Getting your first tattoo can be an exciting venture or a nerve-wracking experience. You may be asking yourself: Why does my tattoo look cloudy and dull? Is this milky appearance normal? Is this an infection?
Don’t panic - this is yet another scabbing stage on your tattoo’s healing journey, and we’ll let you know all about it.
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Why Your Tattoo Might Look Milky Or Cloudy
You may be in a rush to show off your brand new tattoo to friends, only to find yourself disappointed in how dull or cloudy it looks two or three weeks after taking good care of it. There is so much going on under your skin right now as your immune system fights off infection and optimizes healing, that this is merely another stage in the process.
The Milky Phase
When your tattoo appears cloudy or milky, this is called a milk scab and it is the final stage in your healing journey. Beneath this very thin layer of protective skin lies your bright and beautiful piece of art. It’s your body’s final attempt at healing all the trauma that happened to your dermis and preserving the ink that now exists within it.
It may appear shiny, very white, it may seem to be wrinkled, could feel tight or dry, and might be slightly tender, and you may notice the milk scab forms on all of your tattoo or only parts of it; this is completely normal as well.
Timing and Expectations
Depending on the size, location, and detail of your tattoo, the milky phase of healing will occur around the third or fourth week. It will happen just after your tattoo is done removing all the scabs and peeling pieces of skin.
It may look dull or might feel very tight, but this is not something you can scratch, scrub, or peel off. You need to keep your hands off your milk scab and you need to let it move through this stage on its own time.
That layer is what is nourishing the final cell regrowth necessary for your wound, and what will ensure that your ink remains bright when it is all done. You can think of this defense mechanism as a protective barrier created by your body.
The milky phase can continue even after you’re done all your primary healing, and may last one to two weeks.
Care Tips for the Milky Phase
If you want to move through the milk scab phase quickly and easily so you can finally show off your fresh ink, follow these tips.
- Moisturize - One of the easiest ways to hurry up the process of a milk scab is to moisturize your skin. Perhaps you may have noticed that your milk scab began to appear after you stopped your routine aftercare process. Moisturizing a tattoo is essential for an aftercare regimen.
Using fragrance free, paraben free, and chemical free lotions, creams, or ointments, you can apply a thin and absorbent layer to your milk scab. Essentially, this layer of skin is severely dehydrated, and keeping it moisturized without oversaturating it will be a quick solution for eliminating it.
- Avoid the Sun - UV Rays are the number one enemy of a tattoo, new and old. For a new tattoo with a milk scab, it is exceptionally sensitive to UV rays and should be kept out of the sun. When it can’t be avoided, check out our sunblock safety tips for tattoos article for protecting your new tattoo.
- Stick to Showers - A new tattoo should not be submerged in water for at least a month, and taking a bath with a milk scab will add to its dehydration, and may open it up to bacteria exposure or further scabbing. Learn more about showering with your tattoo.
- Don’t Scratch - Keep those paws off your new tattoo! Touching, scratching, or peeling your tattoo will simply extend the milky stage of your healing. Unless you are washing and moisturizing your tattoo, you should not be playing with it.
What Happens If My Tattoo Is Still Dull After Healing?
If your tattoo moves out of the milky phase and still appears dull or cloudy after around five or six weeks, this might be a result of pigment loss. Pigment loss can happen for a variety of reasons:
- A scab or peeling skin was ripped or picked off during healing, and it can take ink with it.
- Your tattoo artist is inexperienced, and they don’t know how to insert the ink into the right layer of the dermis.
- The ink that the artist used was expired or of poor quality, and it was pushed out during the weeping stage.
- Your immune system pushed out too much of the ink during the weeping stage on its own.
If you continue to notice that your tattoo remains dull, show it to your tattoo artist and discuss your options. You may simply require a touch-up which usually comes at no cost.
Our Final Thoughts
A milky or cloudy tattoo is yet another stage in the healing process and is nothing to be concerned about. If you carry on with your meticulous aftercare regimen and continue to ensure that you are only putting your hands on your tattoo when you are washing or moisturizing it, the milk scab will fade away, revealing your bright and beautiful ink that sits below it.