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What to Do When Your Tattoo Starts to Peel, According to a Professional Tattoo Artist

Trust the process.
What to Do When Your Tattoo Starts to Peel, According to a Professional Tattoo Artist
IMAGE Instagram/joannamroman
Trust the process.

If you're reading this, you probably just got your first tattoo—congratulations! After a few days, you might have noticed that the skin around it starts to peel. It might be alarming to see some of the pigment starts to flake away, but don't worry, this is totally normal. Not only that, but it's a sign that your new ink is healing the way it should be.

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To ease your worries, Cosmo.ph decided to ask a bunch of questions to Kenneth Abad, a professional artist at 55tinta, on what you should do (and shouldn't do) when your tattoo starts to flake. Read on to learn more:

Why is my tattoo peeling?

"A tattoo will always peel," Kenneth reassured us. "Some just scab or peel thicker than others." According to him, it all just depends on how the artist worked on your skin. Smooth black and gray tattoos tend to peel lighter than color-packed tattoos with quite a few color blendings. Either way, all of them will peel because tattoos are technically wounds since the needle pierces through the skin to deposit the ink. 

The scab acts as a barrier for the fresh wound as it heals. According to Kenneth, if you keep picking at it, your tattoo might heal unevenly, thus leaving a bald spot or broken line that will require another touchup.

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When exactly does it start to peel?

Tattoos usually start to peel within five days to a week after your session. Kenneth reiterated that this depends on how heavily your tattoo artist worked on your skin. For example, cover-up tattoos tend to scab a little thicker than usual and take longer to heal because they tend to put more blending and texture to cover the previous ink.

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Until when will my tattoo peel?

According to Kenneth, you should expect the scab to come off on its own after a week or two. If it doesn't happen within that timeframe, there's no need to worry, as healing periods are different for everyone. 

After the peeling period, your tattoo will still be "shiny" and flaky—this indicates that it's not yet fully healed. The first layer of fresh skin will grow back after a month or two. If it doesn't itch and your tattoo already blends with the natural texture of your skin, that's when you know your ink is already fully healed. Congratulations!

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What should I do when my tattoo starts to peel?

Kenneth always advises his clients to never pick at their tattoo and to not forget to moisturize. For the first three days after your appointment, he recommends leaving your ink alone and keeping it dry. When you do shower within that timeframe, he said that it's best to use a mild soap without any whitening ingredients.

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According to Kenneth, the fourth day onward is a crucial time for your tattoo. This is when your skin starts to dry up and tighten, especially around the area you got inked on. He said that this is the time he asks his clients to moisturize at least three to four times a day. (Here are a bunch of gentle balms and moisturizers you can use on your skin!)

He explained that if you let your tattoo dry up, your skin might start to crack, causing it to not heal fully. Kenneth recommends moisturizing until you know for sure that your tattoo is already fully healed.

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This story originally appeared on Cosmo.ph. Minor edits have been made by the Preview.ph editors.

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