Tattoo aftercare starts the moment you step out of the artist’s chair. Throughout the stages of healing, your tattoo requires meticulous care and attention. Sometimes things can go wrong and your scabbing can become quite concerning. Tattoo bubbling is a sign of concern, and though it is usually harmless, it needs to be fixed quickly.
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What Is Tattoo Bubbling and Why Does It Happen?
Tattoo bubbling primarily happens if a healing tattoo is soaking up too much moisture. This is usually the result of:
- Putting lotion on your tattoo too early in the healing journey;
- Wearing a tattoo wrap for longer than necessary;
- Wetting your tattoo in a shower for too long;
- Putting lotion on your tattoo while it is still wet;
- Or putting a thick layer of moisturizer on your new tattoo that it cannot quickly absorb.
Tattoos need to be washed at least twice daily, moisturized to keep the wound hydrated for optimal healing, and left open to breathe so oxygen can help the regeneration of valuable cells. But during the healing of your new tattoo, overdoing any important item could cause tattoo bubbles to develop.
Check out our top recommendations for the best tattoo moisturizers
Is It Infected?
Under rare circumstances, tattoo bubbling can be a blister due to an infection. An infected tattoo is usually paired with additional symptoms such as:
- Redness outlining your tattoo
- Red streaks extending beyond your tattoo
- Excessive swelling or pain
- Fever or chills
- Pus or yellow liquid leaving your tattoo
- Open sores or rashes on your tattoo
If your tattoo is bubbling with no other symptoms, it is not usually a sign of infection.
Related: Cleaning An Infected Tattoo
What Else Could Cause Tattoo Bubbling?
A tattoo’s number one enemy is the sun, and if you went out with a new tattoo and exposed it to UV rays, your tattoo bubbling could be the result of an extreme sunburn. If this is the case, you should speak to a medical professional immediately, as they will suggest antibiotics to you to care for your burn. A burn should not be handled on your own.
Will It Mess Up The Tattoo?
Tattoo bubbling is not a problem on its own and will not damage the tattoo that sits in your dermis. If it is the result of an infection or a sunburn, this is a greater concern. And, in general, tattoo bubbling is much more difficult to care for and could introduce problems if it is not managed.
These blisters could pop open, leaving your tattoo vulnerable to bacterial infection. The blisters could also get caught on clothing or stick to fabrics. When these rip off of your tattoo, they could bring ink with them, or they could heal badly and cause permanent scarring over your tattooed area. In addition, they are just very painful and will extend the healing time of your tattoo significantly.
How to Fix Tattoo Bubbling
Tattoo bubbling is immediately a sign of an over-hydrated tattoo, so the first step you could take to combat it is to allow the bubble time to dry out. Some suggestions to help your tattoo bubbles dry out are:
- Take shorter showers and pat your tattoo dry after each session. Do not submerge your tattoo under any circumstances.
- Expose your tattoo to air to let it breathe, avoiding tight clothing or clothing that covers your tattoo.
- It is best to avoid moisturizer until you see your tattoo bubble start to disappear. If you must use lotion, use only a dime-size amount and ensure it is absorbed quickly by your skin. If you have applied too much, use a paper towel to dab off excess moisturizer.
- Never apply moisturizer on a wet tattoo.
- Do not rewrap your tattoo.
In addition, you should keep your hands off these blisters at all times in order to prevent the transfer of bacteria to these sores, and to ensure you do not break or rip them.
Tattoo bubbling may only appear during the first month of healing. If you step up your aftercare game and are cautious about these blisters, they should go away over the course of a few days. If they do not, you should speak to your artist and bring your aftercare products with you; if the blisters are a sign of an allergic infection or a greater issue, they will be able to identify it.
Tattoo bubbling should not appear on older, healed tattoos. This is likely an infection, an irritant, or a burn, and should be looked at by a medical professional.
Our Final Thoughts
Tattoo bubbling is usually just caused by oversaturating your tattoo with hydrating factors such as water, creams, or ointments. It is generally combatted quite quickly by allowing your tattoo to dry out. It’s important to monitor these blister-like bubbles because, if popped or ripped, they could cause scarring to your tattoo or lead to infection.
If at any point you are worried about the healing of your tattoo, do not hesitate to discuss your concerns with a professional.