Tattoos, piercings — they’re all just wounds that need healing. But, unlike a piercing, the healing process for a tattoo is a little bit different. The aftercare of a new tattoo is more than just a daily cleanse. It requires moisturization due to peeling. Yes, that’s right — peeling tattoos are normal.

According to Healthline, tattoos peel because your skin cells are regenerating. Since the ink is placed right under the upper and middle layers of your skin during the tattooing process, your skin cells are sort of damaged. Thus, during the healing process — a period of two weeks or more — your skin cells are regenerating, and the peeling of your ink is dead skin cells. Kinda gross, to be honest.

Also, your ink is going to itch. A lot, per Byrdie. But do not, under any circumstances, scratch your tattoo, as you can damage the ink. “If there is some scabbing or flaking, we advise clients not to pick and to allow the scab or dry skin to come off on its own,” Shaughnessy Otsuji, a tattoo artist and owner of Studio Sashiko, said. “Picking at your tattoo during the peeling stage can result in it appearing patchy, distorted, and dull once healed.”

The aftercare process of a peeling tattoo

Since dead cells are shedding off during the tattoo healing process, you must apply extra hydration to your skin, per Healthline. Non-scented or skin-healing lotions are perfect for this. Additionally, try to stay away from activities that require a lot of time outside (via Byrdie). Too much sun exposure along with spending too much time in a pool can damage your ink (and maybe your skin too).

Keep an eye out for any abnormal side effects. While rare, it can still happen, especially if you’re not cleaning and moisturizing your tattoo every day. According to Healthline, inflammation is a sign that your tattoo is not healing properly or that you’re allergic to the ink. So, if your tattooed skin is swollen, red, and peeling, you might want to head to a doctor. While itchiness is expected, extreme itchiness is another side effect you need to look out for, per Byrdie. It’s a possible sign of an infection or inflammation.

Tattoos, while painful, should not cause severe side effects. So, if you see or feel something abnormal, go to the doctor. You don’t want your new tattoo ruined because you ignored serious side effects.

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