Why Is My Tattoo Bumpy & Raised?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on July 18, 2018
    Last Updated: January 13, 2021

Not all tattoos heal in the same way, and many things can happen to a new tattoo to make it look as though something might be wrong with it. A tattoo turning bumpy or raising above the skin is a relatively common, albeit worrying issue for people not expecting it to happen to their own ink.

We explain why this sometimes happens, and what to do to sort it out.


Why is My Tattoo Raised?

Nearly all tattoos will look and feel bumpy as they heal – especially on parts with lots of outlining. This bumpiness can hang around for quite a while after the rest of your tattoo looks otherwise fully healed. Dry air and humidity changes are also reasons why older tattoos can suddenly become raised.

white ink tattoo can look especially raised due to its extremely light nature. Some tattoos can be so light, they essentially just look like raised scar tissue.

Bumpy and raised tattoo
This type of raising is completely normal on a new tattoo

Below is a selection of other common reasons why your tattoo might look raised and bumpy:

Swelling

New tattoos tend to become swollen, especially if they’re created on a lower part of your body, such as your legs or feet, due to gravity causing extra blood and fluid to pool around the area. This swelling can sometimes make the tattoo look raised

This extra blood and fluid is sent by your body to the site of the tattoo wound in order to deliver nutrition and oxygen to the area so it can begin the healing process.

Thinner, more delicate areas of skin, such as the inner bicep area and the wrist can also swell quite badly,

You must remember, however, that this kind of swelling is completely normal and should disappear over the course of a week, and it shouldn’t cause any lasting damage to the appearance of your tattoo.

Irritation

Sometimes, certain skincare products or materials that your new tattoo comes into contact with can cause the area to become irritated and inflamed.

This is because the skin around a new tattoo is extremely sensitive, and although certain products or materials may not irritate your skin normally, they could still very likely cause irritation to your tattoo.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan-friendly aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.

Scabbing

Every single tattoo will scab while it heals. This is the only way the body can protect the wound while the skin regenerates below the scabbing.

This isn’t to say that every new tattoo ends up forming big, thick, black, ugly-looking scabs over the top of it. Many tattoos scab very lightly – to the point that you might not even notice any scabs forming.

However, although you may not be able to see these scabs very well, especially if they’re light, they will definitely be there throughout at least a part of the healing process (normally between days 3-7), and therefore when you run your fingers over the area you may feel various bumps and bobbles.

Raised, light scabbing over the tattoo

This is because the nerve endings in your fingers are extremely sensitive, and what they’re probably picking up on is each of the tiny bumps, grooves, and crevices within/between each of the little scabs that have grown over the ink.

Scarring

Although uncommon, tattoos can in-fact scar if the artist was too heavy-handed and penetrated the needles too far into the skin and caused deep tissue damage (there are also a couple of other reasons why a tattoo might scar, too).

As scars form, the body sends quite a large blood supply to the area, which can cause the scars to raise above the skin, and they can look and feel very bumpy, especially if a lot of damage was done.

After a month or two (but sometimes up to 3 months), a scar will usually begin to settle into the skin and fade slightly, and therefore will generally sit more flat against the surrounding area.

In some rare cases, keloids can form over a tattoo. Keloids are prominent, raised areas of scar tissue that can severely affect the appearance of a tattoo if not treated professionally.

Infection

Again, infections are uncommon these days due to more sterile tattooing environments and better tattoo aftercare information – but they do still happen.

Depending on the exact type of infection contracted, symptoms and appearance issues can vary widely, but some of the known physical identifiers of a tattoo infection include swelling, pain, warmth, white spots/pimples, oozing scabs and rashes – all of which can feel quite bumpy and raised.

As mentioned though – tattoo infections don’t happen very often, so the chances that your lumpy, bumpy tattoo is infected are slim.

However, if you do seriously suspect that your tattoo may have become infected, it’s best to seek the advice of a tattoo artist or a doctor as quickly as possible.

The sooner an infection is treated, the less damage it will cause to both your general health and the long term appearance of your tattoo.

The Weather

Strangely, the weather can also cause your tattoos to raise or turn bumpy. While this isn’t caused by the weather itself, it is caused by what the weather can potentially do to your body.

Warmer weather increases humidity, which can cause the skin to swell. This swelling stretches the skin slightly, which is able to cause irritation and subtle raising.

Colder weather is also well-known for affecting the skin, with dryness being the main issue. Dry skin can cause itching and irritation, which can in turn cause an area to raise or turn bumpy until the source of irritation has been resolved.

What To Do About A Bumpy Or Raised Tattoo

The number one rule is “Don’t Panic”.

As mentioned at the start of the article, a tattoo can take many different physical forms during the healing process, and some will just naturally look slightly more raised and bumpy as the skin around the tattoo begins to regenerate and recover.

While a tattoo is still healing, it’s very difficult to try and predict whether these raised areas are temporary or permanent because the area is usually so red and inflamed at these early stages of a tattoo’s life.

What you may self-diagnose as a horrible appearance-altering bump, could actually just be caused by a bit of skin irritation, or could even just be a little bit of swelling.

If you do become extremely concerned that your tattoo isn’t healing as it should be, however, then it’s always best to get in touch with your tattoo artist so they can give you their professional opinion on the situation.

There is a condition called Sarcoidosis that may present in the skin in response to a tattoo so if you have persisting discrete bumps, please see a Board Certified Dermatologist – an expert in all things skin-related.

Raised Bumps On An Old Tattoo

Old tattoos can begin to raise at certain points in their lifetime, too. This can also be for a variety of reasons, but usually, the raised bumps are a lot smaller and look more like pimples and rashes.

These bumps on older tattoos are caused primarily by things such as heat rash from the sun, and certain allergies that might develop, such as an allergy to the tattoo ink, which can take years to initially appear after getting a tattoo.

Summary

Lumpy, bumpy and raised tattoos are all common during (and sometimes slightly after) the tattoo healing process. They can also even appear on much older tattoos.

Generally, when an older tattoo becomes bumpy and raised, it usually doesn’t turn out to be anything serious. If after 5-7 days the lumps and bumps haven’t gone down, or are getting worse, it may be worth speaking to a doctor for their advice.

However, it’s very likely that these symptoms will go away on their own over the course of a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Remember, though, that if you do become concerned about any raised bumps on your tattoo, and if they don’t disappear after a couple of weeks, then seek advice just to be safe. Enjoy your ink.