Tattoo healing can look different for all people and all skin types, and sometimes it’s difficult to know what’s normal and what could be cause for concern. Tattoo redness and inflammation is one of those worrying healing stages. While it’s usually nothing to worry about, sometimes it may be the symptom of a greater underlying issue.
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Is Tattoo Redness and Inflammation Normal?
To help put your mind at ease, in most circumstances, tattoo redness or inflammation is totally normal! In fact, for the first few days of a new tattoo, it’s rather common.
A tattoo is essentially an open wound and that kind of trauma to your skin is going to be similar to other abrasions or irritations. It’s normal for you to experience some bruising, redness around the tattoo or swollen skin area. It is merely your immune system’s attempt to flood the area with collagen and blood repairing cells in order to help it heal.
Tattoo swelling or redness could vary depending upon the size and detail of your tattoo, the placement, and even the skill of the individual artist.
When Isn’t Tattoo Redness Normal?
Like all healing stages or symptoms, there could be a point where redness or inflammation becomes concerning. It is not normal if you notice any of the following:
- The redness or inflammation increases instead of dissipates over time
- There is heat coming off your skin or the skin feels hot to the touch where it is red or swollen
- The inflammation begins to blister or have discharge
- The redness turns into red streaks extending beyond your tattoo
- If it is paired with an increase in pain or tenderness as time goes on
Any of these symptoms could be a cause for concern. It may mean you are experiencing one of the following:
Getting a tattoo is not a fun or pain-free experience. You are putting your skin under trauma conditions, as it is pierced by numerous needles, thousands of times, during a tattoo session.
Your redness or inflammation could be the cause of skin irritation from:
- The needle trauma
- The medical tape or wrap used to seal the tattoo after the session
- The cream or Vaseline used on the tattoo
- The aftercare products you are using which add to the irritation of your tattoo
- Loofahs or washcloths that you are using (and should not be) to clean your new tattoo
- The shower spray directly on your tattoo
Skin irritation will usually dissipate in a few days' time without much intervention on your part. Just be sure to narrow down if a product is causing the irritation.
Infection is the rarest but most concerning cause of excessive redness and inflammation. It can occur due to unsterilized equipment, poor aftercare treatment, or external bacterial contaminants.
When bacteria enters the wound, it can cause redness or inflammation but it is usually paired with the additional symptoms we mentioned, as well as a high fever, chills, or shakes. Infection requires immediate medical attention.
Though not as serious as an infection, an allergic reaction deserves equal care and attention. You could experience an allergic reaction to:
It’s important to narrow down the cause of your allergic reaction so you can eliminate it from your aftercare routine, or for you to be aware for future reference.
When using a new product, we always recommend performing a 48-hour patch test of the product on the inside of your elbow prior to using it on your tattoo.
Sun and UV rays are the enemy of tattoos, especially fresh ones. Any UV ray exposure on a new tattoo could lead to immediate blistering or burning. This will be sure to cause excessive redness and inflammation of your tattooed area.
Finally, redness and inflammation could be caused by a heavy-handed tattoo artist. Tattoo artists who are inexperienced could scratch or grate the area, causing excessive swelling and redness. It’s important to invest in a professional and experienced artist who will not overwork your skin.
Redness Around an Old Tattoo
Redness around a tattoo that is more than three months old is usually caused by the following:
- A slight reaction to a new skin product or laundry soap
- A heat rash
- A skin concern that is unrelated to the tattoo itself, such as eczema or psoriasis
Redness on an old tattoo is likely nothing to worry about and it will dissipate in due time. If it’s due to a new product introduced in your hygiene routine, isolate the culprit to protect your skin health.
Our Final Thoughts
If your tattoo is red or inflamed, don’t panic! This is a very common early symptom that appears as a tattoo is going through its standard healing process. If it’s paired with any other concerning symptoms such as fevers, chills, pus, or skin that feels hot to the touch, there may be another concern at hand. If you’re ever unsure, it’s better not to risk it: speak to an industry or medical professional for advice.