Last Updated on March 22, 2023
Choosing the right tattoo artist is crucial. Arguably, it’s one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. After all, their work will be on your skin forever, and you’ll need someone who can do your vision justice.
If you make a poor judgment call or the promises of a shady artist blindside you, things can turn sour very quickly.
The crisp, well-defined edges of your tattoo may become lost in a muddle of smudged ink, and suddenly, your piece looks like the result of an over-enthused novice with a gun rather than a reputable professional.
A tattoo blowout is a big problem. If you don’t choose your artist carefully, it’s just one of many risks you’re exposing yourself to. So before you rush off to get inked, let’s learn more about tattoo blowout, how you can avoid it, and what can be done if it happens.
What is Tattoo Blowout?
Look at any professional tattoo, and you should see a vision of perfection. Sharp lines, bold color, and precise placement are just a few of the hallmarks of a quality tattoo.
However, if you find blurry lines, bleeding ink, or a general blotchy mess, you’re probably looking at a tattoo blowout. Colors can unintentionally bleed together, and the ink will disperse sporadically through the layers of your skin.
Think of it this way: if you see a tattoo that looks like it needs a good wipe to remove excess ink and tidy up the edges, THAT’S a tattoo blowout.
What Causes Tattoo Blowout?
Tattoo blowouts happen when an artist doesn’t apply the ink correctly. This could be for several reasons. Perhaps they’ve started tattooing too deep, gone in at the wrong angle, or gone in too shallow with the ink.
If any of these things happen, the ink goes too deep into the skin. When you get a tattoo, the ink should sit ONLY on the top layers of your skin. If it goes too deep, it begins to disperse out into a layer of fat. This then creates the blurred effect associated with tattoo blowout.
Whether they’re the result of inexperience or bad work, tattoo blowouts are NOT cool. A blowout is almost always the fault of the artist. So let’s take a closer look at some of the most common causes of a tattoo blowout.
Pushing the Needle Too Deep
Artists being too heavy-handed during a session is one of the most common causes of tattoo blowout. However, sometimes things go wrong. Even the most experienced and well-trained artists can cause small blowouts. In fact, small blowouts are pretty standard.
However, suppose the needle is pushed too deep into the hypodermis. In that case, you’ll see a much larger blowout resulting from the difference in cell structure and the amount of pressure used during tattooing.
Lack of Experience
If your artist is inexperienced, they can make plenty of mistakes that will cause a blowout. For example, if your tattoo artist holds the machine at an awkward or slanted angle, the ink may be more likely to leak into nearby areas, causing a blowout.
Whenever you get a tattoo, it’s normal for the artist to need to pull slightly at your skin. In most cases, your skin will need to be tightened slightly to ensure the ink is distributed evenly over flat skin.
However, if the artist pulls at your skin too much, especially on thinner or more delicate areas, the needle can move at an angle and cause a blowout. It can also open up more layers of tissue for the ink to bleed into.
Skin Stretching During Healing
In some cases, a blowout can occur during the healing process rather than the tattoo session. There are a few areas of the body particularly prone to blowouts: elbows and the tops of hands.
These areas of the body are moved and stretched frequently, often subconsciously. However, too much movement can cause the ink to move during the healing process, resulting in a blotchy-looking blowout.
Fingers and wrists are other areas also more prone to blowouts due to their frequent movement.
Tattooing on Thin Skin
The skin has three layers: the epidermis (top layer), the dermis (middle layer), and the hypodermis (the bottom layer that stores blood vessels and fat cells).
Accidentally going too deep and tattooing the hypodermis is what causes most blowouts. If you have naturally thin skin, or you’re getting a tattoo on an area of your body with thin skin, the distance between your epidermis and hypodermis is much smaller.
This means you’re more susceptible to blowouts, even if an experienced artist is tattooing you.
Your tattoo artist will need to be more careful and use an even smaller amount of pressure when tattooing thin skin to avoid blowouts. A reputable professional can tattoo thin skin with minimal complications. However, an artist shouldn’t try it with minimal experience. The moral of the story? Do your research!
