Tattoos—everyone’s got them now. A far cry from how taboo they have been in recent decades, the generational rise of Millennials and Gen Z-ers have turned those tables around completely. Tattoos that were once reserved for the outlaws and outcasts of society are now the norm even in professional business settings, where they were once commonly and strictly prohibited. Now, it’s almost as if not having tattoos will catch you stares these days.
With the number of tattoo-adorned people rising dramatically, you’d think there would be a lot more education about tattoo quality, care, and upkeep; but unfortunately, a lot of people go into the tattoo world without the proper information they need to keep their tattoos looking fresh, vibrant, and long-lasting. Tattoo education is essential.
One of the worst things that can happen to a tattoo is called a blowout. Tattoo blowouts are notoriously feared in the tattoo world, as they are extremely unsightly and very difficult to correct. But what are tattoo blowouts—can they be fixed? Or are they as permanent as the rest of the tattoo?
The Process of Tattooing
To understand blowouts and how they occur, we must first understand the process of tattooing.
Tattoos are made up of particles of ink injected into the skin—and though we see the ink through the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin), it’s actually injected into the dermis, or the secondary layer of skin. It’s put into the dermis for two reasons: one, because the epidermis creates an extra layer of protection for the tattoo, and two, because the dermis is much more durable than the epidermis. The third layer of the skin, or the hypodermis, is where many tattoo blowouts occur.
The ink is injected via a tattoo gun, which is a pedal-operated and motorized needle gun. Most standard tattoo guns contain anywhere from 1 to 21 needles, depending on the desired thickness, effect, or technique. The motor inside the tattoo gun creates a fast, high-powered stippling effect that plunges the needle just a little over 1 and a half millimeters deep into the skin. This ink enters the dermis of the skin and that’s where it stays permanently.
Once the ink is in the dermis, it is there forever; and for that you can actually thank your immune system. The needles break the skin causing small wounds in the dermis. Your body then undergoes its natural process of trying to heal these wounds by sending white blood cells to the injured area. These white blood cells try to engulf the ink particles and carry them away—the only problem is, these particles are now too large to leave the dermis. They are now stuck there forever. That’s right—tattoos are just big, colorful, ornate scars. By the immune system trying to heal these wounds, they actually ensure that the ink stays there permanently.
What is a Blowout and Why Does it Happen?
Blowouts are an unfortunate occasional circumstance of tattooing and can be caused by a couple different things.
Blowouts are caused by the ink blowing itself out, or bleeding, into the surrounding skin. Some blowouts look different than others—some are lighter and look almost bruise-like, while others are more dramatic and are extremely dark and noticeable.
- Tattoo blowouts are usually caused by negligence by the tattooer. If the tattoo needle goes too deeply into the skin, blowouts can occur. The ink is intended to be put into the dermis of the skin, and when it goes into the hypodermis, a blowout is almost a guarantee.
- Tattoo blowouts can also be caused by how the needle is inserted into the skin. If it’s inserted at an awkward enough angle, it can be a catalyst for the ink to bleed into surrounding areas of the skin.
- Another way tattoo blowouts happen is by over-stretching the skin. When tattoos are applied, the tattoo artist has to stretch the skin while inserting the needle so that the ink can be better applied. When the skin is stretched too drastically, that can lead to blowouts and bleeding of the ink.
- It also could be a result of where the tattoo is applied on the body. Some areas of the body, predominantly bony areas in particular, are more susceptible to blowouts. It’s more difficult to get the needle properly into the dermis, so those areas are a lot harder to neatly tattoo.
- Blowouts also happen as a result of improper aftercare. Taking care of your tattoo while it’s healing is incredibly important to how your tattoo will eventually look. If you don’t properly take care of your healing tattoo, it can result in scarring, discoloration, and of course, blowouts. Good aftercare is absolutely essential.
Preventing and Fixing Blowouts
The easiest route to avoiding blowouts is obviously to prevent them altogether. Make sure you’re going to a reputable, clean, and experienced tattooer with an established portfolio and presentable body of work. A good tattooer may be more expensive, but you truly do get what you pay for. It’s okay to shop around to find the right fit.
If the preventative measures haven’t worked, you can attempt some damage control. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, less extreme blowouts can fade away on their own. The body can take care of the misplaced ink the way it normally takes care of a wound.
Unfortunately, there aren’t very many options that can remedy a tattoo blowout. When they say a tattoo is permanent, they mean it. While there’s no full solution altogether, there are a few things you can do to help.
- You can use skin-colored makeup to cover up any unsightly blurred lines or excess ink bleeding. It can help preserve the original look of the tattoo, but it is not a permanent solution.
- The best option is to get it covered up with more tattooing. Coverups can be difficult, but they are really effective when it comes to covering unsightly or poorly done tattoos. You may have to change the tattoo completely, but it will be better than having a tattoo with a large and noticeable blowout.
- You can also go the route of laser removal. It’s expensive and painful (it’s said to be more painful than getting the actual tattoo itself), but after a few sessions, you can be tattoo-free. It also can fade the tattoo enough to where you can get a brand new tattoo over the area, and possibly get the original design redone sans blowout.
- The most extreme remedy is via surgery. Surgical tattoo removal is a relatively new practice where a surgeon can go in, extract your tattooed skin, and sew your remaining un-inked skin back together. There is the potential for scarring, but the blowout will be gone.
No one wants a blowout. While it’s much easier to be prevented, it’s a lot harder to fix. Make sure you’re properly educated about good and professional tattooing and tattoo aftercare. Knowledge of the industry is the best tool you can have to ensure that you’re going to get a good, healthy, and long-lasting tattoo.
When it comes to good tattoo artists, it’s important for you to shop around. Visit your local shops, make sure they’re following health and sanitation regulations, and look at their portfolios. You can learn a lot about how someone tattoos from their body of work.
Also make sure that you’re taking proper care of your tattoo after you leave the shop. Ensure that you’re keeping your tattoo sufficiently moisturized, left out of sunlight, and don’t ever pick at the scabs. The tattoo will be itchy and it will be hard to stop yourself from scratching it, but it’s imperative to the integrity of the tattoo.
If you end up with a blowout, consider your options. While it’s extremely hard to fix, it is still fixable. Weigh your choices when it comes to fixing the blowout. If laser removable isn’t a viable option, consider a coverup tattoo. If a coverup tattoo isn’t the right choice, you can always fix it with makeup. While makeup is only a temporary fix, it can help you in a pinch.
The best thing you can do is educate yourself about blowouts, why they happen, and how to prevent them. It’s much easier to prevent them than it is to fix them, but don’t worry—almost everything is fixable. A blowout doesn’t have to be a life sentence.
These Tips Can Help You Avoid a Tattoo Blowout
Proper care is essential for keeping your tattoos beautiful and in place. Make sure you know not to do anything that will compromise the look of your tattoo. If you find a tattoo artist who is clean, professional, and experienced, and pair that with the proper aftercare for your tattoo, you should have no problem keeping a beautiful, intact, and blowout-free tattoo.