Tattoo Bubbling: Causes And How To Fix It

If you see bubbles appear over your fresh ink, it is time to lessen the lotion.

Written by , MA (English) Shreya Mukherjee MA (English) linkedin_icon Experience: 2 years
Edited by , BTech Anjali Sayee BTech linkedin_icon Experience: 7 years
Fact-checked by , Integrated MA (English) Gazala Firdos Ansari Integrated MA (English) linkedin_icon Experience: 2 years

When you get a new tattoo, the initial weeks are crucial as the healing process can bring a challenge called tattoo bubbling. It happens when the scabs on your fresh ink swell up and turn soft and gooey. These bubble-like scabs can stick to your clothes and accidentally burst, even when you take proper care of your tattoo. Although tattoo bubbling is not a big problem, ignoring it may raise the risk of infection and can mess up how your tattoo looks. So, when taking care of your fresh tattoo, it is crucial to keep an eye out for these bubbly scabs. This article explores the reasons behind tattoo bubbling, how to deal with it, and treatment options. Keep reading!

Why Is My Tattoo Bubbling?

Tattoo bubbling occurs during the healing process due to various factors. When you get a new tattoo, your healing skin forms scabs to protect the freshly inked area. However, if you apply excess ointments, these tattoo scabs may absorb too much moisture, causing them to swell and form blister-like bubbles. Incorrect tattoo aftercare steps, for instance, exposing the tattoo to too much water, may also contribute to this issue. While tattoo bubbling is typically harmless, it is crucial to follow a proper aftercare routine to avoid complications and maintain the integrity of the tattoo.

Sometimes, your tattoo may appear swollen and develop bubble-like scabs because of using the wrong aftercare product. A blogger shares her tattoo healing journey after she got a red-inked tattoo on her foot. She writes, “On the 5th night, I noticed that my tat was still really swollen and still looked faded/ pinkish; in other words, ugly. Based on the articles I read, usually they switch to unscented lotion already on the 4th day. So I decided to stop using the ointment and switch to lotion…my tat looked so much better than when I was using ointment. It seemed as if the swelling had gone down and the color was better (i).”

Tattoo bubbles may also occur due to allergic reactions to tattoo inks and the chemical allergens in them. If you notice a rash or swelling paired with the bubbles, please consult a healthcare professional immediately.

While tattoo bubbling is not that uncommon, you might need a little bit more information on how it looks, to be able to correctly deal with the situation. Scroll down to learn more.

What Does Tattoo Bubbling Look Like?

Tattoo Bubbling
Image: Shutterstock

A bubbling tattoo looks swollen and has soft, bubble-like raised scabs that have a gooey texture. The affected area, especially the bubbles, might feel tender. The bubbly scabs on the tattoo may stick to clothing, and the friction may burst those bubbles, leading to pus or blood leakage. This causes pain and may increase the risk of infections and other health complications.

While tattoo bubbling might look harmless, it has the potential to permanently damage the skin. Keep reading to understand how long it may take to heal.

Does Tattoo Bubbling Go Away?

A healing tattoo
Image: Shutterstock

It is normal to feel a bit concerned when you first notice those bubbly scabs on your new tattoo. Rest assured, tattoo bubbling is a temporary phase in the healing process. Initially, the scabs may seem swollen, soft, and have a gooey texture. Be patient during this time and allow your tattoo to heal and settle. Do not apply any lotion, and do not expose it to water.

The bubbly scabs gradually subside as your tattoo heals. The initial swelling decreases, and the sogginess of the new tattoo fades away. It is essential to treat your tattoo with gentle care during this period. Avoid any temptation to pick or peel the scabs. Stick to your aftercare routine faithfully to keep your tattoo clean, and you will witness the bubbled areas smoothing out over time. If you have any concerns, consult your tattoo artist or a healthcare professional who can provide reassurance and guidance.

protip_icon Pro tip
Incorporating foods rich in vitamins C and E, polyphenols, and carotenoids into your diet may aid skin recovery, potentially minimizing the risk of tattoo bubbling during the healing period (1).

