tattoo artist fixing tattoo cracking
Tattoo Aftercare

Is Tattoo Cracking Normal? What You Should Know - Sorry Mom

So, you got a tattoo and noticed that it is starting to crack. Is it time to freak out?

Tattoo cracking is a relatively common occurrence after getting a new tattoo. It mostly occurs if the skin becomes too dry during the healing process but is typically not a cause for concern.

Cracking can happen for a couple of different reasons, but it isn’t necessarily a cause for concern.

Like most situations surrounding the healing of a new tattoo, if something is wrong, there are usually multiple symptoms taking place at one time.

So, should you be concerned that your tattoo is cracking? Let’s take a look and figure that out…

tattoo cracking

3 Major Causes for Tattoo Cracking 

Before we dive in, it should be noted that the tattoo itself is not cracking. What is occurring is that skin forming on the surface of your tattoo is turning into a scab and breaking away – which is entirely normal.

As your skin heals around your tattoo, there are many different symptoms that you may experience, including scabbing, raised skin, oozing, itching, and of course, cracking.

1. Most common: presence of scabs when healing

One major cause of cracking is the presence and size of scabs.

Some people do not scab as significantly as others, and most people experience a mild form of scabbing. However, there are others that scab much more.

While this certainly isn’t a significant problem, it does put you at a higher chance of cracking.

As scabs become raised and dry, they are more likely to crack.

2. Your skin is very dry

Another primary reason for tattoo cracking is that your skin is very dry. There’s a reason your tattoo artist wants you to keep your skin well-moisturized during the healing process.

Properly moisturized skin is critical to maintaining a well-healed and fantastic looking tattoo.

Dry skin can also cause your scabs to thicken and crack.

3. Infection (rare)

In rare and severe cases, your tattoo may be cracking as a result of an infection. 

Improper hygiene and poor sanitation in the days following a new tattoo can allow bacteria and other germs to enter the open wound left by a new tattoo.

If your cracked tattoo is accompanied by a raised temperature, itching, pus, or a nasty smell, then you may have an infection that requires swift medical attention.

Read also: How to clean your new tattoo properly.

How to Prevent Tattoo Cracking

- Keep yourself (and your skin) hydrated

The easiest and most effective way to prevent your tattoo from cracking is to keep yourself hydrated and your tattoo well-moisturized.

Drink plenty of water and remember to apply a mild tattoo moisturizer or tattoo lotion to the area two to four times through the day after getting your new tattoo.

Tattoos that are properly moisturized also tend to heal quicker.

hydrated tattoo

- Avoid hot water & high temperatures

Try to avoid warm or hot water as this can cause the skin to naturally become drier as it strips oils from the surface of your skin.

Some tattoo artists may recommend using a safe oil, such coconut oil to help you rehydrate your skin. However, it is not recommended to try this without the guidance and advice of a tattoo professional.

- Apply tattoo moisturizer on dry & clean skin

Make sure that the area is clean and dry before applying any moisturizer or lotions to the area.

All you need is a thin layer of moisturizer to create a barrier on the tattoo to keep the moisture intact.

Putting on too much lotion or cream can result in a longer healing time.


Tattoo moisturizer


Tattoo Cracking: Do's & Don'ts

  • Do not, under any circumstances, pick, pull, or peel your tattoo if it begins to crackIt may be irritating and even itch slightly, but pulling at your skin can damage the new tattoo.

    The best way to take care of a cracking tattoo is to minimize the chances of cracking as much as possible. 

    • Do clean your tattoo thoroughly, drying it, and putting a thin layer of ointment on the area for the first few days after you get it. After three or days, you can begin using a lotion recommended by your tattoo artists to keep your new tattoo moist. This will also help the healing skin to stay hydrated.

    Cleaning a tattoo

    • Do apply lotion to your tattoo regularly. It will help relieve cracking, itchiness, and other common irritations associated with healing tattoos. You should use the cream to the tattooed area two to three times a day, for about three to four weeks. 

    Once your skin no longer feels tight or taut, and there are no signs of peeling or crack, then you should be fully healed.

    Old Tattoos Cracking

    As tattoo cracking is a part of the healing process, there is no reason that an old tattoo should be exhibiting any cracking.

    The cracking that occurs around the spot of your tattoo is not your tattoo at all. Instead, it is the layer of skin that grew back over your tattoo scabbing as a part of the healing process.

    Read more about old tattoos here: Tattoo aging and old tattoos

    Do Tattoos Crack When Healing?

    The only time that your tattoo should crack is when it is healing. Because the skin's top-most layer is affected by the tattooing process, it usually scabs and causes cracking as it heals.

    This is typically not a cause for concern and is a result of some moderate to over-active scabbing.


    Larger tattoos are more prone to cracking, as they take up a bigger area, which is harder to keep moisturized.

    Keeping your tattoo moisturized minimizes scabbing, which helps to minimize cracking.

    The bigger and more pronounced the scabs, the worse the tattoo cracking.

    moisturizing tattoo

    Final Thoughts

    Cracking is a typical symptom experienced during the healing of a new tattoo.

    Proper aftercare and keeping your tattoo away from too much water and irritating weather conditions can help to keep your skin well-moisturized.

    Properly moisturized skin is the best defense against excessive cracking.

    In the event that your tattoo cracking is exhibiting other symptoms like fever, pus, or other signs of infection, you should reach out to a tattoo professional or medical provider. 

    Ultimately, tattoo cracking is a very standard part of getting a new tattoo and is usually no cause for concern.