Tattoos can be pretty expensive – it does take talent and skill to give justice to a client’s artistic request. It’s therefore very disappointing to see when ink ‘leaks’ outward from the tattooed area. And your brand-new tattoo looks blurry and smudged instead of sharp and well-defined. Well, this occurrence has a name – it’s called a tattoo blowout.
What exactly does a tattoo blowout mean?
From the very definition of the word ‘blowout’, a ‘tattoo blowout’ literally means ink leaking, bleeding or getting blown out from its spot. This is painfully obvious in tattoo outlines and borders, basically areas where there should be no obvious ink. It’s also easily identifiable in multi-coloured tattoos where the colours ‘bleed’ into each other, and into surrounding areas too.
Here’s an example of a tattoo blowout:
As you can see, tattoo blowouts don’t look very nice at all. Depending on the tattooist, you may be entitled to a free fix. Why? You’ll find out the reason in the next section.
Top causes for tattoo blowouts
When do tattoo blowouts occur? Well, there are basically three categories for the reasons behind blowouts: tattoo location, artist error and aftercare issues. Let’s break it down here:
- The tattooist pushed the needles too deep into the skin
A skilled and experienced tattooist will know exactly how deep his tattoo needle needs to go into the skin. Too shallow – and the ink will disappear in a few weeks. Too deep – and the ink will bleed into nearby tissue.
Now, the skin has 3 layers:
- the epidermis (topmost)
- the dermis (middle)
- the hypodermis (bottom layer where all the large blood vessels, nerves and fat cells are)
For tattoo to stay on your skin permanently, the ink needs to go in the dermis. This is because the epidermis gets shed every few weeks. And the hypodermis… well… if ink gets into the hypodermis, it’s practically guaranteed to cause a blowout.
- Tattoo needles are inserted at awkward angles
The angle by which the artist holds the tattoo machine can also contribute to a blowout. If the machine is held at too steep or too slanted an angle, then the ink may be more prone to leaking into nearby areas.
- Skin got stretched too much during the tattooing session
Sometimes, the artist may need to stretch and pull at the skin to make it flat and even (this makes the tattooing go faster). This is an important technique to ensure the ink gets distributed evenly and there are no blank spots in the design. However, when too much stretching happens, ink gets inserted at odd angles. This then leads to blowouts.
- Tattoo is done on bony areas with thin skin
Locating the dermis is tough enough. But trying to do it on bony areas with not much skin to go on is extremely tough. For instance, tattooing someone on their thigh versus their feet isn’t the same thing. Skin on the thigh is thicker than, say, the midfoot.
Which do you think will be easier for the tattooist to work on? If you answered thigh, you’re absolutely right.
That said, try to avoid getting tattooed on bony areas like fingers, wrists, hands, ankles, and feet. The probability of a blowout occurring is much higher than on other tattoo-friendly body parts.
- Excessive movement or stretching of skin during the healing process
Tattoos that haven’t fully healed yet is still at risk of getting blown out. This is especially true for tattoos done in areas that get moved around a lot, like fingers, hands, wrists, and skin over joints. Frequent movement or stretching can cause the ink to move and spread under the skin.
Possible tattoo blowout fixes
In some cases, you don’t need to do anything drastic to fix a blowout. Depending on how bad it is and the colour(s) used, you can give it enough time to fade on its own (or at least become less pronounced and less noticeable).
Also, with a fresh tattoo, bruises are commonly mistaken as blowouts. Give it a few days – if the bruising’s disappeared, then it’s obviously not a blowout.
So, here are ways you can fix tattoo blowouts:
1. Cover it up with makeup
Permanently fixing a blowout is possible, yes, but if you just want a quick fix, there’s no faster way than to cover it up with some makeup and concealer. Of course, you can also cover the entire tattoo with clothing, but that’s no fun, is it? Especially if you still want to show off the tattoo (minus the blowout).
That said, there are several makeup tricks you can use to hide the blowout. Check out this video:
2. Cover it up with another design
For this fix, you will need to go back to a tattooist – preferably, a highly skilled one. Your previous tattooist may agree to a free fix if it was his fault, so if you’re in a tight spot, try asking them first.
But if you think the tattooist still isn’t going to do a good job, then best move on and look for a better artist. The last thing you want is to have another blowout happen on top of your blowout!
Common fixes involve adding some background or gradient shading to make the blowout blend in. Alternatively, the tattooist may recommend covering it up with another design to totally hide the blowout. The choice is yours.
3. Get the blowout laser removed
If you’re not interested in having your current tattoo covered by yet another design, then laser removal is your next best option. Just take note, however, that this process can be painful (even more painful than getting a tattoo). It may also take several sessions before the blowout is fully removed.
Here’s an example of a tattoo blowout that got laser removed (before and after):
How to avoid tattoo blowouts
Nobody wants to get tattoo blowouts. Ever. But it happens even to the best tattoo artists who already know how deep a tattoo needle is supposed to go. Sometimes it’s unavoidable.
For example, clients wanting to get tattooed on blowout-prone areas against the tattooist’s advice. Or the tattooist’s just not feeling it and is not completely focused on the task at hand, and he’s digging far too deep into the skin.
That said, here are some more tips you can follow to avoid blowouts:
Don’t get tattooed on areas with thin skin
As mentioned above, some areas are more prone to blowouts than others. If you want to minimise the risk, stick to ‘safer’, more ‘normal’ areas. It will put less strain on your tattooist as well since they can better estimate the correct depth the needles need to go into.
Avoid stretching, pulling and twisting the skin whilst it’s healing
Tattoo aftercare is important for your new ink to heal properly. But in addition to all the things you need to do to ensure proper healing occurs, you should also avoid stretching or pulling at the skin because the ink can get moved around.
Too much movement can cause the ink to bleed into nearby tissue. I know restricting movement on frequently used body parts like hands and skin folds is tough, but you chose that tattoo location.
If you’re a physically active person, you’ll need to tone it down a bit during the tattoo healing process. If your work requires you to pull and stretch that freshly inked skin, then consider getting a tattoo whilst you’re on holiday. Give your skin and your body a rest. After all, you technically had a minor medical procedure.
Tattoo blowouts are pretty common. In most cases, it will be out of your control. Hopefully, the fixes and pre-emptive measures suggested in this article will give you a better idea on how to handle one, should you ever fall victim to this unfortunate circumstance.