If your tattoo is bubbling, there are other tips you can follow to minimize that and help accelerate the healing process. Scroll down to the next section to learn more.

How To Fix Tattoo Bubbling

Avoid touching the tattoo frequently
Image: IStock

Fixing tattoo bubbling requires you to pay careful attention to the healing process. Here is what you can do to address and alleviate this issue:

  • Keep The Area Dry: Pat the tattoo dry with a clean, soft cloth or paper towel after washing. If it is still damp, then let it air dry. Vigorous rubbing may irritate the bubbled areas.
  • Avoid Over-Moisturizing: Apply only a thin layer of ointment or lotion recommended by your artist at the time of your tattoo appointment. Avoid over-applying any product or water to the area, as excessive moisture can contribute to bubbling.
  • Wear Loose Clothing: Loose-fitting clothing helps prevent friction and allows the tattoo to breathe. Tight clothes rub against the skin and may cause the bubbles to burst and disrupt the healing process.
  • Stay Away From Allergens: Avoid applying creams and products that are not recommended by your tattoo artist. They may contain chemicals and allergens that may exacerbate tattoo bubbling. Identify potential allergens that your skin reacts to and steer clear of them.
  • Maintain Hygiene: Stay away from dirty places to prevent the risk of infections or worsening your condition. Follow hygienic practices like washing your hands with warm water frequently and not touching the tattooed area.

A bubbling tattoo is often mistaken as a sign of infection. While a healing tattoo may develop an infection if not cared for properly, it is different from tattoo bubbling. Let’s understand the differences in the next section.

Tattoo Bubbling Vs. Tattoo Infection

Tattoo bubbling and infection are two distinct issues in the tattoo healing process. Bubbling is commonly noticed when scabs on the healing tattoo are exposed to excess moisture. It is a temporary phase and often harmless when managed properly. However, if neglected, the scabs and the tattooed area may end up developing an infection.

A tattoo infection is a more serious concern. It is marked by symptoms like redness, inflammation, persistent pain, and pus. Moreover, the area might feel tender and warm to the touch. While bubbling is a natural part of healing, infection results from bacteria entering the tattooed area either during or after the tattooing process (2). Prompt identification and differentiation between the symptoms of the two issues are crucial. If you notice persistent signs of infection or are uncertain about its symptoms, seek professional advice from a medical expert to ensure the proper course of action for your potentially infected tattoo.

Now that you know the difference between a bubbling and an infected tattoo, the next section tells you more about the preventative measures you can take to avoid the appearance of tattoo bubbles.

How To Prevent Tattoo Bubbling

Moisturize the tattoo properly
Image: Shutterstock

Meticulous aftercare is crucial to avoid abscess formation and the risk of irritation. Consult your tattoo artist for proper aftercare measures and follow them to prevent tattoo bubbling. You may also follow the tips discussed below:

  • Ensure that your tattoo receives just the right amount of moisture. Resist the temptation to over-moisturize, as excess moisture can lead to bubbling.
  • Additionally, adopt a gentle cleaning routine. Use mild, fragrance-free, antibacterial soap and lukewarm water to cleanse the tattooed area. Avoid scrubbing or rubbing the tattoo too hard while cleaning it.
  • Pat dry your new tattoo with a clean paper towel or soft microfiber towel. Do not rub the tattoo, as it may irritate the skin. You can let your newly inked skin air-dry if it is still damp.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes to minimize friction and chafing the scabs. Loose-fitting clothes will help maintain airflow, allowing the tattooed skin to breathe, which is crucial for proper healing.
  • Protect your healing skin from direct sunlight. Cover it up if you must step outside or use SPF as suggested by the doctor. Also, avoid prolonged water contact, as it may cause tattoo bubbling.
  • Avoid touching the healing area even if you notice tattoo bubbles forming, as the tattooed area is vulnerable to infection.

By incorporating these measures into your aftercare routine, you may significantly reduce the risk of encountering bubbling issues. These measures will allow your tattoo to heal seamlessly and maintain its vibrancy.

protip_icon Pro tip
Avoid strenuous activities when the tattoo is bubbling or healing. It might stretch the muscles and the tattooed skin, which may hamper the healing process.

