Why Does My Skin Not Take Tattoo Ink?

If you are looking to get your first tattoo or are already inked, you have undoubtedly heard of things that can go wrong. From it healing poorly to the possibility of an infection, there is one outcome that isn’t often discussed: the ink not sticking. But why would your skin not take tattoo ink?

There are a few reasons and causes behind your skin not taking tattoo ink. Whether it is because you have tough skin, the lubricant used, the depth of the tattoo in your skin, or because your body is rejecting the ink. There are ways to determine the problem and work around it, no matter which.

It doesn’t matter if you are in an exceptional studio with a world-famous artist or a more humble local parlor; there will always be an uncontrolled risk factor regarding tattoos and how they heal. You can never truly know how your body will react until you get one, and even then, the reaction is not always instant, and it can take months, or even years, for the problem to present itself.

Why Does My Skin Not Take Tattoo Ink?

The reality is that skin rejecting tattoo ink is a very rare occurrence. Generally, you should always use a legitimate artist in an established business since it is safer for you and your body. Further, if you feel that you are ever experiencing any problems with your tattoo, you must contact your artist and doctor immediately.

If you find that your skin isn’t taking the tattoo ink well, you must find out why before moving forward. There are various reasons your tattoo ink might not be staying in; thus, there are just as many solutions to the problem.

However, before you can fix it, you need to determine what the issue is and make a plan with your artist on how to overcome it – especially if you want to avoid the same situation in the future.

How To Know If Your Tattoo Ink Is Not Staying In

There are many reasons you may think your ink isn’t sticking, but nothing is actually wrong, and it is just part of the healing process.

For example, the first time you wash your tattoo, you may notice some ink running into the water. This is quite normal as you are washing off the residue of ink wiped during the tattoo – the ink is not coming out of your skin.

Furthermore, the tattoo may seem lighter after a few days, and small dark scabs will come off. Once again, this is part of the healing process. With some time, the tattoo will be good as new.

However, once the tattoo has fully healed and doesn’t look too good, or has patches missing, contact your artist and book an appointment for a touch-up. Don’t worry; touch-ups are routine and usually need to be done every few years to darken fading tattoos.

Reasons Your Tattoo Ink Is Not Staying

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

  • Tough Skin

Some people, by chance, have incredibly tough skin. Even the most experienced tattoo artist may not know precisely how to approach this issue and handle the skin because there isn’t much that can be done without causing possible damage and scarring the skin.

The best solution is finding an artist who knows how to work with tough skin and has derived a good method of tattooing under these conditions. This is likely your best option to get a lasting tattoo while avoiding permanent damage to your skin.

  • Lubricant Used

Strange as it may sound, the lubricant the artist used while tattooing can act as a block between your skin and the ink. What may have happened is the lubricant can penetrate down into the pores in your skin and clog them. Thus, any ink injected into the blocked areas will have nowhere to go and return to the surface.

When this happens, it doesn’t matter how many times the artist goes over the area because the lubricant will not allow the ink to pass through. A few lubricants are known to create a barrier, such as petroleum jelly.

Thankfully, this is a relatively easy fix. Once your pores are cleared of the lubricant – or you switch to an untouched area – and use a better lubricant, the ink should stick without further issues.

  • Not Deep Enough

Considering the process of how tattoos are done, a common cause for the ink not staying in is simply because the artist didn’t tattoo deep enough in the skin. Correctly done, it is the second layer of your skin, called the dermis, which must be tattooed.

If the artist goes below or above your dermis, the ink won’t hold correctly, or it will fade easily. A tattoo on the first layer of your skin will usually fall out as it heals. The faded look is caused by the fatty cells in these layers of skin, which don’t hold ink well.

Although, most fade-outs can result from the color or healing process, which can push ink up and out of the skin, resulting in a splotchy look. This happens when your body views the tattoo as something harmful and rejects it.

Once again, this is not a difficult fix. Avoiding this problem is simply the case of doing the tattoo properly and ensuring that the correct layer of your skin is getting tattooed.

  • Ink Allergy or Infection

Common issues many people can run into common issues when getting tattooed: dealing with an infection or experiencing an allergic reaction. Allergic reactions can be triggered by a number of things, like the artist’s gloves or the lubricant or ink used.

Contact your artist and doctor if you notice any unusual rashes or bumps around the tattooed area – but bear in mind that a fresh tattoo will cause red and raised skin as it begins to heal. Further, look into how allergic reactions or infections can present to determine which you are dealing with.

If you experienced an allergic reaction, ask your artist for the ink’s name and its ingredients. This will help your doctor figure out why your body is reacting the way it is. Finding an ink brand that is safe for your body should help you steer clear of an allergic reaction in the future.

Further, your tattoo must be done under sanitary conditions to evade an infection, and a proper after-care regime should be followed. Your artists will always provide you with instructions on caring for your new tattoo and helping it heal properly. If you ever have any concerns, talk to your artist.


Once you are sure your tattoo ink isn’t sticking, contact your artist and discuss the possible causes and how to work around the issue. Determining the cause will also help you to recognize and avoid this problem if you get any more tattoos in the future.


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