Do All Tattoos Scab: Care, Bad and When Not Scabbing

Tattoo scabbing can be very scary especially if you don’t know about the tattoo healing stages as well as the healing process.  If this is not your first time getting one done, then you know that scabbing is one of the processes that comes days after you’ve had your tattoo done.  Other things you may experience include tattoo peeling, itching, redness, etc. 

Normal tattoo scabbing happens because the skin around the area with the tattoo has undergone trauma. It’s an open wound undergoing healing stages. The body heals the wound by regenerating skin and protecting the wound from infection through scabbing over it. This allows the skin below the ink to repair itself.

During the scabbing process, plasma, a component of the blood, starts oozing out and hardens while covering the area. The white blood cells then begin working around and inside the area by fighting off bacteria and other things from getting into the wound as the skin repairs itself.

Do all tattoos scab?

When, care, bad tattoo scabbing
When and why does scabbing happen

Yes, they do. The only difference is in the size of scabs. If yours was done by an expert, a very thin scabbing layer will form over it. You can notice the scabbed area by how it will be raised just a little from other areas. It will also have a cloudy and dull look. This is what can be best described as normal scabbing. The big dark scabs are also normal and will mostly appear in areas where the artist had to go over more than once. They do this to add a darker shading to some parts of the tattoo.

When does scabbing start?

Tattoo scabbing happens on the third day. The tattoo oozes plasma for the first few days as it prepares itself for this process. After the first few days, the scabs harden and form over the wound. It will remain until the wound heals and the skin’s top layer closes up. After this, the scabs begin to peel and flake away. This will happen at around the 7th day and by the 10th day, even the thick scabs should have fallen off.

Thick tattoo scabbing

Thick scabs will form if the tattoo is large or has lots of details. This is because more trauma will be caused on the skin leading it to be thicker as compared to other parts of the tattoo.

Thick one can cause concern especially if they are thick and dense. This can be as a result of the artist being too rough either from inexperience or if they are heavy-handed. The more they press down the needle firmly into the skin the more trauma the skin will experience. This is because they penetrate even more layers of the skin with the needle.

Another reason for thick scabs could be an indication of an infection. This is rare as long as the artist maintains hygiene and correct procedures. Symptoms of a tattoo infection include:

  • Pain that increases instead of decreasing after 48 hours.
  • Inflammation that goes for more than three days. It will feel hot to the touch. It will also be itchy.
  • Redness that increases. If you notice red lines on your tattoo, see a doctor.
  • Swelling that’s accompanied by pustules or fluid-filled boils.
  • Pus or discharge that smells nasty.
  • Fever or body aches unrelated to other illnesses.
  • Smelly scabs or those with green or yellow fluid.

If not sure whether it is infected or not, visit the artist. They have seen these cases before and can advise you on what to do.

Scabbing care

Failure to take care of a scabbing tattoo can cause it to fade color, have patchy areas, missing ink or some parts of the tattoo design missing. A tattoo is an investment. You do not want to go through all that pain and money to get a poor design. Complications are not part of the plan.

There are a few things you can do to help it go through the scabbing stage without incidences.

  • Do not scratch or pick at the scabs. This can give the tattoo a patchy look or give it spots.
  • Do not apply creams or lotions directly to the scabs. Apply around it.
  • After your shower, run warm water over the scabs then pat them dry. Over time, it will shrink and peel.
  • If your scabs are large, place a clean face cloth over it during the first few minutes as you shower. This way it will soak up water which will help speed up drying and the flaking of the scabs later.
  • Use a clean towel to pat dry. Avoid rubbing on the tattoo.
  • Apply only enough aftercare cream. Applying too much will make it too moist. The scabs will therefore not dry out enough and fall off. This can also facilitate bacteria growth.
  • After cleaning your tattoo. Air dry it for some time. Do not over dry it as this could cause cracking.
  • When cleaning the scabbed area, be careful. Use a clean towel to clean and dry the area. Pat it dry and make sure the towel does not stick onto them.
  • If you notice that the scab is cracking or drying, moisturize it for hydration purposes. Apply only a little/ enough and make sure no moisture is trapped in the area before moisturizing. If you moisturize before drying the area completely, then the scab will become soggy/ sticky from soaking up the moisture.

Tattoo scabbing bad

The number one rule when your tattoo is scabbing is not to scratch or pick.  I know that when the scabs look big or large, they are inviting to pick off, but doing so will do more damage to your beautiful tattoo.

Sometimes, however, the scabs get caught in clothes and other objects, especially if they are big. You must be cautious when removing your clothes or carrying out your everyday tasks. When taking a shower, make sure that the scabbed area does not get too much water. This is because the more water it soaks up, the more it will catch on to things until it dries out completely.

Your scabs can also accidentally get pulled off causing bleeding. When this happens, know that it was quite deep into the skin and ink may get lost in the process, depending on the damaged area. You may not be able to tell how badly the tattoo was damaged until it heals completely. Visit your artists for some touch-ups. Note that this does not mean that if the scab bleeds then your tattoo is damaged. There is a huge chance that it will turn out incredibly fine.

Tattoo not scabbing

Yes, sometimes this also happens and it’s a good thing. The tattoo will not scab if the artist has a light hand and does not overly traumatize the skin. Experienced artists who have been tattooing for a while do not overwork the skin and their clients do not scab. This does not mean that getting this hardened crust means your artist is horrible at their job. This is just a case of rough healing and even the best tattoo artist will get a few spots of their work scab. Sometimes it will also be a result of poor aftercare by the client.


Tattoo scabbing is normal, and the process should not worry you so long as they are small and light. Follow the tips on caring for them and in time they will fall off on their own, leaving you with a beautiful shinning tattoo.


  • Basic Fundamentals of Modern Tattoo: Tattoo Apprentice Basics By C. R. Jordan
  • Tattoo Aftercare: The FAQs, DOs, and TABOOs By Mary “Inkette” Burns
  • This Might Sting a Bit: Everything Your Tattoo Artist Forgot to Tell You & You Were Too Afraid to Ask By C.R. Jordan

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