Every new tattoo is a completely different experience, and they all have very diverse healing episodes. While some may take only a few weeks to heal, others may take months to be back to normal. Sometimes, a new tattoo experiences a sheen or shininess that is often referred to as “onion skin” and some people worry when, at six weeks, this persists.
We look into just what this shiny skin is and how to manage it.
Table of Contents (clickable)
What Happens To Your Skin
A tattoo is an open wound that requires patience, care, and attention to heal properly. Your skin can go through various healing stages throughout the new tattoo’s life. Each one includes valuable skin cell regeneration and is necessary for ensuring the ink is preserved and comes out looking bright and beautiful.
Here’s how the healing progress looks for most tattoos:
- Days One to Three - This is the weeping stage, where your tattoo pushes out excess ink, blood, and plasma from the wound. This is the most vulnerable stage for your tattoo and sets up your foundation for healing based on how you clean and care for it. After you unwrap your tattoo, meticulous aftercare should begin on day one.
- Days Four to Six - This is when you can start introducing moisturizer into your aftercare regimen, as your tattoo begins to form its first scabs.
- Day Seven to Fourteen - Thicker scabs and peeling skin may begin to form at this stage. Don’t pick at them! Your tattoo will likely be very itchy at this point.
Have a look at our article, The Tattoo Itch Guide: How To Stop And Prevent Tattoo Itching.
- Week Two to Three - Most of your scabbing will begin to fall off after week two, but you should absolutely not speed up the process by picking at your scabs and peeling skin. Leave it be.
- After Week Three - Your tattoo may look completely normal at this point. If not, you may have a dull appearance on your tattoo which is called a milk scab, or it is at this point when you may start to see a shiny tattoo. This could persist for many more weeks but is totally normal.
The healing process for a new tattoo could end around one month or continue for three months, depending on the complexity of the design, your body’s immune system, and the skill level of the artist.
What To Do When Your Tattoo Becomes Shiny
A shiny tattoo is normal and is evidence of your tattoo still healing. Keep your hands off of your tattoo unless it is for aftercare, as you could still compromise the integrity of the tattoo during its “onion skin” stage. This may lead to loss of ink, scarring, or distortion of your tattoo.
Here are some steps to manage the onion skin stage of a new tattoo:
- Wash your skin with lukewarm water and an antibacterial, natural soap that will not compromise the pH balance of your skin. Check out our list of The 6 Best Antibacterial Soaps For Your New Tattoo.
- Only use your hands to scrub the tattooed area; do not use loofas or washcloths as you don’t want to irritate the sensitive skin layer. Scrub off any product remnants from the tattoo.
- Make sure you are taking short showers where the water is not directly on the tattooed area. For more showering tips, have a look at our article, Can You Shower After Getting A New Tattoo? Tips and Advice.
- Pat the tattoo dry and apply a small layer of moisturizer to the area. Select an ointment, lotion, or cream that will hydrate the area.
It is also important that you stay nourished with healthy foods and hydrated as your tattoo heals.
After Your New Tattoo Heals
After around one month of healing, you can begin to use natural exfoliators on the area, being sure to remove any dead skin cells that may be contributing to the shininess of the area. Do not scrub too hard, and make sure that if you feel excessive sensitivity, you stop.
Your tattoo will be fully healed when:
- The color of your tattoo is as vivid and bright as when you were newly tattooed. Tattoos will always naturally fade over time, but your new tattoo should be sharp and impressive for at least the first few months in its life.
- Your tattoo should be smooth to the touch; any bumps, scabs, peeling skin, or raised areas mean it is still healing. Your milk scab will have faded away and the shiny onion skin will have dissipated.
- Your tattoo should no longer be itchy or irritated.
At around two months when it is fully healed, you should have a close look at your tattoo and if you notice pieces that look dull or that fragments of ink are missing in the design, you should discuss getting a touchup with your tattoo artist.
Our Final Thoughts
A shiny tattoo is a normal part of the healing process for many people who get freshly inked, and it is nothing to worry about. In fact, it likely means your tattoo is on the last leg of its healing journey. Continue to take good care of it, and moisturize it to ensure it is staying hydrated during this final stage.