Tattoo Ink Not Staying in the Skin: Causes & Solution

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Getting a tattoo can be a nerve-wracking experience. Given the different things that can go wrong, it’s perfectly normal to worry. One common issue is that the tattoo ink doesn’t stay in the skin. The good news is that we have a solution.

In this article, we’ll go over every possible reason why the tattoo ink is not staying in the skin, as well as how to fix it.

Why is my tattoo ink not staying in?

The first step in solving this problem, is to figure out the root cause of why the tattoo ink is not staying in the skin. Here are the possible reasons why this occurs.

Extremely tough skin

Skin thickness varies among different people. Unfortunately, some people have skin that is very tough and thick. The tougher the skin, the harder it is to tattoo.
Even skilled tattoo artists will struggle to tattoo skin like this. The risk of causing damage and scarring to the skin is higher as well.

Solution: in this situation, you have to find a tattoo artist that has worked with tough skin in the past. They will have worked out how to tattoo tough skin so that the ink stays in properly. Contact a bunch of different tattoo parlors and ask them if they have experience tattooing thicker skin.

Not tattooing deep enough

Not going deep enough into the skin while tattooing, is another reason why the tattoo ink might not stay in.

An inexperienced tattoo artist might only tattoo into the first layer of skin. This is an issue because it won’t stick. The second layer of the skin, also called the dermis, is where the ink is actually supposed to go.

If the ink does end up only in the first layer of the skin, the body will push it out, as it may be perceived to be something harmful like an infection. A scab will form, then eventually fall off along with all of the ink.

Solution: the solution here is to Simply choose a tattoo artist with sufficient experience. Not tattooing deep enough it’s considered to be kind of a beginner’s mistake.

Not shaking the ink thoroughly

It’s important for the tattoo artist to shake the ink thoroughly before the tattoo. This ensures that it flows properly and doesn’t have any clumps which can interrupt the flow.
Different viscosities of ink flow differently, and if the needle is hanging too far out, thicker ink won’t be able to travel as far into the skin as it needs to.

Solution: shake the crap out of the ink before use!

Incorrect machine settings

Another possibility that may happen with beginner tattoo artists is not using the right settings on the machine. If the voltage is too low or the machine is not calibrated correctly then there might not be enough force for the needle to pierce deep enough into the skin.

Solution: change machine settings (like voltage) as needed.

Lubricant used

This may sound strange, but it’s possible for the lubricant that used during the tattoo to act as a barrier between the ink and the skin.

The wrong lubricant can create such a barrier. If a lubricant like this has been used on the skin, it might clog the pores. This means that when ink is injected into the skin, it will go back to the surface because of the lubricant acting as a block.

In this situation, it doesn’t matter how many times the tattoo artist goes over the area. The ink will always get pushed back out.

Solution: this one is an easy fix. After the lubricant has been thoroughly washed away, the tattoo process will need to be started again using a different lubricant.

How to know if the tattoo ink is not staying in?

During the healing process, some people may panic when they see ink running off into the water when they wash their tattoo. This is actually completely normal, and the ink that you see is just residue left over from the tattoo.

It’s also normal for the tattoo to appear lighter, as well as dark scabs for me. This is all part of the tattoo’s healing process. When the tattoo has healed fully, the skin will go back to normal.
In the rare event that there is missing ink after the healing process, you will have to contact the tattoo artist to do a touch-up. With most artists this should be free of charge.

What to do if the skin rejects the tattoo ink?

There are very rare cases where some people’s skin will not accept the tattoo ink. There’s only a couple things you can do in this scenario.

The first thing you can try is to switch the ink brand. It’s possible for some people to react to a certain type of ink. Using a vegan tattoo ink is the best option here. Also make sure that the ink is not past the expiry date.

Another potential solution is for the tattoo artist to tattoo deeper into the skin. This is generally not recommended because the risk for scarring and blowout is quite high, but it may be the only way to get the ink to stick.

A last resort would be to do the tattoo on a different area of your body. It’s possible that the skin on the certain area will not accept the ink. Switching to another area is not ideal but could work if the person is OK with it.


Why does my skin not hold ink?

The most common reasons for skin to not hold tattoo ink are from the tattoo machine not using the right settings, or using the wrong ink.

What happens if a tattoo isn’t deep enough?

If a tattoo isn’t deep enough the ink won’t stick and will fade much more rapidly. There may also be chunks missing in parts of the tattoo.

How do you get ink to stay on your skin?

The best way to get ink to stay on the skin is to use a good lubricant like bacitracin ointment or Vaseline while doing the tattoo. The tattoo doesn’t need to be extremely deep to become permanent, but it does need to be past the first layer of skin.

How do you keep tattoo ink from falling out?

Proper aftercare is very important to keep tattoo ink from falling out. Cleaning with antibacterial soap and moisturizing with lotion help the healing process.


The most important thing to remember when tattoo ink is not staying in the skin, is to figure out the root cause. If the root cause is not discovered and addressed, you end up getting the same result as the first time. Once you know why the tattoo ink is not staying in place, your tattoo artist should be able to tell you what the next steps are.

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