Tattoo Ink Not Staying In? Here’s What To Do

Before getting your first tattoo, you may have heard many warnings about what could happen. “They could spell it wrong!” or “It could get infected!” are a few that are usually thrown around often – but one outcome you may not have expected was your ink not sticking. So, is your tattoo ink not staying in? Here’s what to do

What to do if your tattoo ink is not staying in depends on why it is not staying in; you may need to tattoo deeper in the skin, you may have tough skin and need an artist who knows how to work with it, or you may be allergic to the ink. Find out why the ink won’t stay in before moving forward.

Your skin sometimes can reject ink
In some cases your skin can reject the tattoo ink

There is a wide range of reasons why your tattoo ink may not be staying in – which means that there is just as wide of a range of solutions to this problem. 

To figure out what to do if your tattoo ink is not staying in, you will need to figure out the reason why it is not staying in. Once you have figured this out, you can take the next step in your tattoo journey.

Why Is My Tattoo Ink Not Staying In?

Before knowing what your next steps are regarding your tattoo ink not staying in, it is important to find out why it is not staying in.

Without this knowledge, you may keep making the same mistake, and the issue will not be solved, which could lead to all your future tattoos having the same issue.

Here are some reasons your tattoo ink may not be staying in:

Tough Skin

Some people, unfortunately, due to no fault of their own, have incredibly tough skin that is really hard to tattoo. 

Even a tattoo artist who really knows what they are doing still might be unsure of what to do with this type of skin, as there really is not much you can do without causing possible damage and scarring to the skin trying to get the ink in.

Tough skin can make tattooing difficult
If you have thick skin, this could be the reason why the tattoo doesn’t stay in

In situations like this, what you should do is find a tattoo artist who has worked with a lot of tough skin before and has figured out a good method of tattooing under these conditions.

They will be your best bet of getting a tattoo that will last without permanently damaging your skin.

Lubricant Used

As strange as it may be, sometimes the lubricant that the artist has used while tattooing may be acting as a block between your skin and the ink.

If they have used a lubricant that has been known to create such a barrier in the past, such as petroleum jelly, for example, the lubricant may be penetrated down into the pores of your skin and can actually clog the pores.

This would mean that any ink trying to be injected into those areas afterward will have nowhere to go and will simply return to the surface.

lubricant can be a reason that ink don't stay in your skin
Make sure that your artist’s lubricant don’t act as a block between your skin and ink (one of my works)

This means that as much as the artist can go over the area of skin multiple times, but no matter how many times the needle goes in and out, the ink will always be pushed back up as the lubricant will not allow it to pass through.

What you should do in this situation is thankfully an easy fix – start the tattooing process again in a new area of skin and replace the lubricant that was being used. If a better lubricant is used, you should not experience any problems this time around, and the tattoo ink should stay in without an issue.

Not Deep Enough

A common reason why your tattoo ink may not be staying in is due to your tattoo artist, not tattooing deep enough in the skin.

If your tattoo artist only tattoos through the first layer of skin (the correct layer of skin that is supposed to be tattooed is the second layer of skin, called the dermis), most of the ink from this tattoo will usually fall out as it heals.

This is because your skin will treat the tattoo in this layer of skin as it would a bad sunburn or a minor cut – it will push out anything it views as harmful or an infection

Your skin will then get rid of that harmful substance that should not be pushing it out. A scab will then form, usually containing a lot of that substance, and as the would heal, the scab will fall off, taking all of that substance along with it.

If needle is on a good depth, your tattoo will stay in
If your tattoo is made deep enough, ink should stay in

When your tattoo ink is the substance in this layer of skin, your body is going to treat it the same way – it will push it out, the ink will form part of a scab, and as it falls out, it will take the ink with it.

The solution to this problem is, thankfully, another easy one – your tattoo artist needs to do your next tattoo properly by tattooing through to the correct layer of skin that is meant to be tattooed. 

There are many other reasons your tattoo ink may not be staying in, such as an allergy to the ink or infection, etc. The important take away from this is that understanding why the ink is not staying is the key to making it stay in future tattoos.

How Do I Know If My Tattoo Ink Is Not Staying In?

There is a chance that your tattoo ink is staying in, and you may just not realized what is going on during the healing process.

For example, the first time you wash your tattoo after you have gotten it done, you may get a fright when your ink runs off in the water

This is not something to be worried about, as the ink you are seeing is actually the residue of the ink that was wiped off during the tattoo – not the ink that is in your skin that has started to come out.

You may also be worried if, after a few days, your tattoo seems a lot lighter and small dark scabs may come off, but this is also just apart from the tattoo’s healing process. Once your tattoo has fully healed, it will go back to how it looked before and look as good as new.

Fresh tattoo can look a bit lighter during healing

If your tattoo does not look good after the healing, and there are patches of ink missing, this is when you have lost ink and should contact your artist.

What Do I Do If My Skin Rejects Tattoo Ink?

If you have skin that truly will not accept any ink in it, unfortunately, there are very few things you can try and do to try and resolve this issue, as you cannot force your skin to hold anything in place that it does not want to.

One thing that you could try is tattooing different areas of skin on different areas of your body. This would be to see if there may be a section of skin that may take the tattoo ink well, as there may be one unique area that will allow the ink in.

Another thing you could do is that you may need to let an artist try tattooing really deep down into the third layer of skin – this is not ideal and will usually cause scarring, but if it gets the ink to hold, it may be one of the only ways to get the ink to stay.

Or, your skin may possibly be more open to a different type of ink. Ask your artist if you can try another brand of tattoo ink, or even a vegan tattoo ink, as it is worth a shot and may stick better than the original ink your artist used.

Some of my favourite designs, tattoo books and aftercare products, selected for you

working on tattoo at my studio
Working at the studio on one of my projects

Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.

Deasign and tattoo ideas

For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my Clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):

Tattoo meaning

If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).

Tattoo aftercare

The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my Clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):

Looking for more info about tattoos? I might have them covered!

I have written almost 100 articles about tattooing – with details about each body part, problems that you might have with your tattoo, designs, styles, aftercare, and much more.

Have a look at the search option and see if you can find what you need here.

other posts from  InkArtByKate
Some of my other articles, check them and see if you could find what you are looking for!


If you happen to be in the situation where your tattoo ink will not stay in, whether this is while being tattooed or during the healing process, always find the root of the problem before attempting to fix it, or you may just end up repeating the process and ending up with the same result over and over again.

Don't be afraid ta ask your artist about advices
If your tattoo ink not stay in, your tattoo artist will be able to help

Once you have figured out why it is that your tattoo ink will not stay in, your artist will be able to help guide you in the next steps to take, and you can both work out a way to get you the tattoo of your dreams.


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