Tattoo Feels Hot - Is it Normal Or A Concern?

Written by: Claudia
Updated:

There are so many aspects of the healing process of a new tattoo that can make us feel quite nervous, and a hot tattoo is one of them. You may be wondering if it is okay for the skin on or around your new tattoo to feel hot to the touch or feel as though it is burning. We will clarify why this happens, when it’s normal, and when it’s cause for concern when a tattoo feels hot.

What’s Normal in a Healing Tattoo?

A tattoo is an open wound, and like any raw abrasion on your largest organ, our skin goes through various stages of healing to mend this new tattoo. Here are some common symptoms of a healing tattoo.

  • Leaking - In the first three days of a new tattoo, it goes through a process called weeping. During this stage, our tattoo pushes out excess ink, plasma, and blood from the wound. This is all essential to healing.
  • Scabbing and Peeling - Our tattoo can go through numerous scabbing stages before it is ready and fully healed. Scabs can vary in size, density, and color. Have a look at our article on Tattoo Scabbing - Your Complete How To Guide.
  • Itchiness - During the scabbing and peeling stages, our tattoo will feel immensely itchy. You must not scratch your tattoo under any circumstances! Have a look at our Tattoo Itch Guide: How To Stop And Prevent Tattoo Itching.
  • Redness and Swelling - Like any wound, our tattoo may experience some signs of trauma and immense irritation. This should go down in about a week or so.
  • Bruising - In rare circumstances, you may experience some bruising around your tattoo.

Is a Hot Tattoo Normal?

Though it is uncommon, a hot tattoo can be normal under certain circumstances.

When you are tattooed, a needle is stabbing your skin numerous times in a minute, depositing ink into your lower dermis. It is almost like being scratched with a pin with a depth that is great enough to cause bleeding.

Some immune systems react to this trauma quite intensely, sending blood palettes to the area, rushing to try and mend the wound. One of the ways that our body combats infection is through heat, and so the wound may feel hot to the touch or be red around the edges during the first few days as it tries to destroy any bacteria in the wound.

This hot feeling can be especially prevalent for bigger pieces, and pieces with a lot of coloring, shading, and detail, because of the numerous times that a needle has to go over the skin for the piece. There is a name for this process done by artists and it’s called, overworking the skin.

If your new tattoo is hot within the first three days, that’s a normal but uncommon reaction to the trauma. This “hot” feeling should diminish as you come to the end of the week. If it does not, this is when the hot tattoo is no longer normal but is a cause for concern.

Signs of a Tattoo Infection

When the feeling of having a hot tattoo doesn’t dissipate after a week, it could be the start of an infection. An infection can usually be combatted early, but it becomes dangerous when it is paired with other symptoms, such as:

  • Swelling - Severe swelling or immense discomfort should be a cause for concern, especially if it is paired with other symptoms of infection and extends beyond the tattooed area.
  • Discharge - While your tattoo will leak ink, plasma, and blood in the first 72 hours, if your tattoo continues to discharge fluid, or leaks things like pus, or yellow liquid, this is a big cause for concern.
  • Odor - Wounds do not produce a smell if they are cleaned properly, and if you are using reliable aftercare products, it should be either scent free or have a medicinal odor. If there is a bad smell coming from your tattoo, this is a sign of infection.
  • Pain - Your tattoo will obviously be tender, but any extreme pain beyond the first week is worrying.
  • Blistering - Your tattoo, if cared for properly, should not blister or produce any raised and fluid-filled sores.
  • Increase in Scab Size - Scabbing is normal, but extra thick, bubbly, or scabs that extend beyond the tattooed area is not normal. They should also not be yellow or pus-filled.
  • Streaking - This is when redness extends beyond your tattoo in straight lines, and it is often paired with skin that is hot to the touch. This is not a normal part of the healing process but is a sign of infection.

Some of these symptoms could also be a sign of an allergic reaction to ink or aftercare products. You won’t know for sure unless you ask a professional.

General Signs of Infection

Other signs of infection which extend beyond the tattoo are:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Dehydration

How Tattoo Infection is Treated

If you are experiencing any full-body signs of infection, it is paramount that you speak to a medical professional immediately. If you have caught your infection early, you can stop it in its tracks by making sure that you:

  • Never touch your tattoo without washed hands
  • Introduce a more thorough aftercare regimen
  • Use an ointment with anti-inflammatory properties
  • Take an antihistamine or aspirin to combat the swelling
  • Levitate the area that is tattooed to increase blood flow

If you are at all concerned about the likelihood of a tattoo infection, it is much better to deal with this issue promptly. If seeking medical help is not a financial option, ask your tattoo artist for their recommendations and advice on cleaning an infected tattoo.

Our Final Thoughts

Experiencing hot skin on or around your tattoo within the first three or four days is completely normal, and usually a result of your immune response to healing the wounded area. If it becomes paired with other symptoms of infection, that is when it is a cause for concern. Regardless, if you are ever worried about the healing of your new tattoo, you should seek professional help from your artist or a healthcare professional.

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