Getting a tattoo is such an exciting thing to do; you go through so many emotions, pain, and finally a relief to get that perfect ink on your body. However, sometimes new tattoos can misbehave and result in some concerning behavior, like leaking.
For those getting tattooed regularly, this may seem like a normal occurrence, but if it’s your first time getting a tattoo, things can get pretty concerning.
There are numerous reasons tattoo leaking occurs. In the following paragraphs, we’ll go through everything you need to know about tattoo leaking, what causes it, and how you can manage it. So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Tattoos and Leaking – Explained
Quick Info: Before we get into the topic, we need to make sure every reader knows that tattoos are SUPPOSED to leak a little ink, blood, and plasma in the first 24 to 48 hours. A new, fresh tattoo is considered to be an open wound, so, in order for it to start healing, the body needs to remove excess ink, blood, and plasma.
Why Do Tattoos Leak?
Tattoos leak for numerous reasons, but most often, it is because the tattoo artist has tried to pack too much ink into the skin. Because the ink has nowhere to go but out of the skin, the tattoo starts leaking, which can be pretty messy. But, this is just an overview of the possible leaking causes. Let’s take a look at the leaking causes in more detail;
- You’re Tattoo Is Brand New
New, brand-new tattoos act as open wounds; let’s start with that. Now, imagine trying to push into your body something artificial and possibly toxic, and ensuring it stays there. That’s what tattooing ‘feels like’ to your body.
As a result, the immune system reacts and the body tries to push out the excess ink, so it won’t cause any harm. That’s why brand new tattoos leak ink, but also excess blood and plasma. Such leaking lasts between 24 to 48 hours on average.
- Your Artist Tried To Pack In More Ink
It is well known that tattoo artists try to pack in more ink into the skin, so they generally go beyond the full capacity or the amount of ink the skin can handle. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Some extra ink can ensure your tattoo stays vibrant for a longer time. Moreover, this ink application method can prolong tattoo fading as well.
But, because the body recognizes the ink as a foreign object, it will push away the excess, unnecessary ink. As a result, the tattoo starts leaking, and the rest of the excess ink in the tattoo eventually breaks down, absorbed into the bloodstream (thanks to your lymphatic system), and pushed out of the body as waste.
- You’re Taking Blood-Thinning Medication
People who are on anticoagulants or blood-thinning medication generally experience tattoo leaking. That is because blood-thinners prevent the formation of a blood clot, which is essential for halting bleeding of any kind. So, upon receiving a tattoo, the blood doesn’t clot right away, so the tattoo starts leaking not just the blood but also all the excess, and sometimes all of the ink.
The same issue can occur with people suffering from blood clotting disorders, or immune system disorders. In such cases, the leaking is heavier than usual, which could mess up the tattoo a little bit. However, this isn’t something one should worry about too much. The leaking will eventually stop, and your tattoo artists can fix up the messed-up spots on the tattoo.
- You’ve Had Alcohol Before Getting a Tattoo
Drinking alcohol before a tattoo appointment is a no-go. Alcohol acts as a blood thinner and can promote excess bleeding, as well as ink/tattoo leaking days the tattoo has been completed. However, some people still like to have a drink or two before getting inked, mostly for some liquid courage.
Nevertheless, the majority of tattoo artists won’t tattoo a visibly intoxicated person. In some states, tattooing a drunk person is considered illegal as well. But, in case you’ve managed to sneak into the tattoo studio while being tipsy, there’s the reason your tattoo is leaking.
How Long Is It Okay For Tattoos To Leak?
Now, brand new tattoos generally leak anywhere between 24 and 48 hours. The leaking should subside towards the second day after tattooing when the wound starts closing and the blood starts properly clotting. After that, the tattoo starts healing, drying up, and reaching its final form.
However, sometimes tattoos start leaking in the middle of the healing process, long after the tattoo has been done. In such cases, the leaking is generally connected to some kind of tattoo inflammation or ink allergy, often accompanied by tattoo redness, swelling, itching, and tenderness. In such cases, one needs to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
For people using blood-thinning medications, the leaking should subside after 48 to 72 hours. If not, you may be experiencing concerning blood thinning issues and should seek medical attention as soon as possible. When a tattoo is exposed to fluids and moisture for such a long time, you’re risking a tattoo infection, so best get it treated as soon as you possibly can.
How Do I Take Care Of a Leaking Tattoo?
Here are some tips you can utilize to manage a leaking tattoo;
- Clean the tattoo – once you get home from a tattoo appointment, it is essential to leave the bandage or tattoo wrapping on. However, in case of excess leaking, you can remove the bandage and wash the tattoo with lukewarm water and some antibacterial soap.
Avoid using fragrance-containing soaps or ointments, as you can cause irritation and possible inflammation. When you’re done, you can reapply a new, clean bandage or wrapping until the next day.
- Don’t apply ointment right away – while the tattoo is leaking, you should not apply ointments. The tattoo needs to stop leaking naturally so that the skin can dry and start healing. That is when you can start moisturizing the tattoo using organic, fragrance-free products. Even then, you can only apply the thinnest layer of ointment, twice a day.
- Protect the tattoo during showering – fresh tattoos shouldn’t be exposed to water, meaning, you shouldn’t take long baths or take long showers. Until the tattoo starts healing, your showering should last up to 10 minutes, during which time you’ll be avoiding the tattoo completely. Tattoo soaking will just prolong the leaking and prevent the skin to start closing.
- Do not drink alcohol, before or after getting a tattoo – as we mentioned, alcohol acts as a blood thinner. It can make it hard for a leaking tattoo to stop leaking, whether it is leaking blood or ink. You should wait until your tattoo is healed to have a drink. Otherwise, the alcohol can dilute your blood, promote heavier bleeding a leaking, and leave your tattoo faded, patchy, and messed up as a result.
- Change bed sheets regularly – when your tattoo is leaking, it can create such a mess and destroy your sheets or clothes in a second. To keep the tattoo infection-free, it is essential to replace dirty bedsheets with clean ones regularly. This way, you will prevent the buildup of bacteria, germs, pet hair, and other harmful particles that could enter your tattoo as it’s leaking.
Note: When tattoos leak, it can be pretty hard to sleep without having the sheets stick to your tattoo. If this happens, make sure to NOT pull the sheets from the skin.
This can damage the already-treated and sensitive tattooed skin, prolong the leaking and healing and quite possibly lead to a tattoo infection.
Instead, gently rinse the stuck area under some lukewarm water, until the sheets fall away on their own. Make sure to tap dry the skin afterward.
When Should I Seek Medical Help?
If your tattoo’s been leaking for more than 3 or 4 days, chances are something’s wrong. If the leaking is accompanied by redness, tenderness, swelling, increased pain, puss, or even fever, you should seek medical attention right away.
You might be experiencing a tattoo infection or an allergic reaction to the ink. This cannot be treated at home; you will need proper examination and antibiotics to reduce the inflammation and prevent further damage.
A brand-new tattoo leaking for a day or two is a completely normal occurrence. It doesn’t ring any alarms and you shouldn’t worry. Just make sure to follow the proper aftercare routine and keep your tattoo (and your surroundings) clean. If tattoo leaks for more than a few days, seek medical help and get a proper examination.