Getting a new tattoo is always a thrilling process, but after a session, there are some things that can appear during the healing process that can overwhelm or even concern you. Tattoo leaking is one of those strange things that are completely normal but may still unsettle you. We dive into just what tattoo leaking is, why it happens, how long it lasts, and how to take care of it.
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Why Is Ink Leaking Out Of My New Tattoo? Is It Normal?
During the first 72 hours of a new tattoo, leaking of your ink is completely normal. This is because your tattoo goes through a process called weeping.
Weeping is when your body tries to push out germs from a wound. The blood vessels in the raw area open up and allow your blood to bring oxygen and nutrients to the wounded area, while simultaneously removing it of dirt, grime, or foreign particles like excess ink from the wound.
Ink leaking from your tattoo is not a sign of tattoo artist inexperience. While most of the ink deposited into your dermis settles where it should be, it is completely normal that some does not catch and instead is pushed out by your immune system. The ink might be paired with blood and plasma, which is a clear fluid that cleans the area.
Tattoo leaking may also occur if:
- Your artist tried to deposit more ink in your dermis than it could hold
- You took a blood thinning medication prior to your session
- You had alcohol before your appointment, or shortly afterwards
All wounds go through a weeping process, and a new tattoo is no different.
How Long Does a Tattoo Leak For?
A tattoo will leak within the first 48 to 72 hours. If your tattoo continues to leak, or is paired with pus, yellow colored fluid, or an odd smell, it is likely no longer experiencing weeping but may be combating an infection.
Most minor tattoo infections can be stopped in its tracks. Have a look at our article about what to do if your tattoo gets an infection for more information. If you are concerned about a potential infection, you should speak to a medical professional immediately.
Tattoo leaking may also be a reaction to too much moisture on the tattoo too early in its healing process. This is why you should wait for a tattoo to stop weeping before you add moisturizer to a new tattoo.
Will Leaking Ink Ruin My New Tattoo?
This leaking effect is no cause for panic, and your tattoo is likely to heal just as beautifully despite it. Most of the ink that is pushed out of the wound is not relevant to your art piece and serves no purpose to your work. You can always keep an eye on the healing and contact your tattoo artist if you notice that after one month, some parts of the tattoo are missing ink.
What Should I Do About Leaking Ink?
Leaking ink or the weeping stage of a tattoo is not only normal but necessary, and you definitely shouldn’t prevent it from happening. You should continue thorough aftercare and not moisturize the area until it's done leaking. Trying to moisturize before your tattoo is done weeping could extend the process and complicate the healing.
If you are someone who rewraps their tattoo and notices excess leaking, you should remove the wrap and allow your wound to breathe. This is because the excess moisture could be complicating the healing process, or the wound may need to completely clear itself of these particles and you are locking them onto the wound.
The ink is coming out from under this wrap, which could introduce more complications to the tattoo healing properly.
Cleaning a tattoo that is weeping is slightly more complicated because you have to be gentle while also meticulous in removing the nonessential particles like ink, blood, and plasma from your wound. Your new tattoo is likely to be sticky from weeping, and you should gently scrub it in an up-and-down motion using just your hand and antibacterial soap. It may require a few rounds before you are able to completely remove all the excess that has leaked from your tattoo.
For more information on washing your tattoo, have a look at our article, How Do I Clean My New Tattoo? - An Ink Aftercare Guide.
If your tattoo is experiencing a lot of weeping, you should also avoid using too much ointment on the wound. Apply only a thin layer that is immediately absorbed, or skip the ointment until the third day, so you avoid further ink leakage.
If possible, avoid blood thinning medications like aspirin, and stay away from alcohol for a few days after a new tattoo to help combat excessive weeping of your ink. You should also be wary of your new tattoo sticking to bed sheets during these first few nights, and replace your sheets regularly to prevent infection. For more advice on sleeping with a new tattoo, check out our article, How To Sleep With A New Tattoo - Your Helpful Guide.
Our Final Thoughts
The weeping stage of a tattoo is a gross but normal part of the healing process. Your aftercare during this time should be even more meticulous. If leaking continues after 72 hours, you should seek out advice from your tattoo artist or a medical professional. When it comes to a tattoo, which is an open wound, it’s much better to be safe than sorry to protect the ink that sits below.