Why Does My Tattoo Feel Tight?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 6, 2020
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

Everyone reacts differently to tattoos. While there is a standard healing process that the body goes through after getting a new tattoo, each person is unique and may heal differently than the next. 

One of the most commonly asked questions in regard to tattoo healing is about the feeling of tightness around the tattoo site. Many people experience this sensation, but what actually causes it? Is it normal, or is it something you should be worried about?


Why Your Tattoo Might Feel Tight

There’s a lot to take into consideration when explaining what might make your tattoo feel tight. First, we’ll explore the likely causes of tightness and then learn more about the healing process to make sense of it all. Finally, we’ll touch on some concerning reactions to look out for in conjunction with skin tightness.

Likely Causes of Tightness

The most likely causes are the natural healing process and the drying of the skin. Thankfully, both of these are nothing to worry about.

Natural Healing

During the natural healing process, the protein fiber collagen will begin to grow within the tattoo. This extra protein growth can make the skin of the tattoo feel tighter than usual, but it’s completely normal soon after you get inked.

Drying of the Skin

The skin will also naturally begin to dry out and flake as your tattoo heals, making the area feel tighter. The natural drying and flaking process can get itchy, similar to what a sunburn might feel like as it peels.

The Healing Process

Understanding the stages of the healing process can help make sense of why your skin feels tighter as it heals from your latest tattoo.

Stage 1: Open Wound

In the first stage, your tattoo is an open wound. In general, wound healing begins immediately after any injury. In this case, the tattoo is technically a skin injury. During this phase, you may notice bleeding or oozing at the site of the tattoo. It’s natural for the body to produce plasma and blood around the tattoo site, and it may look red and inflamed at first. 

Stage 2: Itching

During the second week of healing, your tattoo will start to itch and flake. At this point, the skin will begin to feel dry, and you may feel it getting tighter and tighter. The tightness, tenderness, and itching are normal as collagen grows, and your body heals the wound.

To aid healing in stage two, avoid scratching your tattoo during the second week of healing for the best results. You should also avoid strenuous activity that may make you sweat excessively, as this could cause the tattoo to fade.

Stage 3: Flaking

The drying out phase will take about two weeks in total. During this period, proper aftercare is important as the final scabs fall off. Once all of the flakes and scabs are gone, you’ll finally be able to see your tattoo’s final form. By this point, the tightness should have subsided and the skin should nearly feel like it’s reverted back to normal (although it can take a couple of months until healing has completely finished).

To help speed up healing and prevent too much itching and irritation, keep your tattoo moisturized with an appropriate lotion to keep with well-nourished and hydrated.

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.

Once the scabs are gone, and the skin beneath them feels smooth and back to its original texture, you can enjoy the art that is now part of your body. 

Don’t rush back into regular life – protect your tattoo delicately with appropriate sunscreen and avoid excessive scratching, sun exposure, tight clothes, and abrasions. 

Signs to Look Out For In Addition to Tightness

While tightness alone isn’t a bad sign, there are additional symptoms that you should look out for that may be pointing to something more serious:

  • Infection – bumps, pain, fever, chills, pus in the tattoo
  • Allergic Reaction – rash, lumps, blisters, pain, raised skin, scarring
  • Sun Allergy – itchy rash of small bumps, blisters, or hives
  • Skin Conditions – eczema, keloids, sarcoidosis

If you experience any of the above tattoo reactions in addition to the feeling of tightness, consult with a medical professional for peace of mind.

Final Thoughts

If you’re experiencing tightness around your tattoo, know that it’s completely normal for the most part. As collagen proteins build and your skin sheds its outer layer, it’s natural to feel some tightness and discomfort for a few weeks. 

However, if you notice tightness in conjunction with other worrisome symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor for guidance.