There is nothing better than the excitement one feels after getting their tattoo done and heading home. The adrenalin is rushing in and you just can’t wait to show your new ink to everybody, especially if this is your first time getting tattoed. But, of course, you cannot just go around showing your new tattoo to everybody; it needs to heal first, and you need to take care of it throughout the whole healing process.
And just as the healing stage is reaching the end and your tattoo is ready for a major show-off, you notice something odd; wrinkles and old-looking skin instead of the typical healing appearance. Your tattoo isn’t scabbing nor peeling, there is no itchiness or flakiness. So, what is going on?
Tattoos appear wrinkly for many reasons. Several factors affect this occurrence, so in the following paragraphs we’ll explore the phenomenon of a wrinkled tattoo, see what causes it, and how can you deal with it. Therefore, without further ado, let’s get right into it!
Why Does My Tattoo Look Wrinkly? How Long Will It Last?
Before we get into the reasons why your tattoo looks wrinkly, it is important to first understand how tattooing works. In order for the ink to end up in your skin (and stay there for the rest of your life), the tattoo artist uses a tattoo gun and needle. The needle pokes your skin thousands of times per minute and reaches the dermis (third skin layer). There, the needles transfer the ink into the vacuum they create in the skin.
Throughout the process, the skin is punctured so many times that it eventually becomes an open wound. This is why you experience bleeding, plasma oozing and even ink leaking; the wound needs time to close and dry out. This is basically the first stage of a healing process as well.
Once the tattoo is fully done, you’ll be responsible for the way it heals. Now, the healing process can be a bit tricky. In the first two days, the tattoo will bleed and ooze all the excess blood, plasma, and ink. Then, it will start closing, drying out, and healing in a less messy way. In the following two weeks, one experiences itchiness, scabbing, and even tattoo peeling, All of this is completely normal and a sign of a healing tattoo.
Eventually, once the tattoo is fully healed and you’ve taken good care of it, it will look mattified and have a skin finish – it will look like it’s a part of your skin.
Throughout the aftercare routine, you’ll be washing and moisturizing the tattoo to promote the healing process and prevent the tattoo from over-drying (or over-moisturizing). This will ensure fewer scabs form and prevent the occurrence of a tattoo infection.
So, Why Does My Tattoo Look Wrinkly?
Now, here’s where the problem usually occurs. Sometimes people aren’t familiar enough or not well advised when it comes to tattoo aftercare. Generally, it is believed that getting the tattoo too moisturized and wet, or not moisturized at all might make a difference and make it heal quickly. However, this can prevent the normal healing process and cause the tattoo to scab excessively or not at all.
Now, both of these possibilities are not good. If the tattoo doesn’t scab, it becomes super wrinkled. That is because the skin is trying to regenerate and heal, but it is missing proper hydration and cleaning. The tattoo is drying out or has already done so, and this can potentially mess it up. The same goes for over-moisturized tattoos; in this case, the tattoo can scab excessively and prolong the healing process which can potentially lead to a tattoo infection.
Now, it is not all doom and disaster when the tattoo appears wrinkled. Sometimes you just take perfect care of the tattoo and it still looks wrinkly. In that case, the cause of the wrinkled appearance is simply the fact that you’re dealing with a brand new, healing tattoo. Your tattoo won’t stay glossy and smooth as it was when you first got it.
As it goes through the healing stages, it will change appearance, and it will at some point appear wrinkly as well. The wrinkly skin layer eventually ‘falls off’ as the tattoo forms scabs or starts peeling off. Eventually, your tattoo will look smoother as it continues healing, and in its final form, it will start appearing like the rest of your skin with a mat finish.
How Long Do The Wrinkles Stick Around?
Generally speaking, it can take a tattoo up to two months to heal. During that time, the tattoo will go through different healing stages where it will flaky, scabbing, peeling, wrinkling, etc. Each of these stages lasts for a few days, which is completely normal. The same goes for wrinkling; it should go away in a week or so, but this time frame surely varies from one person to the other.
Overall, you can expect your tattoo to look completely normal after 2 and a half to 3 months. The better you take care of a tattoo, the quicker and better it will heal, so make sure to follow your tattoo aftercare recommendations (usually provided by the tattoo artist).
How Do I Take Care of a Wrinkled Tattoo?
The best thing you can do is simply follow the tattoo aftercare instructions, which are either provided by your tattoo artist or you can find them on the world wide web.
Now, sometimes people do follow their aftercare instructions, but they’re the wrong ones. In that case, here’s what you need to do;
- Do not wash a fresh tattoo, at least in the first 24 hours. You can gently clean it if the bleeding and oozing are excessive, but you should not submerge it in water.
- Do not apply lotion of any kind onto a fresh tattoo, for at least the first 24 to 48 hours. You may cause over-hydration and prevent drying up and closing of the wound.
- After a few days, you can start washing your tattoo, gently, twice a day (maximum). Make sure to use antibacterial soap and lukewarm water; to dry the tattoo, use a gentle towel and pat it dry.
- Do not wash the tattoo by putting it directly under a stream of water!
- Apply a thin layer of moisturizer up to twice a day, no more than that.
- Do not use petroleum-based products to moisturize the tattoo (Vaseline, Hydrophor, and similar products) – they will clog the tattoo, prevent it from drying out, and potentially cause a tattoo infection.
- Avoid strenuous exercising; it can contribute to tattoo wrinkling as the skin stretches during excercising.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes to prevent them from sticking to the tattoo and to allow the tattoo to breathe.
- Do NOT scratch, peel, or touch your tattoo while it’s healing! The only time when you can touch your tattoo (after you’ve washed your hands), is when cleaning it or applying ointment.
- Do not expose the tattoo to direct sunlight; keep it covered and protected until it’s fully healed.
Tattoo aftercare is probably the most important stage of the whole tattoo process. That is when your tattoo adventure succeeds or fails. No wonder tattoo artists put so much emphasis on the importance of good tattoo aftercare. When following a proper aftercare routine you’re minimizing the risk of tattoo infection, inflammation, excessive scabbing and peeling, wrinkling, and so much more.
A wrinkled tattoo is generally no sign of worry, but make sure to step up your aftercare routine and help it heal properly. Otherwise, you may stick around with a wrinkled tattoo, and no one wants such an outcome of a great experience. For more information, you can always contact your tattoo artist, and if you notice the tattoo is red, swollen, oozing, or painful, and you have a fever, it is time to see a medical professional.