Why Do I Have A Rash On My New Tattoo? - Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Written by: Claudia

Tattoos are thrilling but if it’s a new experience for our body, sometimes it can result in concerning symptoms. A rash can have you worried and anxious for your ink. So what could be causing this redness, and how can you treat it? We narrow down everything you need to know about a rash on a new tattoo.

Related: Tattoo Blisters - Causes And Treatment

Rash or Normal Redness: What’s the Difference?

When you get a tattoo, you are causing trauma to your body’s largest organ: the skin. It is normal for your body to have a trauma response to this wound. That response can include swelling, bleeding, and even redness. A rash-like look on your tattoo is normal in the first two or three days, when your tattoo is at its most vulnerable healing stage.

If this rash symptom or redness shows up later in your healing, then it may be a cause for concern. Swelling, blotchiness, or little spots showing up on your tattoo could be your body reacting to something else besides the trauma.

Is It Normal to Get a Rash on a New Tattoo?

tattoo rash

In most cases, it’s quite uncommon to get a rash on a new tattoo. Some redness is usually just how your body is responding to the wound, but a rash, or rash-like symptoms such as bumps or uneven skin, is not particularly normal.

That being said, rashes can appear for no particular reason on a new tattoo, but in most cases it can be narrowed down to one of the following causes:

Allergic Reactions

The most common cause of a rash on a new tattoo is an allergic reaction. If this is your first tattoo, according to WebMD, you could be experiencing a reaction to the ink. This allergic reaction can even show up on older ink after it has had time to heal.

Red and yellow ink have been said to cause the most allergic reactions in those tattooed, so if you know you are generally sensitive, perhaps you should plan a piece that avoids these colors.

In addition, a rash appearing on a tattoo later during the healing process could be a result of an allergic reaction to the aftercare product being used. You should avoid products that have fragrances, parabens, and petroleum. If you need some recommendations, check out our article on the Best Tattoo Aftercare Products - Our Favorites Reviewed.


Tattoo infections are quite uncommon, but they could be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Unsanitary tattooing space
  • Cheap ink
  • An uneducated artist
  • Poor aftercare
  • Bacteria-filled sleeping environment
  • Submerging your tattoo in water (such as a pool, hot tub, etc.)

Tattoo infections can usually be treated by amplifying your aftercare process, but if your situation is at all worrying, it’s important that you seek medical assistance.

If your tattoo is infected, you will not only see a rash. Infections are usually paired with other symptoms, such as:

  • Red streaking that extends beyond your tattoo
  • Excessive swelling or pain
  • Pus-filled pimples, boils, or blisters appearing on your tattoo
  • Weird or thick scabbing
  • Skin feels hot to the touch
  • Fever or chills

If you notice any of these symptoms along with your rash, it’s important to contact a professional right away. Your tattoo may require prescription cream or antibiotics, and if it is not treated right away, it could cause permanent distortion of your ink, scarring, or more severe concerns.

Skin Irritation

Another common cause of rashes on a new tattoo is skin irritation. This is due to the fact that your tattooed region is highly sensitive, as is the skin around the wound. Minor irritation could be caused by things that normally never irritated you before, but it is often nothing to worry about.

Skin irritation could be caused by:

  • Tight clothing or items of clothing like bras rubbing up against your tattoo
  • Fabrics, such as wool
  • An aftercare product, such as a soap or lotion
  • Skin rubbing up against skin
  • The tape or wrap used on your new tattoo

Redness or rashes caused by skin irritation should disappear in a day or two, especially after you’ve eliminated the cause.

Sun Exposure

UV rays are the primary enemy of new and old tattoos, and your rash could be a result of direct sun exposure. On a newer tattoo, your epidermis has not fully healed and the sun can cause far more damage, resulting in blistering or rash-like symptoms.

Your tattoo should not be exposed to direct UV ray exposure until it has fully healed, and even then, you need to apply sunscreen to your skin to not only prevent skin reactions but also the fading of your tattoo.

Acne Breakout

Sometimes what you may mistake as a rash is actually just a breakout of pimples on or around your tattoo. If you are using petroleum or mineral oil-based products, this could be the root cause of your breakout. If your rash is actually a breakout, have a look at our article on Pimples On New And Old Tattoos: How To Treat Them Safely.

Other Medical Conditions

A tattoo can cause changes to your body that you can not anticipate prior to getting it. WebMD states that a rash could appear on or around your tattoo because of an, “autoimmune disorder called sarcoidosis. It can show up decades after you get your tattoo. And although it’s not directly caused by the ink, when it shows up in the skin, it tends to show up on the tattoo. ”

A tattoo could also trigger eczema, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, or atopic dermatitis. Even if you’ve never suffered from skin sensitivities in the past, these issues could be triggered by the trauma done to your skin.

How to Prevent a Tattoo Rash

Here are some tips on how to combat or prevent a rash from happening on your new tattoo.

  • Reconsider getting a tattoo if you have skin sensitivities or an autoimmune disorder
  • Speak to your tattoo artist about your sensitivities and ask them for their solutions or advice
  • Do an in-depth allergy test prior to getting your tattoo to narrow down any irritants
  • Research for a high-quality and professional shop, with valid licenses; it should smell clean upon entering
  • Communicate your health history with your artist prior to getting your tattoo
  • Avoid tattoos with red or yellow ink
  • Take an antihistamine if you notice any rashes appearing on your skin
  • Use a cold compress on the ink, or apply aloe vera to soothe the irritation
  • Avoid any products with fragrances, parabens, or pore-clogging ingredients
  • Wash your tattoo twice a day and always pat it dry before applying any moisturizing products

What Do Rashes Normally Look Like?

Rashes, which can be caused due to a variety of factors, many unrelated to your tattoo itself, look different for each person. You can check out the appearance of various rashes here. In most cases, minor rashes disappear in a few days. If you notice that your rash on or around your tattoo is lasting for more than a week, even after you’ve adjusted any potential triggers, you should speak to a medical professional.

How About on Older Tattoos?

When it comes to rashes on older tattoos, you can normally cancel out infection as a potential cause. The skin has fully healed and is not at risk of infection anymore.

Rashes that hit your older tattoos will likely have external or internal allergen triggers, and are generally not a concern. They do not extend deep enough to have an impact on your settled ink, and so long as you do not cause any deep abrasions from scratching the rash, will not cause any scarring or distortion to your tattoo.

If you had sensitive skin prior to getting your tattoo, it will likely be amplified following your ink, as there are now foreign particles in your dermis that your body will continue to respond to. Treat your rash like you would have treated it before having a tattoo.

When to See a Doctor

If at any point you feel unsure or uncomfortable, regardless of the severity of your rash, you should speak to a dermatologist or medical professional. If your rash is coupled with other concerning symptoms such as swelling, blistering, or fever, you must quickly speak to a doctor.

Our Final Thoughts

Rashes on a new tattoo are rather uncommon, but if they happen, they are usually rectified once the external trigger is isolated. In most cases, redness and bumps will have little to no effect on your new ink, and with proper aftercare measures, can be eliminated in a few days. If you are at all concerned about what could be causing this reaction, speak to your artist who will likely be able to narrow down the cause, or will recommend you to a doctor, should you require one.

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