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Tattoo Redness - Why Is My New Tattoo Red & Inflamed?

Getting a new tattoo can be an exciting experience, but it can also be quite worrying if you’re not sure what is normal and what is not during the healing process.

Redness around a tattoo is something that many people get concerned about as they’re not sure whether their redness is normal or whether it's the sign of a potentially serious problem.

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Is Tattoo Redness & Inflammation Normal?

Tattoo redness and inflammation is completely normal after getting a new tattoo in most circumstances.

tattoo redness

This is what normal tattoo redness looks like for a few days after a tattoo is drawn

When getting a tattoo, the process itself is very damaging to the area. The little needles punching in and out of your skin thousands of times a second all mount up to create quite a large wound, which can also sometimes equate to bruising around the area for up to several days later.

Your body's natural response to this wound is to pump larger volumes of blood to the area in order to supply more nutrients, oxygen and important blood clotting cells so that the wound has the best chance of healing as quickly as possible

This natural bodily response happens almost immediately, and with this response comes plenty of redness and inflammation - and this is all completely normal.

tattoo redness

Your tattoo can remain red and inflamed for quite a while depending on the size of it.

If it’s only a very small tattoo, the area may only stay red for a day or two, whilst if the tattoo is, say, a large back piece or half a sleeve that was done throughout the course of an entire day, the area can remain red and sore for up to 7-10 days.

When Isn’t Tattoo Redness Normal?

In the vast majority of instances, the redness within and around your tattoo will be nothing to worry about. However, it can sometimes the symptom of a more serious problem. Issues that can cause unordinary redness include:

Infection

This is the most dangerous of all possible causes as to why your tattoo may be more red that it should be.

tattoo redness and swelling

A very red and swollen area around what looks like an infected tattoo

Tattoo infections occur when the area has not been kept completely clean and sterile, and bacteria has entered the would.

Whilst rare, tattoo infections can be very dangerous - not only to your tattoo but also to your general health.

As previously mentioned, a tattoo that is just slightly red for up to 10 days is normally nothing to worry about, but if any of these symptoms appear along with the redness, then it might be worth getting your tattoo checked out:

  • The redness around your tattoo begins to get darker and more visible instead of getting lighter and gradually disappearing
  • The redness remains on/around your tattoo for over two weeks
  • ​The redness develops into a stubborn rash that doesn't disappear
  • ​The area of redness begins to grow outwards, further from your tattoo instead of beginning to shrink and fade away
  • ​The area of redness begins to grow outwards, further from your tattoo instead of beginning to shrink
  • ​The redness is accompanied with pain that doesn’t disappear after 10 days
  • The redness doesn’t go away and is accompanied by a high temperature or fever
  • The area around the tattoo remains very red and very warm to the touch for over a week
Infected Tattoo

Another infected tattoo

Remember though - everyone is different, and everybody's healing times will vary.

Whilst somebody else's tattoo may heal extremely quickly, your’s may just be taking a little longer, so don’t begin to worry too quickly if your experience isn’t exactly as described above.

However, if you do seriously suspect that your new tattoo may have become infected, contact your doctor as soon as possible. The sooner you get a tattoo infection treated, the better the outcome is likely to be.

Allergic Reaction

Whilst this problem is not nearly as serious as an infection, it’s best to get your tattoo checked out by either your tattoo artist or a doctor if you believe your skin may be allergic to something that you have recently come into contact with.

Although rare, some people can be allergic to the inks used within the tattooing process. Whilst this is more common for colored inks (especially red), it can sometimes also happen with black inks too.

Redness around tattoo

This deep red color could be the sign of a problem, or could be completely normal - everybody is different

Skin Irritation

The skin around a new tattoo can be extremely sensitive, and there are many things that can irritate it and cause it to go red.

When the artist wraps up your tattoo after the session, they normally use medical tape to keep it in position. This medical tape can irritate the skin around your tattoo and cause redness and rash-looking symptoms.

Redness & inflammation

The large area of redness around this tattoo means that it can have been irritated by something, such as latex gloves or a specific type of soap or lotion

Certain soaps and lotions can also irritate the skin and cause them to go more red than usual.

A common cause for this is artificial colorings and scent additives that are used in many soaps and lotions - therefore it’s always recommended to choose a soap or lotion that is color and scent free (or only contains colors or scents that are from completely natural sources, such as coconut oil and cocoa butter.

Sun Exposure

Tattoos and Tanning in the Sun

Due to the extreme sensitivity around the area of your tattoo, any direct sun exposure can be very damaging to your brand new ink.

The UV rays are extremely harsh on your open wound, and can causes inflammation and redness if the area is exposed for too long.

Do your best to keep your tattoo out of the sun for at least two weeks during the healing process, and after this time, always use a strong sun screen on your tattoo whenever exposing it to direct sunlight.

Redness Around An Old Tattoo

Even if your tattoo is past the initial healing process, it can still experience redness (sometimes years after). Normally though this redness isn’t as serious.

One of the reason why old tattoos can go red is because of heat rash. Tattooed skin is generally always more sensitive to sunlight when compared to un-inked skin, even after many years.

This is due to the previous trauma that the tattoo will have gone through, although redness caused by heat rash should go away after a short while and will very rarely cause problems with the long-term appearance of a tattoo.

a tattoo red rash

This red rash could be a sign that the tattoo has had an allergic reaction to something

Another reason why redness can occur in an older tattoo is that allergies to tattoo ink can take years to show up after the ink was initially inserted into the skin.

This means that redness and spots/rashes can show up over the tattooed area at any point if you happen to suffer from any sort of allergy around the ink.

This however is not usually a serious problem, and doctors can normally provide ointment or medication to relieve the redness and treat the reaction.


Just Got A New Tattoo?

REMEMBER - Tattoo aftercare is extremely important, and a good quality tattoo lotion is vital to ensure fast and proper healing of your new ink.

Hustle Butter Deluxe – Tattoo Butter for Before, During, and After the Tattoo Process – Lubricates and Moisturizes – 100% Vegan Replacement for Petroleum-Based Products – 5 oz

The best tattoo lotion I've ever personally used is a (vegan) tattoo aftercare product called Hustle Butter. This stuff works amazingly during the healing process - not only to keep your tattoo really well hydrated but it's also very good at soothing that annoying itching.

Many other users of the product also advise that when using it from the very start of the healing process it appears to decrease healing times and seems to reduce heavy scabbing.​

Read more about Hustle Butter here. Have a quick look at some of the customer reviews and you'll see why it's one of the most popular tattoo lotions.​


Summary

In almost all cases, tattoo redness is completely normal. All tattoos go slightly red and inflamed and it is nothing to worry about. However, there are some extreme circumstances that are not entirely normal, and if you suspect any problems with your new tattoo, it is always best to get it checked out by your artist or doctor for your own peace of mind.

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