When it comes to the healing process of tattoos, certain aspects may appear unsettling or alarming. Scabbing, peeling, and even leaking are commonly experienced during the tattoo healing journey. It is common for individuals to notice their tattoo leaking plasma, blood, or ink, causing concern and raising questions about potential infections. However, understanding the role of plasma and proper tattoo aftercare can help alleviate these worries.
While you carefully selected your tattoo design or text, your tattoo artist took precautions to protect your new ink. The initial covering serves a crucial purpose – to prevent airborne bacteria from entering the freshly tattooed area. Despite its aesthetic appeal, your tattoo is essentially an open wound susceptible to bacteria and infection. It is essential to leave the initial bandage on for the first day to ensure proper protection.
Although your tattoo artist may have provided instructions on how to care for your new tattoo during the healing process, it is understandable if you missed or forgot some details in the excitement or nerves of the procedure. If you observe your tattoo oozing or leaking a clear fluid, it is natural to wonder what this signifies and what steps you should take to ensure proper healing.
Why does plasma leak out of tattoos?
The process of tattoo healing involves a series of fascinating changes that occur within the skin over the course of several weeks. As the body responds to the tattooing process, it initiates an inflammatory healing response to combat the wound and promote the body’s safety.
While some individuals are fortunate to have resilient skin that heals tattoos with minimal aftercare, others may require more diligent attention to ensure proper healing. After receiving a tattoo, the skin becomes highly sensitive due to the numerous tiny puncture injuries caused by the needling process. This triggers an inflammatory response characterized by swelling, redness, and the recruitment of immune cells to the tattooed area.
Among these immune cells are macrophages, which act as the body’s “clean-up crew” by attempting to remove the newly introduced ink particles. This immune response can contribute to swelling that typically subsides within the first few days after getting a tattoo. It is normal for the tattooed area to exude clear, yellow, or blood-tinged fluids for several days. During the initial healing phase, your fresh tattoo should be covered with a thin layer of antibiotic ointment and a bandage, creating a semi-occlusive environment.
This oxygen deprivation tricks your body into directing more blood flow and healing signals to the damaged tissue. Consequently, your tattoo may discharge a small amount of plasma in the first few days. If the fluid leaking from your tattoo is clear, it is likely not pus and, therefore, not an indication of infection. However, if redness, swelling, or pain persists beyond two to three days, it may be advisable to seek evaluation to ensure proper healing.
What does plasma do?
Tattoo plasma, which is the fluid that may leak from the skin after getting a tattoo, is a normal part of the healing process. When the skin undergoes trauma from tattooing, the body releases cytokines that increase vascular permeability, accumulating plasma in the tissue. This plasma is rich in white blood cells that fight off infection and trigger the body’s immune response and healing. Allowing the tattoo to “marinate” in its own plasma can benefit healing.
Although plasma may seem unusual since tattooed skin appears intact, it’s important to remember that a tattoo is a wound. The body’s natural response to any injury is to protect itself and initiate healing mechanisms.
Plasma is crucial in creating a barrier between the skin and the air. By forming a scab, the plasma stops bleeding and seals off the tattooed area from potential infection. Keeping the plasma in its liquid state allows it to fulfill its healing function by utilizing its various hormones and proteins. However, it’s important to note that the viability of plasma cells in their liquid form is limited to approximately 24 hours. While plasma has incredible healing properties, its effectiveness diminishes after this time. Therefore, allowing the plasma to remain on the tattoo during the initial healing period can promote faster healing.
What color is plasma?
Clear fluid discharge, which is not pus, is a sign that the body is working diligently to heal the wound. This does not indicate infection but rather that the body is going above and beyond its usual healing processes. Taking it easy for a few days is advisable to provide the body with the resources to heal effectively.
The difference between plasma and pus
Plasma, a yellowish-clear fluid, is a natural part of the healing process and aids in the regeneration of the tattooed skin. On the other hand, pus, which is thicker and often accompanied by increased redness, swelling, pain, and a foul odor, is a sign of infection. If you notice only clear fluid discharge, it is likely plasma, not pus.
