Your Tattoo Cracking Rescue Guide - How to Heal and Prevent It

Written by: Pete

That brand new tattoo that you’ve invested time, money, heart, and soul into always feels like a new pride and joy. The thrill of going out a few days after healing and pulling up your shirt to show off your new sleeve is palpable! And although it’s quite common, there’s nothing more annoying than going to share your new tattoo with a friend and being the victim of excessive tattoo cracking.

Tattoo cracking is most commonly caused by very dry skin during the healing process. A tattoo that dries out too much can produce thick scabs that are susceptible to breaking open in multiple areas. Scabs that crack can lead to bleeding, infection, and possible fading or scarring.

While it ultimately can’t be entirely avoided, knowing why it happens and the possible avenues of preventing extreme tattoo cracking are an essential part of ensuring your healing process is smooth and comfortable; we’ve got you covered.

Related: Tattoo Peeling

Why Does Tattoo Cracking Happen?

Tattoo cracking can be a normal part of the healing process, but it can reach a certain point that can be a cause for concern.

While some scaliness, irritation, and milk scabs are almost always to be expected, excessive dryness, thick crusts, or thick scabs across your entire tattoo are a sign that something is missing from your aftercare routine.

Tattoo cracking can happen for a variety of reasons:

  • The result of scabbing across your tattoo; thicker and more prevalent the scabs are likely the result of a heavy-handed artist, and all are likely to crack
  • Lack of hydration leading to cracking of your skin
  • In very rare cares, it can be the indication of an infection

SorryMom states that some minor tattoo cracking should not be a cause for concern unless it is paired with symptoms that indicate an infection, such as pus coming from your tattooed area, a fever, or other concerning signs of infection.

3 Easy Tips to Heal and Prevent Tattoo Cracking

While the key to managing tattoo cracking is to spot it right away and narrow down the reason for this issue, the first step to minimizing it completely is to ensure you start your healing and aftercare process on the right foot.

Aftercare Routine

A careful aftercare routine during the first few days of your new tattoo is essential.

It’s important that the moment your wrap comes off your arm that you are taking the time to properly wash and care for your tattoo. It’s crucial that your first few washes take the time to remove all plasma, excessive ink, and blood that may have gathered on your tattoo. Here are a few tips for the first few days of healing which will help prevent tattoo cracking.

  • Use lukewarm or cold water when washing your tattoo. Hot water dries your skin out. And always be sure that your tattoo never soaks or stays wet for too long.
  • Ensure that the soap you are using to wash your tattoo is a more natural product with no added ingredients or fragrances.
  • Always pat your tattoo dry (don’t rub!) with a paper towel that does not leave product remnants. A towel can hold bacteria and is not recommended. Never rub your tattoo dry!
  • After the first two or three days of allowing your tattoo to breathe and heal naturally, begin to use a scent-free moisturizer at least two times a day, especially after it has been washed.
  • Never rebandage your healing tattoo unless consulted to do so by a medical professional.

While some artists may recommend dry healing your tattoo, this can easily lead to a severe lack of hydration during the healing process which can end up ruining your tattoo. Results of this can be:

  • Tattoo distortion and color loss
  • Scarring or severe cracking
  • Raised skin underneath your tattoo
  • Excessive peeling
  • Severe cracking of the scabbing which could lead to bleeding

A cleaning and proper aftercare routine started from day one is a great way to minimize tattoo cracking.


Hydration is the number one key to healing and preventing tattoo cracking.

If you want to nip tattoo cracking in the bud, hydration is your best friend.

Not only should you moisturize your healing tattoo on the regular, but it’s important that you also stay hydrated and drink plenty of water during your first few weeks with your new tattoo. Eating healthier foods will help with the hydration and healing process, and drinking excessive caffeine or alcohol may lead to a lack of hydration that may have adverse effects on your tattoo.

Moisturizing your tattoo should begin as soon as your tattoo stops weeping, which is the process when your tattoo pushes out plasma or even ink as it begins to heal. Your moisturizing routine should take note of the following:

  • Don’t moisturize on thick scabs until they are completely dry as this could cause tattoo bubbling
  • Make sure your lotion is non-fragranced, and natural ingredients are best
  • Ensure your lotion is applied in thin layers so your tattoo can breathe; you shouldn’t see the lotion after it’s been applied
  • Moisturize two to four times a day, especially after your tattoo has been washed and dried
  • Only apply your lotion on dry and clean skin
  • Before you use food-grade oils like coconut oil or cocoa butter, ensure you consult your tattoo artist

It is especially important to make moisturizing a part of your aftercare routine in the winter months, when skin is generally drier.

Stop touching your tattoo

If your hands are not on your tattoo to wash and lotion it, your hands shouldn’t be on it at all.

While showing off your new tattoo is to be expected, you should avoid unnecessarily touching or picking at your tattoo. This can easily lead to tattoo cracking issues because you are disturbing the natural healing process.

Peeling and scabbing of tattoos can last a few weeks, especially if you have a large or complicated design. It may be tempting to peel or pick at the scabs or to scratch your tattoo when it irritates you, but you need to let any peeling skin, flakes, or scabs fall off on their own terms. Peeling them may lead to tattoo cracking, or worse, distortion of your tattoo.

It is also recommended that during these stages you do not shave or wax the tattoo area, and, as previously mentioned, always pat your tattoos dry with a paper towel if possible and never rub them.

Extreme Tattoo Cracking Stops With Proper Aftercare

While tattoo cracking is a natural part of the healing process and can’t be completely avoided, ensuring you are following proper aftercare cleaning and moisturizing techniques is a sure way to prevent excessive cracking.

Tattoo cracking is easily treated and very avoidable if you start meticulous aftercare from day one of your new tattoo. Cracking is simply a response to your body trying to heal this area of your body and should not be a cause for concern. If this tattoo cracking is paired with other signs of infection, you should talk to a medical professional. Otherwise, getting on top of aftercare treatment will help quickly minimize this annoying healing process.

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