Why Does My Tattoo Look Milky?

Tattoo healing

So, you've got that ink that you've been dreaming about for years. You made it through the dreaded scabbing stage, but now your tattoo looks dull and flaky. Rest assured, this stage of the healing process is normal and affectionately known as the "milky" phase.

Milky Phase of Tattoo Healing

When you get a tattoo, you are penetrating the body's first line of defense against invaders: the skin. The minute your artwork is permanently adhered to the dermis layer, your body starts to heal the self-inflicted wound. The milky look of a tattoo after a few weeks is just part of the normal healing process. There are usually about three different stages of healing, and the milky phase is one of the final stages before your new tattoo is completely healed.

Milky Phase Timing

The milky phase, or drying out phase, generally happens after the itchy scab has fallen off the tattoo. It happens in the last stage of healing. The milky layer of skin that is obscuring your tattoo will naturally slough off with time. It lasts about two weeks. Depending on your own body and healing, this can be longer or shorter. Once you make it through this stage, you are home free.

What to Expect

The skin underneath the scab will be dull-looking and dry. It might also have a shiny, filmy look to it and still be slightly tender. While you might think your new tattoo is ruined, it isn't. The haziness you are seeing is simply dry skin that hasn't yet been removed.


The dry skin that forms at this stage is a defense mechanism of the body. Basically, it is an added layer of protection to keep the new skin fresh. If you leave it alone and let your body do its thing, then you will be able to see the vibrant colors of your healed tattoo in no time at all.

Caution: Hands-Off

During the milky phase, it is pivotal that you don't scratch, rub or pick at the skin. The skin is there for a reason and pulling at it will only extend the healing time. Additionally, picking or pulling away skin that isn't ready to slough off can lead to renewed scabbing. You also run the risk of bleeding, scarring or infection. Therefore, while you might not like it, leave it alone.

Tattoo Care Tips for the Milky Stage

While picking or scratching the skin is a huge no no, there are things that you can do to promote healing and get to the coveted final stage - a healed tattoo.

  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize! While you might have been diligent in using lotion on your tat during the first few weeks, now is not the time to slack. Adding lotion to the dry skin will help to rejuvenate and replenish the cells. It will also help you to get rid of the dead skin. Just don't overdo it. Remember: less is more.
  • Keep the tattoo out of the sun. Your tat isn't completely healed yet. It will be healed soon, but until then it's important to keep sunscreen on the tat out or stay out of the sun. Thi is is crucial to promoting healing.
  • Don't soak the skin. While this might seem like a good idea for getting rid of the dead skin, it is not. Stick to showers and let your skin heal naturally.

Are You Healed Yet?

While getting a tattoo is painful, the real pain comes with the healing process. The milky phase is a natural part of the tattoo healing where the dead skin under the scab still lingers. It should run its course in a few weeks. Though it is important to avoid picking at the milky skin, adding lotion and keeping the area moist can promote healing. Now take a breath, you're almost to the finish line.

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Why Does My Tattoo Look Milky?