Seeping Sleeves: How to Care for Leaking Ink

Before you turn to Dr. Google for a quick solution, keep in mind that you’re likely to experience leaking ink within the first few days of a new tattoo. Remember, a tattoo is essentially an open wound, and your skin will do everything to reject it. Thus, experienced tattoo artists will attempt to pack as much ink into the skin as possible, ensuring that shading and coloring remain intact long after the healing process.

If your sleeve is seeping, learn more about the relationship between ink and skin before you ring up your artist—or doctor!

Why Does a Tattoo Leak?

An artist will typically pack your skin with ink—even more than it can handle. Doing so ensures that it remains vibrant across the decades. After your session, your body will attempt to push out excess ink, leaking blood, and plasma. As these materials rise to the skin’s surface, fluids combine with excess ink sitting on the skin’s upper layers.

If you’re on blood-thinning medication or suffer from a blood clotting or immune system disorder, you might experience more leakage than usual. Gross? Yes, a little. Worrisome? Not really.

How to Care for Leaking Ink

There isn’t much you can do to counter leaking blood and ink within the first few days following your session. The process is entirely natural. However, frequent dripping can become a nuisance. As such, regularly cleaning your tattoo is key to keeping your skin healthy and clothing un-stained. 

Wash your tattoo twice a day with warm water and mild soap, allowing the area to air-dry. Alternatively, you can pat-dry the area with a soft microfiber towel—never drag or wipe. Then, apply an unscented lotion to keep your tattoo hydrated. If you’re unsure about what type of product to purchase, you can always turn to your artist for a recommendation.

Allowing the skin to dehydrate can cause heavy scabbing that can become tempting to pick at—don’t!

The First Few Days of a New Tattoo

As with any brand-new tattoo, you can expect light scabbing over the coming weeks. However, thicker, drying, and itching scabs are signs of something graver and indicate poor care habits. Because they are prone to catching on fabrics or other material, you’ll want to wipe off as much excess blood, plasma, and ink as possible.

Another nuisance—or type of new ink “induction”—is sleeping with your new tattoo. Over the first couple of nights, seeping ink can drip and dry onto pristine bedsheets, becoming tough to remove even with bleach. As a general rule, sleep in sheets that you don’t mind ruining—or can stand a few rounds of bleaching—in the two to three days following your session.

If you press against your bedding in the middle of the night, you run the risk of sticking and ripping of the skin. While you can prevent this by wearing a long-sleeved nightie, it’s often difficult to avoid. If you wake to find your tattoo is attached to your sheets, run the area under lukewarm water—never try to pull the bedding away from your skin.

Alternatively, you can sleep using a tattoo wrap as recommended by your tattoo artist.


Minor leaking after a brand-new tattoo isn’t much to worry about. With proper care and due diligence, your tattoo will remain stunning even after years or decades. One of the best tattoo shops in Buffalo, NY, Lucky Deville Tattoo Co is more than happy to provide you with an award-winning piece you’ll love showing off. Whether you’re on the market for a sleeve or full-back piece, our Lucky artists have you covered—in ink!

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