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What Is a Tattoo Ink Sack: Everything You Need To Know

Let’s see; you just got a tattoo, and you’ve got a lot of questions to ask, but no one to really answer them? Well, don’t worry, because we’ve got all the answers right here just for you. We have to be honest; questions like, ‘what is a tattoo ink sack?’ are super common and almost everyone experiencing tattoos for the first time will ask such a question. So, you’re not alone.

Because it is so hard sometimes to get accurate, direct information, we’ve decided to answer this question for you and talk about tattoo ink sacks in general; here’s everything you need to know! Therefore, without further ado, let’s get started!

Tattoo Ink Sack Explained

Tattoo Ink Sack Explained
Credit: @racqham

Tattooing is a pretty straightforward process; when done by a professional, skilled, and experienced tattoo artist, it seems like a piece of cake kind of work. But, in reality, some things can go wrong, especially after the tattooing is done. The healing process seems to be the trickiest part of the process for the majority of people. This is when infections occur and things go wrong if the tattoo isn’t properly taken care of.

So, let’s talk about the so-called ink sacks because the healing process is when these occur as well.

What Are Ink Sacks?

Now, ink sacks are generally considered to be normal parts of a tattoo healing process. They are a sack of fluid that has formed over the tattooed skin but under a film of a cover that has been placed over the tattoo. The cover tattoo artists usually use is called Saniderm, and it is super safe to use. So, it’s nothing to worry about. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s explain what it is.

Ink sacks occur after the tattooist covers a fresh tattoo with a plastic cover called Saniderm. Tattoo artists have to put Saniderm on a fresh tattoo for many reasons, including;

  • Promoting faster ‘wound’ closing
  • Preventing excess bleeding and ink to spill everywhere (and ruining your clothes)
  • Preventing contamination of the ‘wound’
  • Protecting the ‘wound’ from bacteria, germs, dirt, etc.
  • Preventing tattoo scabbing

So, as you can see, covering a tattoo with Saniderm is super important. But, why is all this important for the explanation of ink sacks? Well, when tattoo artists use Saniderm to cover a new tattoo, that is when ink sacks form as well. How you may ask?

Well, Saniderm is excellent because it not only covers the tattoo and protects it, but it also allows the skin to heal and breathe at the same time. As a result, the excess ink (that would have otherwise leaked out), stays sealed with Saniderm, which allows the ink sack to form.

Ink sacks tend to scare a lot of people, but there isn’t generally much to worry about. But, what you need to remember is that the formation of ink sacks is completely normal.

What Causes A Tattoo Ink Sack?

Every time you experience a wound or an injury, your body reacts immediately and starts the healing process right away. The body sends an inflammatory fluid, called plasma (the clear part of the blood), to the surface of the skin (where the injury/wound is).

As a completely normal part of the healing process, excess blood, including plasma, as well as excess ink will start leaking out of the tattooed area. Now, because the tattoo is covered and sealed with a Saniderm film, the ink, and the blood plasma will form a fluid- and ink-filled sack under the Saniderm film.

Can I Remove the Ink Sack and When?

Surely enough, your tattoo cannot stay covered forever, otherwise, it won’t really heal promptly. So, when can you remove the Saniderm film, and with it the ink sack as well? We would say wait until there’s some ink build-up, in the first 24 hours of course. There is really no sense in removing it earlier, especially when the film is super nice for the tattooed skin, as well as breathable.

Now, after the first 24 hours have passed, it is time to replace the Sniderm regardless of whether there’s any build-up or not. No tattoo should stay fully covered, especially in the early healing stages. If you re-apply Saniderm, you can keep it on for up to six days, which is a time frame in which an ink sack will most definitely form.

Now, it is important to pay attention to the ink sack, especially if you notice it growing. If you allow the ink sack to get too filled with fluid, it may start leaking the ink, which is the perfect recipe for bacterial contamination of the tattoo, as well as tattoo infection. We would advise you to check the ink sack at least every 24 hours.

