Tattoo Cracking: Why It’s More Common Than You Think

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Did you just get a new tattoo and notice some tattoo cracking? Don’t panic just yet! It’s actually quite common for tattoos to crack during the healing process if the skin becomes too dry. While there are a couple of different reasons why this can happen, it’s not necessarily a cause for concern.

When it comes to the healing process of a new tattoo, there are usually multiple symptoms taking place at once. So, if your tattoo is cracking, is there reason to worry? Let’s take a closer look and find out. Remember, taking care of your tattoo during the healing process is crucial to ensure it looks great for years to come.

Why Is My Tattoo Cracking? Understanding the 4 Main Reasons

Tattoo cracking usually happens when the skin on the surface of your tattoo is forming a scab that will eventually break away. But why does this happen? Let’s explore the four major causes of tattoo cracking:

1. Scabs when healing

One common cause of cracking is the size and presence of scabs. While some people don’t scab significantly, others experience more severe scabbing. When scabs become raised and dry, they are more likely to crack.

2. Dry skin

Another reason for tattoo cracking is dry skin. Your tattoo artist will recommend keeping your skin moisturized during the healing process to maintain a well-healed and beautiful tattoo. Dry skin can cause your scabs to thicken and crack.

For more details on the topic, see our article on dry healing tattoos vs moist healing.

3. Infection (rare)

In rare cases, tattoo cracking can be a sign of infection. Improper hygiene and poor sanitation can allow bacteria and germs to enter the open wound left by a new tattoo. If your cracked tattoo is accompanied by a raised temperature, pus, itching, or a foul smell, seek medical attention immediately.

4. Overworking the skin during the tattoo process

According to a study published in the Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, overworking the skin during the tattoo process can lead to poor healing, scabbing, and cracking. This is because the skin becomes damaged and inflamed, leading to the formation of thick and dry scabs that are more prone to cracking.

What Can You Do to Prevent Tattoo Cracking?

Are you worried about your new tattoo cracking and ruining its appearance? Luckily, there are some easy steps you can take to prevent this from happening.

– Keep your skin hydrated

First and foremost, make sure to keep yourself and your skin hydrated. Drinking plenty of water and using a mild tattoo moisturizer or lotion two to four times a day can go a long way in keeping your tattoo well-moisturized and properly hydrated. Not only will this help prevent cracking, but it can also help your tattoo heal quicker.

Check out our tattoo aftercare instructions based on medical literature for more details on proper tattoo care.

– Avoid hot water

Next, try to avoid exposing your tattoo to hot water or high temperatures. Hot water can strip oils from your skin and make it naturally drier, which can lead to cracking. If you need to rehydrate your skin, talk to a tattoo professional who can recommend a safe oil, like coconut oil. For more details on this, see our article on coconut il on tattoos.

– Don’t pick, pull or peel your healing tattoo

It may be tempting to pick at your tattoo if it starts to crack, but don’t do it! Even though it might be annoying or itchy, pulling at the skin can harm the new tattoo and cause further damage. The most effective way to take care of a cracking tattoo is to reduce the likelihood of cracking happening in the first place.

– Avoid sunlight

To keep your tattoo from cracking, it’s crucial to protect it from direct sunlight and tanning beds. The harmful UV rays can dry out the skin and cause damage, which can result in cracking. So, how can you keep your tattoo safe in the sun?

One way is to cover the tattoo with clothing or use a tattoo-specific sunscreen with a high SPF. This will help to shield your skin from the harmful rays and keep it moisturized during the healing process.

It’s also best to avoid tanning beds altogether while your tattoo is healing. Tanning beds can be even more damaging than direct sunlight, as they emit concentrated UV rays that can dry out your skin and cause significant damage.

– Make sure your tattoo is dry and clean when applying ointment

When applying moisturizer or lotion to your tattoo, make sure that the area is clean and dry. A thin layer of moisturizer is all you need to create a barrier on the tattoo and keep the moisture intact. Applying too much lotion or cream can actually result in a longer healing time and increase the risk of cracking. Check our post “How Often Should I Moisturize My New Tattoo?” for more info on this.

By following these simple steps, you can help prevent tattoo cracking and ensure that your new ink looks fantastic for years to come.

Old Tattoos Cracking

While tattoo cracking is a normal part of the healing process for new tattoos, it’s not typical for an old tattoo to be exhibiting this symptom. So what’s going on?

If your old tattoo is exhibiting excessive cracking or other symptoms such as itching or inflammation, it may be a sign of something more serious, such as an allergic reaction or infection. In these cases, it’s important to consult a medical professional or a tattoo artist who can provide expert advice.


To wrap things up, if you’re noticing cracks in your new tattoo, don’t stress – it’s a common issue that you can take steps to prevent. The first step is understanding the primary causes of tattoo cracking, which include scabs, dry skin, infection, and overworking the skin during the tattoo process. To avoid cracking, it’s important to keep your skin hydrated, stay away from hot water, and shield your tattoo from the sun. Remember not to pick or pull at your tattoo, and always apply moisturizer to clean, dry skin. By following these tips, you can make sure your tattoo heals properly and looks amazing for years to come.


Is it normal for a tattoo to crack?

Generally speaking, it’s nothing to worry about if your tattoo appears to be cracking. It’s a normal part of the healing process where new skin is forming over the ink, and this can cause a scab to develop that will eventually peel off. Since tattoos are located in the dermis layer below the skin’s surface, the ink should remain unaffected by this process.

Is it normal for tattoo to crack under Saniderm/tattoo bandage?

Yes, it’s normal for the skin to appear dry, peeling, crusty, or even cracked underneath a second skin bandage. This is a normal part of the healing process for tattoos, so there’s nothing to be concerned about.

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