Tattoo Bruising Guide - Is It Normal For My New Tattoo To Be Bruised?

Written by: Claudia
Last Updated:

A new tattoo is a wound, and as such, your skin has gone through extreme trauma to get this beautiful piece of art. Like any trauma, your skin goes into hyperdrive trying to mend the area. This can result in numerous stages of wound healing, including bruises.

Is Tattoo Bruising Normal and Why Do Tattoos Bruise?

tattoo bruising

Bruising around a new tattoo isn’t very common but it’s certainly normal. A bruise is a reaction to trauma or tissue injury, which is exactly what a tattoo is. Cleveland Clinic states, “[An] injury damages blood vessels underneath the skin, causing them to leak. When blood pools under the skin, it causes black, blue, purple, brown, or yellow discoloration. There’s no external bleeding unless the skin breaks open. ”

When you are getting a tattoo, the blood of the injury usually comes to the surface and exits the open wound. In some cases, the blood vessels leak underneath the tattooed area and form bruising around your tattoo. Even after the tattoo begins to regenerate cells to the raw area, this bleeding may continue under the skin and disperse itself beyond the tattooed area.

Anyone is prone to bruising, but it is particularly prominent in people with genetic disposition to bruising, people on blood thinners, or those with bleeding disorders. There are numerous factors that may influence whether or not your tattoo bruises.

Tattoo Location

As you’ve likely noticed outside of tattooing, some parts of our body are simply more prone to bruising. These areas can include our lower body parts as the blood flow is poor, joints and areas that move a lot such as ankles and wrists, and places on our body where skin is particularly thin, such as the inside of our biceps or under our eyes.

Each spot on our body is different and reacts differently to being tattooed. You may not have a bruise until your tenth tattoo, that just happens to be in a sensitive area that reacted to the trauma differently.

Tattoo Artist Technique

The more experienced an artist is, the more gentle their work will be on your skin. This results in less trauma response from the wound, and tattoos done by slow and careful professionals usually experience a quicker healing time and less scabbing or bruising.

A poor machine in the hands of an inexperienced artist can result in the needle jumping and damaging your skin. Heavy-handed artists can sometimes put too much pressure on the area around where they are tattooing and press too intensely with their needle that this strain is felt by your blood vessels. These can result in bruising.

Your Medication

Blood thinners can result in excessive bruising. This means that when you reach for the aspirin before a session to help dull the pain, you may be opening yourself up to a more painful healing experience by triggering bleeding. Blood thinning medication is used to prevent blood clotting, which is exactly what your open wound requires to regenerate itself.

In addition, using a numbing cream prior to your session may lead to bruising as you heal. Numbing cream restricts blood flow to dull pain, but this may push your nervous system into overdrive as a reaction to the trauma.

Infection

Bruising around your tattoo may actually be an early sign of infection, especially if the “bruise” is mainly red in color and swollen. Infection is usually paired with other symptoms such as fever, chills, excessive scabbing, and pus. If you are worried that your tattoo might be experiencing an infection, when caught early, this can be combated with more thorough aftercare.

Some People Just Bruise Easily

Like keloid scarring, some people are just predisposed to bruise more easily than others. Cleveland Clinic states that you may be more prone to bruising if you,

  • “Have cancer or liver disease. 
  • Have family members who bruise easily.
  • Take medications to thin blood or stop clotting, such as aspirin or blood thinners.
  • Regularly take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain relief, including ibuprofen (Advil®) or naproxen (Aleve®).
  • Have a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia, von Willebrand disease or another blood clotting disorder.
  • Experience a low blood platelet count (thrombocytopenia).
  • Are deficient in vitamin C or vitamin K. ”

It May Not Be a Bruise

What you may think is a bruise may not actually be a bruise at all. In fact, your tattoo could be experiencing something called blowout.

Blowout happens due to inexperienced tattooing and it’s when the ink has been deposited in the fatty layer of your skin, below your dermis where your ink should be deposited. The ink cannot hold in place in the fatty cells, so it disperses and gives a bruised, fuzzy, or blurry look around your tattoo.

tattoo blowout

An example of a tattoo blowout that looks like a bruise.

Unfortunately, tattoo blowouts cannot be fixed with a touchup. It requires a full coverup or a blastover to fix a blowout. If your “bruise” doesn’t disappear in a month, your tattoo may be experiencing a blowout, instead.

tattoo blowout coverup

A coverup of tattoo blowout. 

How To Treat Tattoo Bruising

Tattoo bruising can be treated like you would any bruise, you just need to be more careful about other aspects of wound aftercare as you do so. Here are some suggestions to help minimize tattoo bruising.

Ice Compression

Putting ice on your tattoo can help reduce swelling and can give relief to the blood vessels that are causing bruising. You should only ice your tattoo after it has finished its weeping stage, and ice should never be applied directly on your wound. For more information about safely icing your tattoo, have a look at our article, Should You Ice A New Tattoo? - Safety Tips For Swollen Ink.

Elevation

Blood pools when it doesn’t know where to go, and elevating your tattooed area can help with the blood flow and reduce the bruising. This can be done with a few extra pillows while you sleep and will make a big difference on your tattoo bruising.

Rest

Nothing speeds up healing better than a good night’s rest. If your tattoo bruising pain is extensive and affecting your day-to-day activities, you should take a nap to help yourself recover. Your body’s immune system works in overdrive when you are sleeping. Have a look at our article, How To Sleep With A New Tattoo - Your Helpful Guide.

Stop Smoking and Drinking

Cigarettes restrict your blood flow and drinking alcohol thins your blood, both causing adverse effects on the healing of your new tattoo, especially when it comes to combating your bruising. Put it all aside for just a week and monitor your bruising.

Adjust Your Diet

Eating healthy is a great way to get the nutrients your body requires to speed up the healing process of a new tattoo. This can include:

  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Taking more vitamin C
  • Avoiding processed foods and sugars
  • Eating more garlic

Can a Bruise Ruin a Tattoo?

If your bruise is definitely a bruise and not a sign of blowout, then you have nothing to worry about. This trauma is happening in the skin below your tattoo and should not adversely affect the healing of your tattoo - it’s just a pain to deal with!

Our Final Thoughts

A bruise is just another reaction to a wound and, in most cases, is nothing to worry about. There are many ways that you can reduce the discomfort of and help manage tattoo bruising. Bruising should go away in the month it takes to heal your tattoo, but should you have any questions or concerns with how your tattoo is healing, speak to your artist who will give you sound advice specific to your needs.

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