Bubbles on a tattoo can happen if your tattoo gets too wet during the healing process. Find out how to fix your bubbling tattoo and stop it being ruined.
Why are there bubbles on my tattoo?
So you’ve gotten a new tattoo and after the pain of the tattoo session you’re hoping the worst is over. But next comes healing your new tattoo, and what’s that? There are bubbles on your tattoo? You’re now questioning if that’s normal; did I use the wrong cream or didn’t I follow the aftercare instructions properly?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you. Our resident tattoo artist Frances Barton is on hand to help - find out why there are bubbles on your tattoo and how you can fix it fast!
Is tattoo bubbling normal?
Bubbles on tattoos, while not necessarily a "normal" part of the tattoo healing process, are more common than you think and are easy to develop. A bubble on your tattoo is caused by too much moisture in your tattooed skin. And, while they may be worrying at the time, they're not the end of the world as tattoo artist Frances reassures us.
"If you have a bubbling tattoo, don’t panic," she says. "This has probably been caused by a mixture of too much moisture sitting on the skin and applying too much cream to your tattoo."
What are those bubbles? My artist couldn’t figure it out what caused them…😢
by u/Donnie_HU in TattooDesigns
Bubbling vs. scabbing
It’s totally normal for tattoos to scab, as they’re a wound that your body is healing. They’re especially common if you’ve had a lot of heavy black work, coloured ink or even a heavy handed tattooer. Scabs can look dry, thick, crusty and possibly cracked and they need special care.
A tattoo bubble - or blister - on the other hand is a tattoo that has become soggy as a result of too much moisture being present on your skin. Instead of being dry, the scabs or the tattoo itself will look wet and have bubbles of moisture on it.
As mentioned, this could be a result of excessively applying aftercare cream or over washing your new tattoo, for example.
Tattoo bubbling can be a sign of too much moisture on or within your tattooed skin
What to do if your tattoo is bubbling
The first thing you need to do is start to dry out your tattoo. Frances says her "best advice to heal a bubbling tattoo would be to let it dry out."
This would mean:
- Ditching the aftercare cream for a little while.
- Keeping your cleaning regime going by using a gentle, fragrance free, antibacterial soap and water.
- Letting it air dry or blotting it with a fresh piece of kitchen towel.
You should also contact the tattoo artist who did your tattoo. They may ask you to send photos of the tattoo so they can see the tattoo bubbling for themselves. They’ll be able to confirm that you do have bubbles on your tattoo and what else you can do next.
How to treat tattoo bubbling
Once you’ve followed the steps to begin drying out the tattoo by no longer applying cream and letting it air dry after washing, your tattoo should begin to calm down.
Frances explains that "everyone’s skin is completely different so keep assessing your tattoo.” You want to make sure that what you’re doing is helping and not making it worse.
Once you’re sure your tattoo is actually drying out, the final step to treating your bubbling tattoo is to reintroduce moisture to it. As Frances tells us, "once your tattoo has calmed down then you can start to cream again but be careful with the amount of cream you use."
"Make sure your tattoo is dry before adding aftercare cream"
She advises that "you want to make sure your tattoo is fully dry before adding your chosen aftercare cream and the best way of doing this is after cleaning, just blot it with a fresh piece of kitchen roll or letting it air dry until the skin feels fully dry, then apply your cream."
"Using too much can also lead to moisture spots so add a little at a time until your skin doesn’t feel as tight rather than slapping it all on at once and always make sure to remove all cream before applying any more throughout the day."
"Add a little [cream] at a time until your skin doesn't feel as tight" - Tattoo artist Frances Barton
Does tattoo bubbling go away on its own?
If you keep adding too much moisture to your tattoo the bubbling will tend to get worse and won’t go away. Instead you need to make a change to your aftercare routine to help get rid of the bubbling. You can find out how to fix your over moisturised tattoo in our guide.
It’s also important that you keep an eye on your new tattoo and look out for the signs of infection such as:
- Your tattoo being swollen and red
- Feeling cold with a fever or shivering
- Pain and tenderness
- Pus coming out of the tattoo
If you think your tattoo is infected you should contact your GP as soon as possible.
How long does it take for tattoo bubbling to heal?
The healing process depends completely on the severity of the tattoo bubbling you’re experiencing. Also the size of the area that is affected will also affect how long it takes to heal.
If you have a few patches of bubbling you should find that after cleaning and letting the area dry out for a few hours then the area should be dramatically improved. If you have a larger area of bubbling then the healing process may take up to a few days.
But remember, says Frances, "everyone’s skin and healing time is completely different so take into account that factor also.” If you want to make sure your tattoo is fully healed check out what a healed tattoo looks like.
Will bubbles on my tattoo ruin my tattoo?
Poor aftercare and bubbling can lead to ink falling out of your tattoo. This could mean your tattoo looks patchy with parts of the design missing. That’s why it’s super important to follow the aftercare your tattoo artist gives you, as well as using products that are specially designed for new tattoos and tattooed skin.
How do I stop my tattoo bubbling?
To stop your tattoo bubbling the main thing to do is ensure your newly tattooed skin doesn't become too wet. This means only applying small amounts of aftercre cream and avoiding baths or swimming, while making sure your gently pat your tattoo dry after a shower before moisturising your skin.
You should also follow the tattoo aftercare advice given to you by your artist closely. This should include instructions on:
- Leaving cling film on
- Washing and drying your new tattoo
- What creams to use and how much
Every artist will have aftercare guidance that’s unique to them, however you’ll want to make sure that you don’t use so much aftercare cream that your tattoo is wet or too little that it starts to crack.
Why is my old tattoo bubbling?
Your old, fully healed tattoo shouldn’t be bubbling. If it is it could be because of an infection, a burn such as sunburn or allergy. You should see your GP or dermatologist as soon as possible.
For more aftercare advice, inspiration, and interviews with amazing artists, check out the Stories & Ink Journal.