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Why Is My Tattoo Cracking? Understanding & Prevention Tips

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Are you experiencing cracks in your newly inked tattoo? Don't panic! Cracking is actually a normal part of the tattoo healing process. It typically occurs on the surface layer of the skin (epidermis) and does not ruin the actual tattoo in the dermis layer. However, it's important to understand why your tattoo is cracking and how to prevent further complications.



Peeling and minor scabbing tattoo is normal

Peeling and minor scabbing tattoo is a normal part of the healing process - Image: reddit

Key Takeaways

  • Tattoo cracking can occur due to thick or excessive scabbing, dry or dehydrated skin, or infection.

  • Excessive scabbing and lack of proper moisturization are common causes of tattoo cracking.

  • Cracking is not considered normal and should be addressed to prevent further damage or loss of pigment.

  • To prevent tattoo cracking, avoid picking or pulling at the tattoo, maintain good hygiene, and keep your skin well-hydrated.

  • If your tattoo is cracking, seek immediate action by contacting your tattoo artist and following proper aftercare.


Is Tattoo Cracking Normal?

Tattoo cracking is a concerning issue during the healing process as it indicates a problem with the skin's ability to recover. While some peeling is expected, cracking can lead to complications if not properly addressed. It is essential to take immediate action to prevent further damage or loss of pigment. By understanding the causes and taking preventive measures, you can ensure a successful healing process and minimize the risk of cracked tattoos.


What Causes Tattoo Cracking?

Tattoo cracking can occur due to various factors. Understanding these causes is essential in preventing and addressing this issue. The main culprits behind tattoo cracking are improper aftercare, thick or excessive scabbing, dry or dehydrated skin, infection, excessive sun and wrong aftercare products. Lets break these down further:


Improper Aftercare: One of the most common causes is improper aftercare. When a tattoo is fresh, it is essential to follow the aftercare instructions provided by the tattoo artist. Failure to do so can lead to excessive dryness and cracking.


Excessive scabbing: Which can happen with certain tattoos, increases the likelihood of cracking. It is important to avoid picking or pulling at the scabs during the healing process to minimize the risk. Dry and dehydrated skin is another common cause of tattoo cracking. Proper moisturization is crucial to keep the skin hydrated and prevent it from becoming brittle.


Infection: In rare cases, tattoo cracking can indicate an infection. Poor hygiene or improper care can lead to bacterial growth, causing inflammation and potentially leading to cracked skin. It is important to maintain good hygiene practices and seek medical attention if infection is suspected.


Excessive Sun: Excessive exposure to sunlight can also contribute to tattoo cracking. The harmful UV rays can dry out the skin and cause it to crack.


Lastly, the use of harsh skincare products, such as heavily scented lotions or soaps, can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and cracking.


cracking tattoo

Tattoo cracking is not a good sign and needs attention - Image: @TimKalpakis


Preventing Tattoo Cracking

Prevention is key to avoiding tattoo cracking. To protect your tattoo during the healing process, it is vital to avoid picking or pulling at the skin. Proper moisturization is crucial to keeping the skin hydrated and minimizing the risk of cracks. Following the aftercare instructions provided by your tattoo artist, using a recommended moisturizer or healing balm, and keeping the tattoo clean are essential steps in preventing cracking.


Additionally, staying well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water can help maintain overall skin health and contribute to the proper healing of your tattoo. Hydrating the skin through the use of a tattoo-specific moisturizer or remedy cream can also prevent dryness and minimize the chances of cracking during the healing process.



Normal scabbing as part of the healing process

Normal scabbing as part of the healing process - Image: Amanda /flickr

How to Prevent Tattoo Cracking

To ensure a successful healing process and prevent tattoo cracking, it is important to follow these prevention tips:


  1. Leave your healing wounds alone: Avoid picking, scratching, or pulling at the scabs or flakes that form on your tattoo. Let them naturally fall off during the healing process.

  2. Maintain good hygiene: Clean your tattoo gently with warm water and a mild, fragrance-free soap. Pat it dry with a clean towel or let it air dry.

  3. Hydrate yourself and your skin: Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated and your skin moisturized from the inside out. Use a tattoo-specific moisturizer or healing balm recommended by your tattoo artist to keep your tattoo hydrated externally.

  4. Wash your hands: Before touching your tattoo or applying any ointments, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

  5. Avoid swimming: Stay away from pools, hot tubs, or any bodies of water that may contain bacteria or other contaminants that can irritate or infect your tattoo.

  6. Avoid tight clothing: While your tattoo is healing, avoid wearing tight clothing that can rub against it and potentially cause cracking or irritation.

  7. Avoid excessive sun exposure: Protect your tattoo from direct sunlight, as UV rays can fade the ink and damage the healing skin. Apply sunblock with a high SPF if you can't avoid sun exposure.

