Why Does My Tattoo Look Wrinkly? How Long Will It Last?

Written by: Pete

Every tattoo heals differently, and whether it’s your first or your fifteenth, concerning stages may always arise. A wrinkly tattoo is one of those weird moments during your tattoo healing that may have you searching for answers. We’re here to eliminate any concern you have about this normal process.

Why Is My Tattoo Wrinkly?


A tattoo is an injury that is caused to the skin through the trauma done by tattoo needles. These needles penetrate the epidermis in a stabbing motion, depositing ink in the lower dermis. Like any wound, your body will go into an overdrive state in order to mend this area. It does this through a regeneration of cells to the wounded area. This can take around a month or more to complete.

Depending where on your body you are tattooed, your skin type and sensitivities, as well as the intensity of the design, this healing stage can look differently for every tattoo you get. Sometimes this regeneration of your skin may appear rough or wrinkly. This can be concerning since your tattoo initially looks smooth and uniform, but it’s not usually something to be worried about.

While a wrinkly tattoo is normally just a sign of the skin healing, it can sometimes be caused by other factors. Other reasons your tattoo may look wrinkly are:

  • Hydration concerns - Your tattoo requires a thin layer of moisturizer after each wash, because this hydration helps with the healing process. If your tattoo has not been given adequate hydration, this wrinkly look may just be a sign of dry skin. For more information, have a look at our article, What Happens If You Don’t Moisturize A New Tattoo?
  • Too Much Water - If you are taking long showers, very hot showers, or are submerging your tattoo for too long, this can cause your skin to appear wrinkly. Have a look at our article, Can You Shower After Getting A New Tattoo? Tips and Advice.
  • Avoid Strenuous Exercising - What you may think is a wrinkly skin may actually be tattoo cracking caused by strenuous exercising. You should work up to bigger workouts over time, and you should allow your tattoo enough time to heal properly before you dive into activities that require a lot of movement and lead to a lot of sweat. Have a look at our article, Can I Work Out With A New Tattoo? - Tattoo Safety Guide.

How Long Will My Tattoo Look Wrinkled For?

Tattoos can take up to a month to fully heal, and for some people, they will only start to look “normal” after the second or even the third month.

Tattoo aftercare is something that should continue beyond the one month of healing to ensure the longevity of your tattoo, and if you maintain a meticulous aftercare regimen, the wrinkly appearance on your tattoo should disappear in a few weeks.

It’s also important that during this time you don’t try and overcompensate by putting too much lotion on your tattoo to combat the wrinkles. Oversaturating your tattoo can result in other concerns such as tattoo bubbling or thick scabbing. If you’re ever in doubt, have a look at our article, Tattoo Scabbing - Your Complete How To Guide.

How To Look After That Wrinkled Skin

In order to manage your wrinkly tattoo, you merely need to continue your aftercare process and give it time to fully heal on its own. Be patient, do not pick at your tattoo, and make sure you are getting adequate rest. Your aftercare should include:

  • Washing your tattoo at least twice daily and patting it dry when you are done.
  • Taking short, lukewarm showers, and not putting your tattoo directly under the stream of water.
  • Moisturizing your tattoo after every cleanse, making sure it is dry before you apply a thin layer of moisturizer on your tattoo. Pat off any excess moisturizer with a paper towel.
  • Do not use petroleum-based products, like Vaseline. See our recommended ointments for tattoos.
  • Wear light, loose, breathable clothing, and keep your tattoo uncovered so it can breathe.
  • Avoid intense exercise or physical activity.
  • Avoid putting your tattoo in direct sunlight.

Our Final Thoughts

A wrinkled tattoo is just another normal part of the healing process for some people and some skin types, and is nothing to be worried about. Simply giving your new ink time and ensuring you are sticking to a thorough aftercare regimen will have you revealing your smooth, beautiful ink to the world in no time. If you are ever concerned, do not hesitate to speak to your tattoo artist who may give you tips or recommendations on how to best move through this healing stage.

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