Tattoo Blowout or Healing? How to Tell if Your Tattoo is Messed Up

Tattoos can look pretty weird while they’re healing. If you have a new tattoo, this can make it hard to figure out if your tattoo is just healing, or if there’s a problem with your tattoo, like a blowout. 

Whether you just need some peace of mind or your tattoo is in danger of infection, it’s important to be able to tell what’s going on.

In this article, we’ll explain what to look for so you can identify whether you have a tattoo blowout, an infection, or if your skin is just healing.  

In this article, we’re breaking down:

  • What a tattoo blowout looks like
  • How to tell the difference between a tattoo blowout and healing skin
  • When you should call your tattoo artist for help

What is a Tattoo Blowout?

There are three layers in the skin, and tattoo ink should always be deposited in the middle skin layer. Tattoo blowouts are usually caused by the needle going too deep in the skin and into the third layer, however, they can also occur if the needle deposits ink at the wrong angle.

Because the third layer of the skin is fatty (almost a jelly-like consistency), it doesn’t hold ink in place very well, which causes the ink to spread. That spreading is what we call a “blowout.”

What Tattoo Blowouts Looks Like

Tattoo blowouts can show up in a few different ways. Blowouts can appear as:

  • Rough lines
  • Green-blue blurring around the entire tattoo
  • “Veins” of ink flowing through the skin’s capillaries
tattoo lines showing how a tattoo blowout occurs

Rough Lines

These lines are “blown out,” as you can see in the muddled edges and corners of this design. Additionally, because the tattoo needle went too deep, the skin looks scarred and raised.

tattoo lines showing how a tattoo blowout occurs

Green-Blue Blurring

This is probably the most common type of tattoo blowout. Ink spreads out beneath the skin in a dark blur.

tattoo lines showing how a tattoo blowout occurs

Ink in Capillaries

Ink can flow into capillaries, or tiny veins in the skin, and pull it outward and away from the tattoo.

None of these blowouts are dangerous to the client’s health. The only problem with blowouts is how they look, and not what’s actually going on in the body.

How to Tell if Your Tattoo is Blown Out or Just Healing

The main difference between a blowout and healing skin is that a blowout is something you can clearly see going on beneath the skin. Most of the visible healing occurs on the skin, and you might see some bleeding and scabbing or feel a little itchy. This is normal, and following proper aftercare instructions will take care of the skin while it recovers. 

Tattoo Blowout vs. Bruising

Because blowouts are under the skin, it’s easy to mistake bruising from the tattoo process with a blowout. In this case, you have to give it time. Bruises will get better in a few days. Blowouts tend to get worse. 

tattooed skin can bruise easily around the tattooed area

Bruise

tattooed skin can bruise easily around the tattooed area

Bruise

tattooed skin can bruise easily around the tattooed area

Blowout

Tattoo Blowout vs. Infection

Tattoo blowouts can make your tattoo look messy, but there’s no pain associated with them (other than that of getting a tattoo). However, you probably will feel an infection. Infections can make the skin red, cause a burning sensation, and make the area swell.

If you think you have an infection from your tattoo, you need to call your doctor immediately.

people with infected tattoos should get medical or professional advice

Infection

people with infected tattoos should get medical or professional advice

Infection

people with infected tattoos should get medical or professional advice

Blowout

Tattoo Blowout vs. “Oozing” Ink

Most people know that tattoo blowouts occur from the ink moving. This makes it easy to mistake a blowout with a tattoo that is oozing or “weeping.” It is normal for ink to come out of a tattoo for a few days. This is not a blowout and is a normal part of the healing process.

excess ink will leak out during the tattoo healing process

Ink Leaking on top of skin

excess ink will leak out during the tattoo healing process

Ink Leaking on top of skin

excess ink will leak out during the tattoo healing process

Ink spreading beneath the skin

Note :

If a tattoo scabs up and looks very faded when it peels, then you’re seeing the exact opposite of a blowout. The tattoo artist likely put the ink too shallow in the skin.