While seeing a bit of plasma during the initial stages of healing is normal, there is always a risk of infection when needles are involved. Symptoms such as increased redness, pain, fever, or pustules in the tattooed area may indicate an infection. Additionally, discharge with a yellowish hue or lesions within the tattoo further shows that medical attention is necessary. Attempting to treat these symptoms at home is not recommended, and we advise you to consult a healthcare professional to evaluate the situation and provide appropriate treatment.
Quick tips to help your tattoo heal
Investing in a tattoo involves both money and time, making it essential to prioritize proper aftercare to ensure its long-term beauty and prevent complications such as infection and prolonged inflammation. Here are some quick tattoo aftercare tips to help protect your investment and promote effective healing.
- Rest immediately after tattooing: Giving your body the rest it needs after completing a tattoo, especially if it’s below the waist, is crucial. Blood pressure is higher below the waist, and inflammation is more likely to occur. Treating a new tattoo similarly to a sprain can help mitigate discomfort and reduce healing time. Try the following steps:
- Lay down for a few hours and elevate the tattooed area above your heart.
- Take an anti-inflammatory like Advil to alleviate any swelling or pain.
- Cover the tattoo bandage with a clean t-shirt or hand towel.
- Apply an ice pack (wrapped in a cloth) to soothe the area. Avoid placing the ice pack directly on the bandage to prevent frostbite.
- Proper bandaging and swelling management: Ensure the bandage fits snugly but not too tightly. If swelling becomes severe and causes the bandage to tighten excessively, take measures to reduce the swelling. In such cases, it may be necessary to remove the bandage. Excessive swelling can lead to micro-tears in the already traumatized tissue, resulting in heavy scabbing and compromised healing. If you notice swelling, address it promptly to prevent further complications.
- Prevent plasma bonding with fabric: Leaving the bandage in place overnight can be beneficial to reduce the risk of plasma bonding with bedsheets or clothing. If your tattoo is not bandaged, prolonged contact between the oozing tattoo and fabric can cause plasma to harden, leading to waking up with the tattoo “stuck” to the fabric. If this occurs, remember not forcefully to rip it loose. Instead, enter the shower with the bonded fabric and gently soak the fabric and the tattoo with warm water until they easily separate. Ripping it free can cause pain, reopen the tattoo, and potentially result in scabbing, color loss, and scar tissue formation.
- Monitor leaking ink and fluids: It’s normal to experience some ink and fluid leakage from the tattooed area for a few days. However, if this continues for an extended period, it might indicate interference with the healing process. Certain ointments can exacerbate leakage, so if you’ve been using petroleum jelly or similar products, switch to a more tattoo-friendly alternative to ensure optimal healing.
- Steer clear of swimming and direct sunlight: UV light hinders wound healing and can cause ink fading. Cover your tattoo with a bandage or SPF clothing if you must be in the sun, and seek shade whenever possible. Remember to apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher 15 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours
- Be mindful of ointment application: If you notice excessive leaking beyond three or four days, you may be applying too much ointment. Different ointments can cause varying levels of leakage in individuals. There’s no need to panic if the fluid appears clear and the tattoo is not hot or red. Simply reduce the amount of ointment you’re using. Apply a minimal quantity, just enough to provide a slight shine to your tattoo. Remember, less is more in this case. To test the application strength, check if your skin feels wet afterward. If it does, you’re using too much ointment.
Help your tattoo stand the test of time
Understanding the role of plasma in the tattoo healing process can significantly enhance your overall tattoo experience. By harnessing the natural healing power of your body’s plasma, you can promote faster healing, reduced scabbing, and enhanced color retention, ultimately resulting in a vibrant and long-lasting tattoo.
The award-winning artists at Good Vibrations Ink are dedicated to providing you with a great tattoo experience, exceptional artistry, and comprehensive aftercare guidance. If you’re ready for your first tattoo or looking to add more to your collection, please contact us for an appointment or stop by one of our shops on International Drive in Orlando, Florida.