Why Does My New Tattoo Feel Like It's Burning?

Written by: Pete

A new tattoo can bring with it a bunch of weird symptoms and feelings, and some can be more concerning than others. One of the things you might feel is a burning sensation, both while you’re being tattooed and for a few days after. So why does your tattoo feel like it’s burning and what is causing it? We will ease your worries with some explanations.

Why Does My Tattoo Feel Like It’s Burning?

When you are getting tattooed, tiny needles are puncturing your epidermis at a rapid pace. You could be receiving 80 to 100 stabs from the needles every minute. During this process, the needles are going into your dermis, depositing ink into the lower layer.

Essentially, a tattoo is comparable to a deep abrasion where your epidermis has been scratched off by sharp tools and your dermis is exposed. This means your tattoo is an open wound.

In response to this, your body’s immune system goes into overdrive, trying to send platelets to the wounded area to create clotting and to start to regenerate cells. This repair process will make your wound feel like it is on fire. This burning sensation is how your body is trying to fend off bacteria and foreign particles in your bloodstream. The overheating of the wound is similar to when a fever tries to fight off an infection in your whole body.

The best way to understand this is to imagine when you were a child and got a friction burn from the carpet; these seem to burn for hours after the abrasion. The way the needles work and overwork the skin causes the same experience but with the severity of the wound, it can last for one or two days. The feeling is often compared to the burning sensation of an extreme sunburn.

Dealing With a Burning Tattoo

The burning sensation of a new tattoo will generally disappear on its own after one or two days. Since it is actually a sign of your body healing the wound, it’s nothing to panic about and there’s nothing that can be done to truly stop this pain completely. But you do have a few options available if the burning feeling gets too uncomfortable.

  • Apply a Soothing Ointment - Ointments can be applied to a brand new tattoo. Many of them contain ingredients that soothe inflammation, feel cold upon application, and help ease the burning sensation. If you wish to use an ointment on your new tattoo, have a look at our article on the Best Tattoo Ointments: Top 7 Reviewed.
  • Soothe it With an Ice Pack - If the burning sensation of a new tattoo needs some instant relief, you can apply an ice pack or cold compress to your tattoo. Remember that you should never apply the cold compress directly to the skin or leave it on for more than 20 minutes at a time. For more safety tips, check out our article, Should You Ice A New Tattoo? - Safety Tips For Swollen Ink.
  • Keep it Elevated - In order to minimize the swelling and inflammation to the area which can amplify the burning pain, you can elevate the body part that was tattooed.
  • Take Tylenol - Taking medication to help stop the pain and swelling can assist you if the burning sensation becomes unbearable. Remember to stay away from blood thinners like Aspirin as these could complicate the clotting and healing of your new tattoo.
  • Begin Proper Aftercare - One of the best ways to kickstart your tattoo’s healing process and move it into the next, less painful stage, is to start your aftercare process once you get home, and to continue to maintain a careful cleaning schedule for your new tattoo. Have a look at our article, How Do I Clean My New Tattoo? - An Ink Aftercare Guide.

Cleaning Your Tattoo Is Going to Burn

Your tattoo is an open wound; as such, it will sting or burn when you are cleaning it. This will likely stop after the first week or so. It’s important that you do not skip the aftercare process or hesitate on scrubbing your tattoo gently but thoroughly just because of the pain. You need to fight through the discomfort if you want to protect your tattoo.

For more information, check out our article on Tattoo Aftercare Advice - How Do I Care For My Tattoo?

When Burning Becomes a Concern

A burning sensation on a new tattoo is perfectly normal for the first one or two days, and the discomfort is also normal when you are washing your new tattoo in the first week. But a burning sensation can be a cause for concern in a few circumstances.

  • If the intense burning sensation doesn’t go away after the first two days or if the burning sensation starts later in your healing journey, you could be suffering from an allergy to either the aftercare products or the ink, or your tattoo could be severely infected.
  • If your burning sensation is also paired with skin that is hot to the touch, you could be battling an infection. Infections often come with other symptoms such as fever or chills.
  • If you also notice that your tattoo is exceptionally red, swollen, or has red streaks extending beyond the tattoo, your tattoo could also be infected.

If at any point you become concerned about the burning feeling, it’s important that you talk to your artist or a healthcare professional who can give you the advice or product recommendations that you need to soothe the pain. Infections should be battled early to prevent severe risk and complications to your tattoo.

Our Final Thoughts

A burning sensation is often just another one of the not-so-pleasant parts of the tattooing experience. In most circumstances, it fades after one or two days. If it’s paired with any other signs of infection, or if it ever becomes a point of concern, you should speak to a medical professional immediately. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

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