Been a few Days?

However, if it's been a couple of days and you're leaking, that is more likely a signal that you're using way too much ointment on your tattoo. Certain ointments tend to cause more leakage in some people than others. Again, don't panic. Just ease up on whatever ointment you're using. You should only be adding a tiny amount of ointment, barely enough to give your tattoo a bit of a shine. This is a situation where you have to think, "more is less." A good way to test the strength of application is to see if your skin feels wet after an application. If it does, you're using way too much ointment.

If decreasing the amount doesn't help, then you need to stop the ointment altogether and switch to another product or just keep your tattoo clean and forget the ointment for a few days and then switch to a lotion. As you can see, you have a lot of options.

When to Seek Medical Help

It doesn't happen often, but any time needles are involved, there's always the risk of infection. If your tattoo is hot to the touch, very red, and/or oozing something thick that is yellow or green, or you notice a foul odor, these are signs of infection.

If that's the case do not–and I am underscoring "do not"–try to treat this at home on your own. You should see a doctor immediately, whether you visit your GP, an emergency room, or go to your nearest urgent care walk-in facility.