Tattoo Healing Issues

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 6, 2020
    Last Updated: December 20, 2020

Choosing to get a tattoo shouldn’t be a quick decision, not only because they’re permanent, but also since tattoos require a lot of attention. 

A tattoo takes a long time to heal, and if you don’t treat it with care, you can quickly run into problems that can affect the appearance and long term outlook of your ink. 

Today, we answer everything you need to know about tattoo healing problems, including whether it’s possible to fix a poorly healed tattoo.

Reasons Your Tattoo Isn’t Healing Properly

There could be numerous reasons why your tattoo isn’t healing correctly. Sometimes, it’s due to the tattooist; other times, it’s the result of poor aftercare. Let’s explain a bit further:

Allergic Reaction

Some dyes, particularly yellow and red, can cause allergic reactions, especially when you expose them to sunlight too early. 

The area is likely to swell and itch—it could even develop into a rash. That can inadvertently, meddle with the healing process which could lead to scarring. 

A Hooked or Barbed Needle

If you see that your tattoo isn’t recovering properly around the lines, it could be due to a damaged needle. This can happen with an inexperienced tattoo artist or one who’s perhaps stressed and a bit careless.

Needles can come out of the bag damaged, which is why it’s crucial for the tattoo artist to inspect them thoroughly. They can also get hooked or barbed by hitting a hard surface. 

As they run it through your skin, it can cause significant damage, resulting in raised lines and a problematic healing process. Some artists notice this early as the ink isn’t settling in the skin, and there might be bleeding. 


In some cases, your immune system sees the pigment as a threat, which triggers a defense mechanism, flooding the area with cells. 

The cells quickly clump together in the area, forming nodules or bulges in the skin called granulomas. These can affect the healing and the finished look of the tattoo.

Granulomas most commonly occur when red tattoo ink has been used.

The Location

The location of your tattoo can also impact the healing process. In some areas where the skin is thinner or harder to keep dry and clean, you can expect healing problems. 

Dirty Equipment

Tattoo needles puncture the skin multiple times, and they often get bloody. If the tattoo artist fails to clean their equipment well between uses, it could lead to an array of side effects. 

In a worst-case scenario, you could contract a blood-borne disease, such as hepatitis, HIV, or tetanus. 

Ensure that your tattoo artist is a professional: they should sterilize everything and always wear gloves. 

Young focused tattoo artist is inking customers arm carefully in his shop.

Poor Technique

While applying a tattoo, the artist should ideally hold the machine between a 90-degree and 45-degree angle to the skin. At anything less than 45 degrees, the needle could end up damaging the skin, hindering the recovery. 

Insufficient Aftercare

Aftercare is a significant determiner in how the healing process will pan out. Being careless is a guarantee that you could catch an infection or other problems. 

Make sure that you follow the tattoo artist’s advice and avoid touching the area unless needed. Keep the tattoo covered and avoid chlorinated pools and direct sunlight. Finally, don’t smother the tattoo in lotion, and always use appropriate products on the area.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan 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.​ Click here to buy from Amazon.

Signs of Tattoo Healing Problems

Now that we’ve seen what can cause healing problems, it’s time to look at some of the warning signs. 

Your Tattoo Feels Hot

Once your tattoo has started healing, an alarming sign could be that it feels hot. It might be hot to the touch, or you can feel heat coming off the wound. Either way, it’s crucial that you check in with your doctor about it. 

Persistent Redness on and Around the Tattoo

Redness is a natural occurrence in the healing stages since the tattooing process irritates the skin. If, however, the redness persists for several days following the procedure, it could be a warning sign. 

To reduce the redness, you can ask your tattoo artist, or doctor, on any recommended ointment or lotion. Avoid buying any over-the-counter options without consulting the tattooist, as these can often be too harsh for the vulnerable skin. 

You can also clean the area with mild soap and warm water. Use a clean towel to pat dry, though be gentle.

Blueish or Red Skin

A possible sign of an oncoming infection is a change in color of the skin near the tattoo. If you notice your skin turning into a blueish or red hue, consult your doctor.  

Persistent Swollen Skin

The tattoo itself might be puffy for a few days following the application, which is entirely normal. If it persists, however, it could be another sign of an infection. 

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

Excessive Fluids Coming From the Tattoo

Oozing fluids is another sign that can easily be mistaken as an indication of healthy healing. It is, unfortunately, also a common symptom of an infection, and if it’s excessive or persists, it requires medical care. 

The best way to avoid pus is to not touch the tattoo. Your hands contain a collection of germs, and because your skin is still open and vulnerable, it will quickly infect the area. 

If you must touch the tattoo, for instance, to apply a cream or lotion, always disinfect your hands beforehand.


While scabbing isn’t normally a sign of an infected tattoo, it’s essential to watch it closely. Note any changes in color, as well as any fluids that might begin to seep from a heavily scabbed area.

If it starts to appear infected, consult your doctor. 

Fever and Chills

One of the more alarming signs of an infection is flu symptoms, including chills and fever. It could also be an indication that you’re allergic to the ink, and your body is launching a defense. Regardless, it’s crucial that you see your doctor. 

Hives and Prolonged Itching

If you develop hives in the days or weeks following your tattoo, consult your doctor. Persistent itching and hives could be signs of an allergic reaction to the ink

Allergic reactions don’t always occur immediately. Some may experience them months or years after getting the tattoo. 

To relieve the itching and hives, you can apply a topical steroid ointment. However, we recommend checking in with your doctor beforehand. 


Although your tattoo is a wound, it should never leave scars. While scarring and healing can be quite similar, scars mainly become visible due to tattoo healing problems. 

Scarring may look like:

  • Raised or puffy lines where the tattoo artist applied the needle. 
  • Distorted or “broken” coloring within the tattoo itself. 
  • Pink and red skin after the tattoo has healed.
  • Deformity of the area of skin—it might appear as pitting.

Can a Badly Healed Tattoo Be Fixed?

The possibility of whether your badly healed tattoo can be fixed or not, will depend on what caused the issue. In some cases, you can get a tattoo touch-up, correcting any broken lines or color distortion. You may ask the tattooist if it’s possible. 

The cases where it might be trickier to touch-up are those caused by an allergic reaction or your body rejecting the ink. It may also be challenging to tattoo over scar tissue, especially raised scars.


Tattoo healing problems are common. Since tattooing wounds the skin, it’s essential to be vigilant with aftercare to assist the healing. 

Problems can occur due to various reasons, including poor technique, dirty equipment, allergic reactions, and insufficient aftercare. 

We highly recommend that you only get tattooed by an experienced professional and that you follow their instructions to letter when dealing with the aftercare process.

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