Getting a tattoo is an exciting and liberating experience.
It’s a statement that you have complete autonomy of what goes onto your body, and getting a piece of art or some meaningful words inscribed onto your skin can be a really special thing.
However, as with most fun things, there are always some risks to consider when getting a tattoo.
The decision to get a tattoo is a big one; you’re placing something on your body forever (pretty much!), and there’s no guarantee that you will love the end product as much as you imagined.
The idea of not liking the end result is not the only risk.
As getting a tattoo is an invasive procedure, you can also end up with some pretty damaged skin. The needle creates an open wound, meaning that there are risks of infection whenever you get a tattoo.
You’ve all seen the way some people’s tattoos make their skin bubbly, right? Yeah, it’s probably not something you’d like to happen to you.
Luckily for you, though, this article will tell you everything you need to know about why the bubbles appear, and how to prevent and treat them.
Read on to make sure that when you get your tattoo, you can avoid the bubbly mess and show your bodily artwork off to everyone around you!
Why Do Tattoos Bubble Up?
Tattoo bubbling can be a very normal part of the healing process for a fresh tattoo. As you know, the act of getting a tattoo is invasive and creates open wounds on your skin.
This means that the body finds ways to help heal these wounds; one of which includes making the skin bubble.
The location of a tattoo tends to start bubbling – if it does – during the healing stage, when the wounds are beginning to scab. Scabs, themselves, are a good sign – they show that your skin is healing naturally.
However, scabs can become itchy and inflamed, and any tattoo artist will tell you not to itch or pick at the scabs because that could lead to changing the appearance of your tattoo.
One thing that tattoo artists will tell you to do instead of itching is to moisturize the affected areas and to wash them with warm water and antibacterial soap.
Keeping the tattoo and scabs moist and clean will reduce the itchiness, and hopefully help the skin to heal.
However, tattoo bubbling is what happens when you over-moisturize, or when the affected skin becomes too wet.
Liquid and excess moisture get trapped under the scabs, and this then causes the scabs to rise and form bubbles.
The bubbles are normally gooey and soft, which means that they are easily broken.
The moist bubbles can also get stuck to clothes and be ripped off.
If a tattoo bubble is broken, though, not only can it cause pain and spread the infection, but it could also cause your end-result tattoo to change – for example, the ink could leak and move from where it should be.
After spending so much time and money on getting a tattoo, it is so frustrating to then damage the tattoo because of improper aftercare or unfortunate healing.
Tattoo bubbles are a pain for the skin and the eyes; they are not very nice to have on your body and can cause long-term problems.
It is therefore very important to do everything you can to prevent these bubbles from forming, or to stop the bubbling if it has already started.
Do not fear: below is all the information you need to know to make sure that if the bubbles come for you, you know how to scare them off!
Don’t Over-Do the After-Care!
Every tattoo artist will make sure you have the aftercare instructions you need to give your tattoo the best chance at healing well.
However, not all of them will tell you that you can actually care too much for your healing skin.
As you now know, the bubbling of a tattoo occurs when the scabs are too moist. So, one of the things you can do to prevent bubbling is to limit the amount you moisturize it.
You can do this by only moisturizing your tattoo once it has had a few hours since the previous application of moisturizer. Your skin needs time where it’s open to the fresh air between moisturizes.
The second thing you can do to prevent bubbling is to make sure you only apply moisturizer when the tattoo is completely dry.
So, before applying your moisturizer, make sure that your skin has no excess water on it.
Applying moisturizer while the skin is still wet will lock in that moisture beneath the scabs and promote the growth of bubbles.
Over-moisturizing is not the only way a tattoo can get too wet. Cleaning the affected area too frequently or without letting it dry properly can also lead to bubbles forming.
One thing you can do to prevent this is to dry your tattoo (pat it dry gently!) as soon as you get out of the shower or bath, or straight after it has any contact with water.
If you don’t dry the area immediately, the water is more likely to remain and seep under the scabbing skin and cause the infected bubbles to appear.
Another way of reducing the wetness of your tattoo is to keep your tattoo away from water completely, aside from when you clean it.
One of the ways you can do this is to cover your tattoo when you shower, to make sure that it stays as dry as possible.
Or, you can just tactically stand with your tattoo away from the water when washing your body, depending on the location of the tattoo.
Avoiding baths for a few weeks after getting your tattoo is also a wise idea; soaking it for long periods of time is one of the worst things you can do for your new tattoo.
So, the best aftercare instructions that help to prevent bubbling are, essentially:
- Do not wash your tattoo more than 3-4 times per day
- Dry your tattoo before moisturizing, and use a small amount of moisturizer
- Dry your tattoo as soon as you can after it has contact with water
- Limit the tattoo’s exposure to water
- Avoid soaking your tattoo
If you follow these steps, alongside any instructions that your tattoo artist has given you, you’re bound to manage to avoid the dreaded bubble!
How to Get Rid of Tattoo Bubbling
Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try, your tattoo could still start to bubble. Whether you’ve not been given great after-care advice, or you haven’t managed to keep your tattoo dry, you’ll want to get rid of the bubbling as soon as you can.
Below are some tips on how to stop your tattoo from bubbling.
First thing’s first: if you notice that your tattoo has begun to bubble, it is important to act quickly. The sooner you follow these steps, the more likely it is that your tattoo will heal without any long-term damage.