  8. Moisturize the tattoo regularly: Use a tattoo-specific moisturizer or healing balm.

  9. Follow aftercare instructions: Clean the tattoo as recommended by your tattoo artist.


By following these prevention tips, you can minimize the risk of tattoo cracking and promote healthy healing.


Proper Moisturization for Tattoo Healing

Proper moisturization is crucial for preventing tattoo cracking. Here are some tips for keeping your tattoo properly moisturized:


Be sure to use a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic moisturizer or healing balm recommended by your tattoo artist. Apply a thin, even layer to your tattoo several times a day, especially after washing it.


Remember, each tattoo is unique, and the healing process may vary. If you have any concerns about tattoo cracking or need further advice, consult with your tattoo artist or a medical professional.


"Moisturizing your tattoo regularly with a tattoo-specific moisturizer helps hydrate the skin and prevent it from becoming dry and prone to cracking." - Tattoo Artist


What To Do if Your Tattoo Is Cracking

If you notice that your tattoo is cracking, it's important to take immediate action to prevent any further damage. Here are some steps you can take to treat tattoo cracking:


  1. Notify your tattoo artist: The first thing you should do is reach out to your tattoo artist and inform them about the issue. They will be able to provide guidance and advice on how to best address the cracking.

  2. Apply a healing protective balm: Nourishing the skin with a healing balm can help prevent further cracking and promote the healing process. Look for a balm specifically designed for tattoo care and apply it gently on the affected area.

  3. Consider topical numbing cream: If you're experiencing discomfort or pain due to the cracked tattoo, you may want to consider using a topical numbing cream. This can help alleviate the discomfort while the tattoo heals.

  4. Maintain proper hygiene and moisturization: It's crucial to keep the cracked tattoo clean and moisturized to prevent infection and further complications. Follow the aftercare instructions provided by your tattoo artist and avoid picking or scratching the tattoo.


Remember that everyone's healing process is different, so it's important to consult with your tattoo artist for personalized advice. By taking appropriate steps and providing proper care, you can effectively treat tattoo cracking and ensure the long-lasting beauty of your tattoo.



Can Old Tattoos Crack?

When it comes to tattoos, it's natural to wonder about their longevity and how they age over time. One common concern is whether old tattoos can crack. The good news is that cracking is not a typical issue for well-healed tattoos, regardless of their age. Cracking primarily occurs during the healing process and is related to the skin's regeneration above the tattoo, rather than the tattoo itself.


As tattoos age, the skin surrounding them may become less elastic, which can lead to changes in the appearance of the tattoo. However, these changes typically manifest as fading or blurring rather than cracking. Proper aftercare and maintenance can help minimize these effects and keep your tattoo looking vibrant for years to come.


If you notice cracking on an older tattoo, it could be a sign of an underlying issue. In some cases, the skin may be overly dry and dehydrated, making it more prone to cracking. In other instances, an infection may be present, which can cause the skin to become inflamed and crack. If you suspect that your old tattoo is cracking, it's essential to consult with a professional tattoo artist or a dermatologist to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.


Recognizing and Treating Tattoo Infections

While rare, tattoo cracking can be a sign of infection. It is important to be aware of the symptoms of an infected tattoo in order to seek proper treatment and prevent further complications. Some common symptoms of a tattoo infection include:

  • Redness and swelling around the tattoo

  • Increased pain or tenderness

  • Heat or warmth around the tattoo

  • Pus or discharge

  • A foul smell

  • Fever or chills


If you experience any of these symptoms, it is crucial to seek medical attention. Ignoring an infection can lead to more serious complications, such as cellulitis or sepsis. Your healthcare provider will be able to evaluate the infection and prescribe the appropriate treatment, which may include oral antibiotics or topical ointments.


Preventing tattoo infections starts with proper aftercare. It is vital to follow the instructions provided by your tattoo artist, including keeping the tattoo clean and moisturized. Avoid submerging your tattoo in bodies of water, such as swimming pools or hot tubs, until it is fully healed. Additionally, be cautious of potential sources of infection, such as dirty gym equipment or unsanitary environments.


"If you suspect an infection, do not hesitate to seek medical attention. Early intervention can prevent the infection from spreading and causing further damage to your tattoo and overall health."

Remember, tattoo infections are relatively rare, but being vigilant and taking proper care of your tattoo can significantly reduce the risk. By recognizing the symptoms of an infection and seeking prompt treatment, you can ensure the proper healing and longevity of your tattoo.


Dealing with Discomfort and Itching

Easing the discomfort and itching caused by tattoo cracking is an important part of the healing process. Cracked tattoos can be uncomfortable and may lead to constant itching, which can be quite bothersome. However, there are several ways to alleviate these symptoms and promote a smoother healing experience.


  1. Maintain proper hygiene: Keeping the area clean is crucial for preventing further complications and minimizing discomfort. Gently wash your tattoo with mild soap and lukewarm water, ensuring that you pat it dry with a clean towel afterward.