How Soon After Tattooing Can Blowouts Happen?
In most cases, blowouts begin to appear shortly after the ink has entered your skin. However, it can sometimes take up to a few weeks for the ink to travel through your skin enough to be visible at the surface.
The time it takes for a blowout to become visible depends on a number of factors, including:
- How deep into the hypodermis the needle went
- How much you move during the tattoo session
- How much your skin has been stretched during the healing process. (For example, if you had a tattoo on an area of the body susceptible to frequent movements, such as an elbow, a blowout might appear sooner)
How Do I Know If I Have a Blowout?
If your tattoo looks blurred around the edges, the ink looks like it has been ‘spilled’ beneath the skin, or areas of your skin surrounding the tattoo that haven’t been tattooed are darkening, you probably have a tattoo blowout. Your tattoo will look smudged as the ink appears to move outwards from the tattoo.
Is Tattoo Ink Running Normal?
If your new tattoo is leaking ink, this is normal! It’s a standard part of the healing process, and in most cases, your tattoo will stop leaking, oozing, weeping, and being tender between 1-3 days after your tattoo.
Ink running is different to a blowout. If the ink running is a natural part of the healing process, you will see it leaking ON TOP of your skin. You’ll be able to wipe this away with your hand, and it will not sit beneath the skin. If your ink is running beneath the skin and cannot be removed, this is a blowout.
Tattoo Healing: What Does the Process Look Like?
Now we’ve covered some of the most basic aspects of the blowout phenomenon, we’ll talk about the tattoo healing process, so you’ll know exactly what to be aware of.
Signs of a Healing Tattoo
Redness and Weeping
Redness and weeping are the first things you’ll experience in the healing process. When your tattoo is finished, your artist will bandage it up, usually with a clear film. You may have to keep this on anywhere between an hour to a week, depending on the size of your tattoo, and the artist’s advice.
When you’re ready to remove the bandage, your tattoo may start to ooze fluid, and it may feel tender and be noticeably red.
This is perfectly normal, and it may continue for anywhere between a few days to a few weeks. If the redness and oozing get worse or don’t start to subside after a week, you should consult your doctor for advice.
Itching is common when a wound heals, and you can expect your tattoo to itch and flake during the process.
You should resist the urge to scratch it when this happens, as this can irritate your skin. Applying a soothing, gentle lotion to your skin should reduce the itching. You could also apply an ice pack to the area.
The next phase of the healing process is peeling. Peeling can occur between the second and fourth week, and parts of your tattoo may start to flake off. This is perfectly normal, and it’s your body’s natural response to a perceived injury.
Remember: the ink of your tattoo will NOT flake off, even if the skin above it does. Peeling is a good sign that your tattoo is healing correctly.
The aftercare process begins as soon as your tattoo is on your skin. However, you should keep up the process for several months after your tattoo is fully healed. To care for your tattoo correctly, you should do the following:
- Wash the tattoo twice a day with soap and water. Gently pat the area dry.
- When the tattoo is dry, delicately apply a layer of soothing, antibacterial ointment to the skin. You can also use a moisturizer.
- Keep applying moisturizer to the skin long after the tattoo is healed to keep the colors vibrant.
Can You Fix a Tattoo Blowout?
In short, yes, you can. Tattoo blowouts are frustrating and unprofessional, but it’s important to remember that they’re not a danger to your health, they don’t cause you any pain or discomfort, and there are plenty of options to fix them.
Here are some of the most common ways to improve a tattoo blowout:
Laser correction therapy is one of the most successful ways to treat tattoo blowouts. With laser correction, waves of energy are absorbed by the ink particles in your skin.
This energy disperses the ink away further into your skin, reducing the appearance of your blowout. Depending on the size and severity of the blowout, you may need five or six sessions to correct the problem.
Tattoo Cover Up
If you love the idea of getting inked again, you could always cover up your blowout with a new tattoo. Cover-ups may be more expensive than laser correction, depending on how large or colorful your tattoo needs to be.