The most important thing to do is to let the tattoo and affected area dry. As soon as you notice your skin bubbling, you must avoid getting it wet until it has dried completely.
Try not to shower or have a bath, and if the tattoo gets wet from rain or anything else, dry it immediately.
This may take several hours, but it will be worth the wait. Once the tattoo and skin have dried completely, the scabs will be a lot harder and could start falling off.
Although this may not seem like a good thing, it is; the harder the scabs are, or the fewer of them there are, the less likely it is for water to continue building up under the skin.
This means that the bubbling is more likely to stop and less likely to spread.
The second thing you must do once you notice bubbling is to avoid moisturizing the area for at least twenty-four hours.
It may seem counterintuitive not to wash or moisturize your tattoo if it’s visibly plagued with bubbles, but leaving it alone to dry – without any added moisture – is the best thing you can do.
Just as avoiding water will help the scabs to dry and disappear, avoiding moisturizer for twenty-four hours after bubbling will help the scabs to dry completely.
Moisturizer could lock in any remaining moisture and prevent the scabs from getting better.
Exposing your tattoo to air will likely help to speed up the drying process, too. So, if you want to see results quickly, avoid covering your tattoo and give it access to as much air as you can.
Allowing the tattoo to dry naturally in the air will also reduce the possibility of further infection.
If you notice your tattoo bubbling, one thing you must do is make sure to avoid any tight clothing and reduce the tattoo’s contact with any accessories.
The soft bubbles on the tattoo are easily broken, and breaking the bubbles is something you want to avoid at all costs.
If the bubbles break, the tattoo could be damaged, and the skin could get infected.
Tight clothes and accessories can easily get stuck to the bubbles and rip them open, so wear loose-fitting clothing – or leave the tattoo uncovered, if you can.
Try not to touch the bubbles. No matter how hygienic you are, our hands and fingers carry bacteria and germs.
If more bacteria were to come into contact with the open wounds, it is likely that the bubbles and scabs would become infected, and would be less likely to dry or heal quickly.
If the skin in the affected area were to become infected, the bubbling process could easily be prolonged, and more damage could be done to the existing tattoo.
Also, just as clothes and accessories can rip open the bubbles, touching the bubbles with your fingers or hands also creates the possibility of ripping the bubbles off.
As you now know, ripping the bubbles can both damage the appearance of the tattoo, and cause skin infections – both of which are things you want to avoid at all costs.
Once the bubbles and skin around the tattoo have completely dried, it is important that you return to your usual aftercare routine.
To prevent the bubbles from reappearing or worsening, when returning to your normal routine you must – as always – ensure the tattooed skin is completely dry before moisturizing and only use a small amount of moisturizer.
The best ways to get rid of bubbling are, in summary:
- Act quickly
- Let the affected area dry completely
- Avoid water
- Do not moisturize for twenty-four hours after bubbling is noticed
- Get air to the area
- Avoid tight clothing
- Try not to fiddle with the bubbles!
- Return to your usual aftercare routine the next day
Why Is It So Important To Care Of The Bubbles?
Following these tips and instructions is so important because bubbling can cause some serious long-term problems for you and your tattoo.
When left alone, bubbling is only likely to get worse. In bad cases, the bubbling can develop into angry red ulcers that are filled with lymph fluid.
These ulcers can not only be painful, but they also increase the risk of getting a skin infection.
As with any infection, tattoo infections have the potential to be serious and cause long-term harm to you and your tattoo, so they must be avoided where possible.
As well as the obvious health implications, leaving tattoo bubbling untreated can also damage the appearance of your tattoo.
As well as the aforementioned possibility of ink leaks that can change the look of your tattoo, infections, and bubbling that aren’t improved can also cause aesthetic damage.
For example, if you notice bubbling but continue to wear tight clothing, and if the bubbles get ripped open or torn off, your skin is probably going to be torn and damaged, too.
As your skin is the canvas for the tattoo, any breaks to the skin or any parts of skin that are pulled off can also cause breaks in the tattoo or parts of the tattoo to disappear.
After putting so much thought into your tattoo’s design, and after investing a lot of money – and a fair bit of pain – into getting it, it is incredibly frustrating to have the tattoo compromised by infection and bubbling.
If you want to make sure your tattoo turns out as you planned, and if you want to avoid painful skin infections, it’s best that you take care of your bubbling tattoo as soon as you notice it.
The Bottom Line
Tattoo bubbling is not just an inconvenience, but it can also cause damage to your skin and the appearance of your new tattoo.
However, as you can see, there are many things you can do to avoid this unpleasant experience, and measures that you can take if your skin has already started bubbling.
As with most things, prevention is better than cure.
Of course, it is better to never have this issue in the first place.
However, if your skin tattoo has begun to form bubbles, there are still things you can do to minimize – and hopefully, even avoid – any long-term issues.
If you follow the tips included in this article, it is likely that you could come out the other side of tattoo bubbling with no repercussions, and a lovely, healthy tattoo.
If you do believe that your skin has become infected, you should reach out to your doctor or another medical professional to seek the necessary treatment.
No matter the size or type of your tattoo, anyone can experience tattoo bubbling.
Whether your tattoo is the size of a pinhead or a full sleeve or artwork, make sure you take good care of your vulnerable skin, so that you can enjoy the tattoo experience to the fullest!