The Blown-Out Tattoo Debacle: What Happens When Your New Tattoo is Smudged?

Any ink lover will tell you that their worst fear when getting a new tattoo is a tattoo blowout.

When your new ink looks blurry or the colors of the ink have bled into each other, you have a blown-out tattoo. It’s not a nice sight since it creates a distorted image, spoiling the effect of your tattoo. While a tattoo blowout isn’t a life-threatening problem, it ruins your body art.

If you’re experiencing a tattoo blowout today, you might be wondering “Does a tattoo blowout go away?” or “How can I prevent my tattoo from being ruined?”

Here’s everything you need to know about tattoo blowouts: why they happen, how you can prevent them, and what you can do when it happens.

What is a Tattoo Blowout?

If you recently got a new tattoo and noticed that it looks smudged and blurry during and after the healing process, you’re dealing with a blown-out tattoo. A blowout occurs when the tattoo expands below your skin’s layer and it hits the veins and fat. It can also happen when there is scarring. As long as you see blurring, you’re dealing with a blowout.

Some people experience minor tattoo blowouts, but there are others that deal with extreme cases.

The good news is a tattoo blowout doesn’t mean that you might deal with an allergic reaction or infections. However, you’ll end up with body ink that has a smudged appearance.

What Causes a Tattoo Blowout?

Tattoo ink easily spread out into surrounding layers of fat if the artist pushes it too deeply into your skin. This leads to a blurring effect, which is a common sign of blown-out tattoos. Cell structures in the fat layer and the differences in tattoo application pressure can cause the ink to disperse along unpredictable and undesired paths throughout your skin.

In most cases, tattoo blowouts are noticeable shortly after the injection of the ink into the wrong layer of the skin. However, there are cases where it takes a few weeks (post-procedure) for the ink to disperse throughout the skin.

There are multiple reasons behind this tattoo mishap, but the most common reasons are:

The needle is inserted at the wrong angle or too deep. This is one of the top reasons for blown-out tattoos. As mentioned above, pushing the needle too deep will cause the ink to disperse into a skin layer that shouldn’t have been touched.

The tattoo artist might have inserted the needle at an ineffective angle, which led to the dispersal of ink into neighboring tissue.

Working with an experienced tattoo artist often eliminates this risk, but there are cases when it’s difficult to prevent blowouts in certain skin areas. For this reason, you shouldn’t always accuse the tattoo artist.

The tattoo is drawn on very thin skin. Areas of your body with thin layers of skin are delicate. The likelihood of a blowout happening in these areas is higher compared to areas with thicker layers of skin. Because of the thin layer of skin in some areas of your body, the needle might poke into the lower layers, which can easily cause a blowout.

Areas of your body that are prone to tattoo blowouts include toes, fingers, ankles and the tops of your feet and hands.

The tattoo artist pulled and stretched your skin too much. To draw your tattoo on the exact location, tattoo artists must tighten and stretch the skin to ensure the ink is distributed evenly. However, if the artist pulls too much, especially if they’re working on thin and delicate skin, they might cause a tattoo blowout.

How Common are Tattoo Blowouts?

Fortunately, tattoo blowouts aren’t too common since tattoo artists must undergo extensive training to earn their licenses. But this doesn’t mean you’re not at risk for a blown-out tattoo. If any of the three reasons happen to you, you might have to deal with a blurred tattoo.

How Do You Fix a Blown-Out Tattoo?

tattoo blowout
Can you move on from a tattoo blowout like this? (Photo by Pinterest)

Sadly, there’s no way to reverse a tattoo blowout. Sometimes, even if only a little ink has been blown out, it can disperse to a wider area of skin.

However, there are a couple of ways to reduce the appearance of the blowout. While there isn’t a method that will completely eliminate the blowout, there are ways to “fix” it somehow. Consider the following options:

Correct with More Tattooing

This option is the most affordable remedy for tattoo blowouts. To minimize the appearance of the smudged ink, camouflage it with more tattoos. The cost of tattoo blowout cover-ups can range from $50 to $400, depending on the extent of the blowout and the size of your tattoo.

If you notice your blurred ink just a few days after getting tattooed, you can’t immediately cover it up with another tattoo. You have to wait up to two more months to let the tattoo heal before you cover it up. To ensure your tattoo heals properly, be diligent with the aftercare.

Laser Therapy

You can also reduce the appearance of a tattoo blowout with laser therapy. These lasers send out energy waves, which absorb the ink particles. The waves also diffuse the ink further in the skin so you wouldn’t notice the smudging.

Laser therapy correction leaves you with a tattoo that looks cleaner compared to the initial work. As long as you take care of your tattoo, you should be fine.

To correct a tattoo blowout with laser therapy, you’ll need to book five or more sessions. The number of sessions depends on the blowout’s extent and your body’s reaction to laser therapy. The average cost of laser tattoo removal is $423.

Surgical Tattoo Removal

Surgery can effectively remove a tattoo blowout, but it is the most expensive and invasive option. This means you’ll have to remove your tattoo. During the surgery, the surgeon will cut off your tattoo and sew the remaining skin back together.

When you choose this option, consider the recovery time and risk of scarring. The smaller the tattoo is, the less scarring you’ll have.

How Can You Prevent a Tattoo Blowout?

One of the easiest ways to prevent a tattoo blowout is to work with an experienced tattoo artist. Do your research to find an experienced tattoo artist in your area. Don’t just settle for their aesthetic; read up on reviews and zoom in on photos of their work. Check the details of their tattoos: how sharp are their tattoo lines? Also, if possible, ask the artist to show you their work after the healing process.

Finding a professional tattoo artist isn’t the only step of prevention to take. The next step is to religiously follow the aftercare directions. Also, check your tattoo during the healing process. Always clean your tattoo twice a day and keep it moisturized until it’s fully healed. Avoid scratching the area, too. Don’t stretch and pull the tattooed area since it spreads the ink beyond the tattoo lines.

The Bottom Line

Tattoos, like piercings, are edgy fashion statements that we want to look perfect.

When you have a fresh tattoo, a tattoo blowout is the last thing that you want. It messes up with the design of your tattoo. One of the best ways to prevent a blowout is to work with an experienced artist. However, if a blowout still happens, use the healing period to determine what to do next: laser the blowout, add more tattoos or schedule a surgical appointment.

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