Getting Blisters On A Tattoo

  • Written By Dan Hunter on October 12, 2019
    Last Updated: March 17, 2022

Tattoo blisters happen when the surface of your tattoo begins to bubble up and form little lesions or blisters. They’re caused by various reasons such as trapped moisture under the tattoo, an allergic reaction or even an infection. A cold compress is the first step to alleviate the pain. 

You see, just like any wound, a tattoo’s healing process may have some challenges. One of these could include blisters on and around the surface of your new ink. While this is a common occurrence, it shouldn’t be ignored, and you’re about to find out why.

What Causes A Tattoo Blister?

When a tattoo is healing, it’s normal for it to form a scab. When moisture is trapped under the scab, it forms a bubble or a blister. This isn’t normal as it could point to an infection or a poor aftercare routine.

There are various ways in which you can introduce moisture into a tattoo:

  • Over-moisturizing
  • Not drying the tattooed area
  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction


After cleaning your tattoo as recommended by your tattoo artist, some water naturally gets caught in the scabs. This happens because the scabs tend to absorb water during cleaning. 

A common mistake that most people make is to apply lotion to the tattooed area immediately after cleansing. The outcome is that the water in the scabs will remain trapped under the lotion you’ve slathered on, causing blisters or bubbling.

Failing To Dry The Tattoo

Cleansing your tattoo will include using water more often than not. If you don’t allow your tattoo to dry well after cleansing, it is bound to form blisters. Dry your tattoo using a clean cloth or towel. 

You may also tap it dry using disposable paper towels and then let it air-dry for a bit.

Infection or Allergic Reaction

The most common sign that your tattoo could be infected is by the formation of blisters around it, or cysts underneath it. These lumps could be red, angry and painful. If your blisters exhibit all these symptoms as well as oozing, then that points to an infection.

The reasons that could cause your tattoo to be infected could include an allergic reaction. Some people are allergic to the dyes contained in tattoo ink, which could cause your tattoo to blister. If the blistering is accompanied by a bad rash, redness, swelling and an itch, it’s probably due to an infection.

Infections could be caused by anything from unsanitary practices at the tattoo shop, to your aftercare routine being off. 

Treatment of Tattoo Blisters

If you notice that your tattoo has blistered, it’s usually an easy problem to remedy, especially if caught early. Whatever you do, don’t pop them and don’t pick at the skin — this can make the situation worse.

Most blisters will heal on their own, but it may still need some treatment. If a tattoo blister isn’t treated, the skin is likely to lift off and come away with the ink that’s underneath. We don’t want this to happen, so to avoid this eventuality, here are some ways to treat tattoo blisters:

  • Apply a cool compress
  • Take some painkillers
  • See a doctor

Apply a Cool Compress

The blistered area on your tattoo is bound to be painful. Applying a cool compress to this area will help to numb down the pain somewhat. Create your own one by using ice cubes in a plastic bag wrapped with a wet towel. 

Apply this compress for 20 minutes at a time to resolve the burning or painful sensation. To ease the pain at night, consider keeping the compress on as you drift off to sleep. 

After applying the compress, be sure to tap the area dry with a sterile, clean cloth.

Take a Painkiller

If the cold compress doesn’t resolve the pain, you may pop some over-the-counter pain medication. A Tylenol will work just fine, but avoid any medication containing aspirin. Aspirin is known to cause blood thinning, which you want to avoid.

See A Dermatologist

If your tattoo blisters become inflamed and painful, even after trying the tips above, you’re probably dealing with an infection.

Before dropping in on your dermatologist, make a stop at your tattoo artist’s parlor. Find out what kind of ink was used on your tattoo, as well as the active ingredients it may contain. Your dermatologist should be able to use this information to give you the treatment that you need for your blisters.


Tattoo blisters are bound to occur, even with the most stringent aftercare routine. In case you get blistering on your tattoo, don’t start picking at it. Your go-to treatment is a cold compress to relieve some of the soreness. If the blisters persist and become too painful to manage at home, visit your dermatologist for some professional help.

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