Tattoo Ink Sack – When Should You Worry About Them?

Tattoos are a remarkable work of art, expressing oneself in a unique way. In all of their many tattoo adventures, most people have never experienced an ink sack forming. Although looking down and seeing a dark, liquid-filled sack may be a little frightening, they are perfectly harmless and nothing to worry about.

Traditional tattoo aftercare does not tend to form ink sacks, because it is the Saniderm product that forms the sealed area for the ink sack to form. Saniderm allows the ink sack to stay sealed while allowing the tattoo to breathe at the same time.

Recently more people have taken notice of these ink sacks because videos have been shared more on social media. Some think they are pretty cool and fun to watch, while others are a little skeptical about how they feel about them. Either way though, keep in mind, ink sacks are a healthy and natural part of the healing process.

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What Is An Ink Sack?

An ink sack is a sack of fluid that has formed just over a tattoo but under a film that has been placed over a newly laid tattoo. This film is called Saniderm and is put over the tattoo to protect the skin, and tattoo from forming an infection. Saniderm allows the tattoo to heal without scabbing and helps to keep bacteria and any other irritants away from the open skin.

Image by Benjamin Balazs from Pixabay

What Causes It To Form?

Our bodies naturally attempt to heal themselves and may send an inflammatory fluid to the surface of the skin, called plasma. Plasma is the clear part of blood that we often see come from wounds or sores. This plasma and ink from the tattoo will form a fluid-filled sack under the film. It is a perfectly safe and normal reaction from our bodies.

In the past, traditional wraps have been used, but do not absorb, seal in, and allow the skin to breathe as well as Saniderm does. This sealing in of the film is what allows the ink sack to form. When the natural reaction of our wounds to weep plasma kicks in, the Saniderm then holds the plasma and ink in, forming the ink sack.

Loose clothing, sheets, blankets, and other things can irritate and scratch a healing tattoo, causing it to not heal to its full potential. Saniderm, or any other film, prevents this from happening, making the healing process much better, and the tattoo looking its best.

Tattoo artists prefer Saniderm when it comes to a film placing on a freshly done tattoo. An ink sack will not likely form under another film such as saran wrap because it is not a sealed adhesive on the skin. Saniderm is a healthier option though, because it is absorbent and allows the wound to “breathe”. This allows the tattoo to heal quicker, and also gives brighter colors and darker blacks.

Credit: saniderm

Should You Remove It?

You will want to remove your ink sack when it begins to fill too much, which is more common in tattoos with color work and heavy saturation. Remove and clean it when the thickness of the ink sack becomes equal to the thickness of a quarter. If the ink sack becomes too full it can cause the fluid to leak out, giving bacteria an opportunity to get in and cause infections.

Regardless of how much fluid has built up though, you should always remove the film 8 to 24 hours after the tattoo procedure. You’ll need to keep the Saniderm for about six days, unless your tattoo is brimming with an ink sack again. In which case you’ll want to clean and replace it again after 24 hours.

It is advisable to treat an ink sack every 24 hours regardless of how full, just to be safe. It may fill a bit too full without you being aware and cause it to leak out. If fluid can leak out, bacteria can get in. It is important to prevent infections from forming.

Infections can lead to poor health conditions as well as ruin a tattoo. Signs of an infection in the first 24 hours are redness and irritation of the skin, and itching.

Other signs of infection further on in the healing process can vary depending on the person. These symptoms can include fever, pus discharge, redness, irritation, sensitivity to touch, blisters, deforming of the tattoo, bad smell, severe pain, and blisters.

If you notice anything unusual during your healing process it is best to seek medical attention from your doctor. Serious infection in new tattoos only happen about 5% of the time, and are not a common concern if there are proper aftercare.

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How Should You Remove It?

When removing an ink sack, you will want to thoroughly clean, dry, and if you choose, apply ointment to the tattoo before reapplying the Saniderm or film of your choice. To remove the film, pull the film in a downwards direction, not pulling up off your skin, but downward. This keeps the film from pulling at your skin and removing any skin or healthy scabs that have formed. Scabs are a normal part of the tattoo healing process, but they need to fall off on their own and not be pulled or picked off.

After removing the film, you will need to clean the tattoo with a clean cloth, or rag and mild soap. Do not submerge your tattoo in water, as this can allow bacteria to infect the wound. It is perfectly safe to shower with a fresh tattoo. Now that the tattoo is clean, it is time to dry the area. It’s best to pat the tattoo so as to not pull or tug, or harm the new tattoo.

The area should be completely dry before applying any ointment and placing new film over it. Any ointment recommended by your tattoo artist is safe to use in your aftercare treatment. Do not place ointment on the tattoo under the film for the first two to three days, but there are ointments you can use this with. People with oily skin or in humid areas tend to not need ointments applied.

So, if cleaning the ink sack in the first two or three days, you should completely dry the area and place a new film over it. If you are continuing on with traditional tattoo aftercare, no replacement film is necessary.

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Can You Pop It?

You would not want to purposely pop an ink sack while your tattoo is healing. This is not to say you should not take it off, clean the area, and replace the film. After the first 24 hours each film should be removed, gently cleaned, thoroughly dried, and a replacement film placed back over it. If traditional tattoo aftercare is in use, you will not need to replace the film but continue on in your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions.

Remember that once air gets in, or any leakage occurs, this is an opportunity for bacteria to enter and infection to begin. If your ink sack has burst, or leaked in any way, it should be cleaned and dried immediately and a new film placed over it.

How Do You Prevent It From Forming?

There is no prevention of Ink sacks from forming. They are a natural reaction from your body during the healing process. The body weeps, or discharges, the clear liquid out of the blood to help with inflammation and healing and forms a liquid sack under the Saniderm film covering the tattoo.

That being in mention before, not all tattoos form an ink sack either. If you would rather not have an ink sack, you can choose to use traditional tattoo aftercare. Traditional aftercare works just as well in healing tattoos and has been in use for many years.

Keep in mind that ink sacks are not unhealthy, although they do look a little different. Following your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions will help you to have the most successful healing time. When choosing your tattoo artist, always look for a clean environment and healthy practices and take their advice on proper care. You will have an awesome, fully healed tattoo in no time! Ink sack or no ink sack, your tattoo will heal marvelously.

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Megan Ivy