  2. Apply a healing balm: Nourishing the skin with a healing balm can provide relief and aid in the healing process. Look for a tattoo-specific balm that contains soothing ingredients such as aloe vera or coconut oil.

  3. Use topical numbing creams: Over-the-counter topical numbing creams can help alleviate discomfort and itching. However, it is important to consult with your tattoo artist or a healthcare professional before using any numbing products to ensure they are safe and suitable for your specific tattoo.

  4. Avoid scratching or picking: It can be tempting to scratch the itchy areas, but doing so can worsen the cracking and delay the healing process. Instead, try gently tapping or patting the itchy area to relieve the sensation without causing further damage.

Remember, discomfort and itching are common during the healing process, especially when the tattoo is cracked. But by following these tips and being patient, you can ease the discomfort and promote proper healing.


The Final Thought

In conclusion, preventing tattoo cracking is essential for successful healing and preserving the integrity of your tattoo. By following proper aftercare instructions and maintaining good hygiene, you can minimize the risk of cracking.


Regular moisturization plays a crucial role in keeping your tattoo hydrated and preventing dryness, which can lead to cracking. Additionally, avoiding excessive scabbing and addressing any signs of infection promptly are key to healing cracked tattoos.


Remember to consult your tattoo artist if you notice any issues with your tattoo, such as cracking or discomfort. They can provide guidance on how to treat the problem and ensure a smooth healing process. By taking these preventive measures and seeking professional advice when needed, you can enjoy your tattoo for years to come without the worry of cracking.



Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) Q. What causes tattoo cracking?

  • Tattoo cracking is commonly caused by thick or excessive scabbing, dry or dehydrated skin, and infection.

Q. Is tattoo cracking normal?

  • No, tattoo cracking is not considered normal as it indicates an issue with the healing process. While some peeling is expected, cracking can lead to complications if not addressed.

Q. How can I prevent tattoo cracking?

  • To prevent tattoo cracking, it is crucial to avoid picking or pulling at the tattoo during the healing process. Maintaining good hygiene by frequent cleaning with warm water and ensuring proper moisturization of the skin is essential.

Q. What should I do if my tattoo is cracking?

  • If your tattoo is cracking, it is important to seek immediate action. Notifying your tattoo artist and receiving their guidance is essential. Nourishing the skin with a healing protective balm, applying topical numbing cream for discomfort, and maintaining proper hygiene and moisturization can help in treating tattoo cracking.

Q. Can old tattoos crack?

  • Old tattoos should not exhibit cracking unless there is an underlying issue. Cracking around the tattoo is actually the healing process of the skin above the tattoo, not the tattoo itself. Understanding the aging process of tattoos and proper aftercare can help prevent cracking in older tattoos.

Q. How can I keep my tattoo moisturized?

  • Proper moisturization is crucial for preventing tattoo cracking. Following the aftercare instructions provided by your tattoo artist, using a recommended moisturizer or healing balm, and keeping the tattoo clean and hydrated promote healthy healing and minimize the chances of cracking.

Q. How can I recognize and treat tattoo infections?

  • While rare, tattoo cracking can be a sign of infection. Recognizing symptoms such as raised temperature, itching, pus, or a foul smell is crucial. If these symptoms are present, seeking medical attention is necessary to treat the infection and prevent further complications.

Q. How can I deal with discomfort and itching from a cracking tattoo?

  • Cracked tattoos can be uncomfortable and may cause itching. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications and topical numbing creams can help ease the discomfort. Following proper aftercare and avoiding irritants can also minimize itching and discomfort during the healing process.

Q. What happens if I over moisturize my tattoo?

  • Over-moisturizing can prolong the healing process, making your tattoo look cloudy or faded. Follow your artist's aftercare instructions to strike the right balance.

Q. Why does my tattoo cracking have no ink underneath?

  • If there's no ink underneath the cracking, it might be due to skin dryness or excessive peeling during healing. Properly moisturizing your tattoo can often resolve this issue.

Q. Why do tattoos crack after a week?

  • Tattoos can crack after a week if the skin dries out too quickly during the healing process. It's crucial to maintain proper aftercare throughout the healing period.

Q. Can a cracked tattoo be fixed?

  • In some cases, minor cracking can be touched up by a professional tattoo artist if it doesn't heal correctly. Consult your original artist or another experienced one for advice.

Q. How long does tattoo cracking last?

  • The duration of tattoo cracking can vary. With proper care, it should start improving within a few days to a week.

Q. Does tattoo cracking go away?

  • With proper aftercare, tattoo cracking should gradually improve and eventually disappear as the tattoo heals.

Q. How do I avoiding my tattoo cracking?

  • To avoid tattoo cracking, ensure you follow your artist's aftercare instructions, keeping your tattoo moisturized and protected during the healing process.



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