For example, some artists may suggest covering up your blowout with a watercolor style tattoo or a larger, bolder piece. If you decide to get a cover-up, make sure you choose the right artist.
Of course, not all artists specialize in cover-up designs, and you’ll need to choose carefully so you can avoid the risk of another blowout.
Remember: If you want a cover-up, you may have to wait between 2 to 4 months before you proceed. You’ll need to let your tattoo heal entirely before covering it.
If you want a quick fix before you opt for a permanent solution, you could cover up your blowout with makeup. This is the ideal quick fix, especially if you still want to show off your tattoo! In many cases, a drug store concealer or foundation will do the trick.
If you want something a little thicker, you can buy concealer specifically designed to hide tattoos. It’s usually much thicker than a regular concealer, and it can be purchased online and even in some tattoo shops.
Surgical Tattoo Removal
This is a more extreme option, but it may be right for you. With surgical tattoo removal, a surgeon will physically excise the tattooed skin, and sew the surrounding skin back together.
This is the most invasive method for fixing a blowout, and it will involve a long recovery time and a high risk of scarring. Therefore, you should explore other options carefully before considering surgical tattoo removal.
How Can You Avoid a Blowout?
Remember: blowouts are a mistake rather than a complication. Although there are things you can do to avoid a tattoo blowout, once the tattoo is on your skin, your options are reduced. To minimize the risk of tattoo blowout, you should consider the following things.
Artist and Studio Reputation
One of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is choosing the right artist. Your research should include the following things:
Any reputable artist will use social media to showcase their work. This could be on an instagram or Facebook feed or on their business website. If you can’t find any example of their work online, ask if you can view a physical portfolio when you visit the studio.
Choose Your Placement Carefully
The placement of your tattoo can also determine how likely you are to experience a blowout. Remember, areas of the body susceptible to regular movements, like elbows and fingers, are riskier.
Talk to your artist about your concerns, especially if you have thin skin. For example, if you have thin skin and you want a tattoo on or near a joint, your artist may advise against this.
How Long Does a Blowout Last?
This is a frequently asked question. The truth is, a blowout will NOT go away on its own. If your blowout is minor, it may start to dissipate on its own after a few months to a year; however, it’s unlikely to disappear completely.
In most cases, a blowout is permanent and can only be fixed by the aforementioned methods, such as laser correction, a cover-up, make-up, or surgical removal.
A small tattoo with a blowout will be easier to fix than a large one. If your tattoo is small, the blowout is likely to be less severe, and there’s a chance it may fade significantly on its own. This is another reason why you should choose the size and placement of your tattoo carefully.
A blowout is something that no one wants to deal with. There are no actual statistics to suggest how common it is, but it does happen, and it’s a risk you’ll face whenever you get inked.
The truth is, although we have no control over the whole tattoo process, we can choose to go to an artist and parlor that we feel confident putting our faith in and trusting with our vision. This is why you should approach research slowly and sensibly to avoid working with someone inexperienced.
If you choose a reputable artist or parlor, the likelihood of a blowout occurring is minimal – ESPECIALLY if you can view their portfolio!
If you do experience a blowout, we’ve talked you through all the important information you need to know, from how to prevent it and how to fix it. Fixing a blowout isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible!
Frequently Asked Questions
Is A Tattoo Blowout The Artist’s Fault?
In most cases, the artist is to blame for a blowout. It’s usually the result of inexperience, bad work, or poor technique.
What Happens If A Tattoo Artist Makes A Mistake?
It’s unlikely that your artist will make a big mistake. However, no artist is flawless – if a small mistake is made, it’s usually an easy fix. If it’s a big mistake, you have every right to file a complaint against the parlor if you weren’t at fault.
Can You Sue A Tattoo Artist For Bad Work?
In short, yes. If your artist didn’t take the appropriate measures to prevent injury or infection, or the standard of work does not meet your expectations, you may be able to file a claim. However, this can be more expensive than getting laser removal or a cover-up.
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