Why Does My Tattoo Look Milky?

Don't worry about your cloudy tattoo - it's most likely healing normally.

Updated December 12, 2022
New tattoo looking milky

You just got that tattoo that you've been dreaming about for years. You're excited to see the vibrant, clear design the artist took hours to create. But right now, your tat looks dull and flaky. You're following all the aftercare instructions, so why do you have a cloudy tattoo?

Rest assured, this stage of the healing process is normal. Some people call it the "milky" phase. To make sure your new tat stays on track with healing, there are a few dos and don'ts that you should know about during this phase of the process.

What Is a Tattoo Milky Phase?

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


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 see the vibrant colors of your healed tattoo in no time at all.


The milky phase, or drying out phase, happens after the itchy scab has fallen off the tattoo. The milky layer of skin that is obscuring your tattoo will naturally slough off with time. According to Medline Plus, it's the shiny new tissue that formed under the scab. It lasts about two weeks. Depending on your own body and healing, it can take a little more time or a little less. Once you make it through this stage, you're pretty much home free.


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.

Tattoo Care Tips for the Milky Stage

There are things you can do to promote healing and get to the final stage - a healed tattoo. Follow a few tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Mayo Clinic to keep your skin healthy and your ink in tiptop shape.

Do Not Scratch or Rub

During the milky phase, it is essential 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. Picking at or pulling away skin that isn't ready to slough off can lead to renewed scabbing. You also increase the risk of bleeding, scarring, or infection, according to Mayo Clinic. It might be uncomfortable, but it is important that you leave it alone.


While you might have been diligent in using lotion on your tat during the first few weeks, now is not the time to slack off. Adding lotion to dry skin will help to rejuvenate and replenish the cells. It will also help you get rid of dead skin. Just don't overdo it. Remember: less is more.

Avoid the Sun

Your tattoo isn't completely healed yet. It will be healed soon, but until then, it's important to stay out of the sun. This is crucial to promote healing. Then, The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatologyrecommends that you use 30 SPF or higher sunscreen on it after it has healed.

Don't Soak

Avoid taking baths. A bath can sometimes help to moisturize your skin, but they aren't a good idea when your tattoo is healing. Stick to showers and let your skin heal naturally.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Eating healthy can promote wound healing, including tattoo healing. Plan healthy meals full of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean protein. It's also important to stay hydrated.

Be Patient

While getting a tattoo can be painful, the real pain comes with the healing process. The milky phase will run its course in a few weeks. Remember to avoid picking at the milky skin, add lotion regularly, and keep the area moist to promote healing. Now take a breath; you're almost to the finish line.

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Why Does My Tattoo Look Milky?