Saniderm, when used as recommended, doesn’t obstruct the initial healing stages in any way, which is especially important. Other than this, Saniderm can also be re-applied, so once there’s some ink build-up, make sure to remove the film, clean the tattooed area, and simply re-apply the film.

Also Read: Tattoo Wrapping: Can I Wrap The Tattoo In Cling Film, and For How Long?

Will The Ink Sack Ruin My Tattoo?

Let’s be honest; it isn’t the craziest thing to think that an ink sack might actually ruin your whole tattoo. There is a basis to this belief, but, quite contrary, the ink sack will not ruin your new ink. It will, however, definitely help with the healing process, keeping the tattoo moist enough to avoid cracking, bleeding, and scabbing.

Moreover, the ink sack creates some spaces between the film and the tattoo, which is also super convenient. For example, by being over an ink sack, the Saniderm film adhesive cannot stick to the actual tattoo. In some cases, having similar covers being placed directly on the tattoo does ruin the actual tattoo, but in this case, the ink sack saves the day.

We do have to point out that incorrect use of Saniderm can lead to your tattoo being ruined. What we have in mind when saying this is the fact that some people do not check the size of the ink sack. As we mentioned, when the ink sack gets too filled with fluid, it may burst and leak the ink. This creates the perfect storm in which the tattoo is open for bacterial contamination and ultimately infection.

Now, the infection is the one that could be responsible for potentially ruining your tattoo, and nobody wants that. So, make sure to keep an eye on the ink sack, and as recommended, try to check it at least once every day.

How Can I Remove the Ink Sack?

So, to remove the ink sack, make sure to follow these steps;

  • Make sure to remove the Saniderm film by pulling it in a downwards direction. You cannot pull it off your skin, since you may burst the ink sack or remove any scabbing that might have formed under the film. Scabs need to fall off on their own, otherwise, when removed they may reveal that the new skin underneath is not fully healed and may prolong the healing process.
  • Then, make sure to clean the tattooed area thoroughly. Use lukewarm water and antibacterial soap to clean the tattoo. Do not submerge the tattoo in water; use the water lightly over your tattoo, otherwise, you may moisten the tattoo too much which then becomes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria (especially if you’re reapplying the Saniderm cover). Then, tap it dry with a paper towel or a clean, soft, cotton towel.
  • Make sure to apply a thin layer of the prescribed/recommended tattoo ointment to nourish the skin, and keep it healthy and ready for the upcoming healing stages. You shouldn’t apply the ointment if your tattoo is still in those first 24 or 48 hours.
  • At this point, you can reapply the Saniderm film (using a new, clean one, of course). If you do, bear in mind that Saniderm can be worn up to 6 days max.

Can I Prevent The Ink Sack From Forming?

Not really; if covered by a Saniderm film, an ink sack simply needs to form. It is a natural part of this healing process, and the formation of the ink sack is a completely natural reaction of your body to everything that’s happening. Remember; your new tattoo is basically a wound, and the body is doing everything it can to heal it and get the foreign object, in this case, ink, out of the system.

We can only recommend you follow the aftercare instructions recommended by your tattoo artist, and everything should be fine. In case of pain, prolonged healing, irritation, raised skin, excessive and days-long ink leaking and bleeding, and especially in case of an infection, make sure to talk to your tattoo artists and seek medical attention.

Other than this, Saniderm will make the overall tattoo healing process go as smoothly as possible.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with a tattoo, especially for the first time, can be quite a journey. If you’ve noticed the formation of an ink sack under your Saniderm film, do not worry! It is a completely normal and natural occurrence, which simply needs to happen in order for your tattoo to heal. Hopefully, our detailed insight has calmed you down a bit and ensured you that everything will be ok. For more information about the ink sack, especially if you notice something being off, make sure to talk to your tattoo artist, and if needed, seek medical attention. Good luck and may you enjoy your needed tattoo!

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