Should I Call My Tattoo Artist?

If you have a problem with your tattoo, you should always let your artist know.

Tattoo Blowout

If your tattoo is blown out, there’s nothing your tattoo artist can do to “undo” the blowout. They might offer to cover the blowout with a new tattoo. However, if you aren’t confident that they can do a tattoo without causing another blowout, it might be worth paying a more experienced tattoo artist to do the coverup.

Healing

This is where a tattoo artist will be able to help you the most. If you’re concerned about how your tattoo is healing, your artist will be able to tell you what’s normal and make suggestions about aftercare.

Infection

If your tattoo is infected, your tattoo artist is not qualified to treat you. You will need to visit a medical professional. You should still let your artist know. However, more often than not, infections happen during the healing process, not during the tattoo. 

Can You Stop a Tattoo Blowout?

Some artists will encourage you not to move the area while it’s healing (for example, if you have a tattoo in the ditch of your elbow). Excessive movement can open up the skin and encourage the ink to move as well. However, this is sort of a last ditch effort. Once a blowout has occurred, you can’t stop or undo it.

Even though a tattoo blowout is permanent, there are ways you can hide it.

Once the healing process is complete, you can either get the blown-out tattoo covered up with another tattoo, or you can get laser removal. Laser therapy can help get rid of the ink around the tattoo so the blowout is less noticeable, and you will be able to keep your original design. 

Note :

You can also get rid of the tattoo entirely through surgical tattoo removal. In this case, a doctor would remove a section of the skin’s surface and stitch the remaining skin together. This option works best for a small tattoo. However, most insurance companies do not cover this procedure, and it could cause scarring even after the area is fully healed.

Prevent Tattoo Blowouts Before They Happen

Of course, the only way to stop a tattoo blowout is to make sure it doesn’t happen in the first place. 

Tattooing takes a lot of practice, and a less experienced tattoo artist is going to be much more likely to cause a blowout, especially on thinner skin, where it’s more difficult to avoid. Before getting a tattoo, research your area for a professional tattoo artist with a great portfolio. Take a close look at their line work to make sure you don’t see the blowout effect.

prevent tattoo blowout by knowing how to tattoo properly

Become a Tattoo Artist With the Artist Accelerator Program

Interested in learning to tattoo? 

Having a career in tattooing is not only fulfilling, but it’s also the most stable way to make a living as an artist. However, for decades, the process to become a tattoo artist has been notoriously difficult.

The apprenticeship process requires aspiring artists to work 50-60 hours a week without pay for 2-4 years. That, combined with the toxic culture of abusing apprentices, makes getting into the industry almost impossible for newcomers.

That’s why we created the Artist Accelerator Program. Our online course provides a simple, structured way of learning to tattoo that has been proven to work by over 2500 successful students, with many of them having gone on to open their own shops all around the world. 

Inside the program, we’ll take you through every step of the tattooing process in 9 clear, easy-to-follow modules and support you along the way within the Tattooing 101 Mastermind online community.

In the Mastermind group, you’ll collaborate with other students, get answers to your questions, and receive personalized video feedback on your artwork and tattoos from professional tattoo artists. With this friendly community of both new and experienced tattoo artists, you’ll never be stuck again. 

When you join the Artist Accelerator Program, you’ll have instant access to the full course and the Mastermind community, as well as our 30-Day Flash Challenge and recorded interviews with tattoo artists from all over the world. 

Click here to learn more about the Artist Accelerator Program.

Looking for a tattoo apprenticeship?

Tattooing 101's Artist Accelerator 90 day program is the closest thing to a real apprenticeship

  • 500 video modules
  • Professional tattoo artist coaches
  • Private mastermind community
AUTHOR
Nathan Molenaar

Nathan is a licensed professional tattoo artist with over 8 years’ experience working at studios across the globe, including Celebrity Ink, the world's largest tattoo studio chain. When he's not tattooing, he spends his free time sharing his experience and knowledge with aspiring artists who dream of pursuing a career in the tattooing industry.

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