Preventative and treatment measures go hand in hand in protecting the tattooed skin. If your tattoo has developed bubbles, seek help from a licensed tattoo artist and a healthcare professional. The next section discusses the treatment options for managing tattoo bubbling. Scroll down.

Treatment Options For Tattoo Bubbling

Less lotion on the tattoo
Image: IStock

Treating tattoo bubbling depends on the severity of the bubbles and the underlying causes. Tattoo experts and healthcare professionals may suggest using topical ointments. However, in case of a tattoo infection, they may also suggest antibiotics or tattoo removal based on the severity of your situation.

You might need to alter your aftercare routine to treat any tattoo bubbles that may have appeared due to excess moisture. After the bubbling decreases and you notice your tattoo drying and scabbing like a healing wound, you can resume your normal aftercare practices. However, if the bubbling does not go away after a few days, it’s best to visit a doctor. Keep reading to learn more.

When To See A Doctor

If you notice persistent signs of infection, such as increased redness, warmth, persistent pain, or the presence of pus around your tattoo, it is crucial to seek medical attention promptly. Additionally, if tattoo bubbling persists despite proper care or if you have concerns about the healing process, consult a doctor. Timely intervention can prevent complications and ensure the best outcome for your tattoo and overall skin health.

This emotional experience of getting a tattoo involves navigating the intricacies of tattoo healing. Tattoo bubbling occurs when the tattooed area is exposed to excess moisture and dealing with it demands patience, diligence, and proper care. While tattoo bubbling is typically a temporary and manageable aspect of the healing journey, the situation can easily worsen over a matter of days. Therefore it’s essential to take proper care of your tattoo and seek medical help first. Also, let your tattoo breathe freely and follow proper aftercare instructions suggested by your tattoo artist. This will help you nip the problem in the bud and maintain the appearance and vibrancy of your new tattoo. We hope these tips will help you on your tattoo recovery journey for an amazing result!

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for tattoo bubbling to heal?

Tattoo bubbling may take a few days to a couple of weeks to heal properly. If you are consistent with aftercare procedures and allow your tattoo to dry properly, then the bubbling will heal in a day or two.

How is tattoo bubbling different from scabbing?

Scabbing and tattoo bubbling are different. Scabs form on the tattooed area when it starts to heal. However, tattoo bubbling occurs when the scabs are exposed to excess moisture, causing them to swell.

Why is my tattoo bubbling years later?

If your tattoo is bubbling years later, it could be due to various factors like excessive moisture, existing skin conditions, or an allergic reaction. Check in with your tattoo artist or a dermatologist for guidance.

Key Takeaways

  • Tattoo bubbling occurs when the scabs do not heal properly and are exposed to excess moisture, giving them a soft, blister-like appearance.
  • Keeping the tattooed area dry may help minimize the risk of tattoo bubbling. Avoid excess lotion on it, and do not expose it to water if you notice bubbling.
  • Do not pick or scratch the scabs, as it may worsen the inflammation, cause skin irritation, and prolong the healing process.
  • If left unchecked, tattoo bubbling may increase the risk of infection. Therefore, follow proper aftercare measures diligently.

Moisturizing your healing tattoo is a great thing, especially when it’s scabbing. However,  over-moisturizing has its own set of complications that can cause more problems. Check out the video below to learn more!

Personal Experience: Source


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Plant-Based Foods for Skin Health: A Narrative Review, ScienceDirect
  2. The Risk of Bacterial Infection After Tattooing, National Library Of Medicine
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Shreya Mukherjee

Shreya MukherjeeBeauty & Lifestyle Writer

Shreya is a beauty and lifestyle writer with two years of experience. After graduating from Christ University, Bengaluru, she started as a writer for a non-profit organization, Bhumi, as an intern. She then wrote for a progressive content website. Shreya started out writing for ship-breaking industries and display board industries, but as she began experimenting and indulging with makeup full bio

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