Tattoo Rashes - What To Do If You Get A Rash Around Your Ink

Getting a new tattoo is normally an extremely exciting time, but it isn’t always without its concerns. Any problems that arise when the tattoo is suppose to be healing can be very worrisome - and one of the problems that can occur is getting a rash on a new tattoo.

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Are Rashes On A New Tattoo Normal?

tattoo rash

Generally, most tattoos don’t break out in any sort of rash as they heal. Some tattoos do turn very red for up to 7 days after getting them (longer if the tattoo is particularly large), and this can sometimes be mistaken as a rash, but this redness is normally nothing to do with any rashes that may appear.

However, there are some healing issues that can present themselves as a rash.​

tattoo redness

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

Whilst the most common causes of your new tattoo breaking out in a rash are listed below, you must also remember that sometimes a rash can appear for no apparent reason and can go away as quickly as it popped up.

Below are some of the most common known causes of rashes appearing around new ink:

Infection

A tattoo infection is uncommon, but it is the most serious problem that can present itself as a visible rash around a tattooed area of skin.

Infections arise when harmful germs and bacteria gain access to the wound when it is not kept sufficiently clean. As mentioned, infections are relatively rare, but if you suspect that your tattoo may have become infected, you must get it looked at as soon as possible by either your artist or a doctor for a more accurate diagnosis.

infected tattoo rash

A rash within a tattoo that also looks slightly infected due to the deep scabbing and broken skin

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

It is sometimes hard to distinguish between a tattoo that is very red (which is a normal side-effect of the tattooing needle puncturing your skin thousands of times in a tattooing session), and a rash caused by an infection.

This is why you should seek professional advice if you suffer from any of the below symptoms that also accompany common redness:

  • Tattoo redness that gradually begins to get darker and more prominent instead of getting lighter and eventually disappearing
  • Redness that remains on your tattoo (or around it) for over two weeks
  • ​Redness that develops into a larger, more distinguishable looking rash
  • ​Redness that begins to grow outwards, further away from your tattoo instead shrinking
  • ​Redness that is accompanied by pain that doesn’t improve after 10 days
  • ​Redness that doesn’t disappear for over a week and is accompanied with a fever / high temperature
  • ​Redness that begins to form white pussy spots or pimples that ooze frequently
  • Remember though that everybody is different, and healing times will vary from person-to-person.

Whilst one person’s tattoo may heal extremely quickly - yours may simply just take slightly longer. This means that you shouldn’t begin to worry too quickly if you experience something slightly different to something that has been described as ‘normal’.

Infected Tattoo

Another infected tattoo

However, if you do suspect that your tattoo may have contracted an infection, contact a doctor as soon as possible. As mentioned, the sooner you’re able to get an infection treated, the better the outcome is likely to be.

Allergic Reaction

Whilst this problem is very rarely as serious as an infection, it’s always best to get your tattoo looked at by either your tattoo artist or a doctor if you suspect that your skin might be having an allergic to something that your skin has recently come into contact with.

tattoo rash

Although uncommon, some people can have allergic to the ink used during the tattooing process. Generally, colored inks are most responsible for allergic reactions (especially red ink), but it can also happen with black inks sometimes too.

These reactions can cause both redness and rashes and also pimples around your tattoo, although the appearance of skin allergies can vary greatly.

tattoo rash

Skin Irritation

The skin around your ink can be extremely sensitive when the tattoo is new, and there are many things that your tattooed skin can come into contact with which may cause irritation and bring the area out in a rash.

tattoo rash

Minor irritation however is not normally anything to worry about, and as long as you stop your tattoo from coming into contact with whatever is causing the irritation (once you eventually discover the cause), then the rash should go away on its own over the next several days.

Common irritation causes that can bring your tattoo out in a rash include certain soaps and lotions.

This is because artificial colorings and scents added to these products can be particularly harsh on the sensitive skin around a new tattoo. For this reason it’s always recommended to choose lotions and soaps that are color and scent free.


My Favourite Tattoo Healing/Moisturizing Lotion

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.​

Here is a selection of my other favorite tattoo lotions and ointments that are currently on the market.


Another common cause for irritation that could cause a rash is the tape that your artist uses to attach the wrap/bandaging to your tattoo once it’s complete. This rashing should gradually disappear over the next day or two after the tape has been removed.

Sun Exposure

Due to how sensitive the area around your new tattoo will be, any direct sun exposure can be extremely damaging. The UV rays can be very harsh on your tattoo and skin, and prolonged exposure can burn the sensitive area of skin and produce a rash around the tattoo as the skin tries to heal the damage of not only the tattooing needles, but also the sunburn.

Faded Tattoo

The sun can do a lot of damage to your tattoo over the years

It is always best to try and keep your tattoo out of direct sunlight for at least two weeks while you continue your healing routine. After this time, use a strong sun cream on your tattoo whenever you intend on going out in broad daylight.

Other Medical Conditions

Due to the trauma caused during the tattooing process, your skin around the area very often sees permanent changes to its structure. These changes can cause the area of skin to experience conditions that you may not have experienced before.

Some people have reported cases of eczema, psoriasis and chronic dry skin appearing over the areas of their new tattoo years after completion, although they'd never previously suffered from these skin disorders before.

Although cases like these are generally rare, it's best to know that conditions such as these can definitely present themselves as a rash.

What Does A Tattoo Rash Look Like?

As mentioned, it can be hard to distinguish a rash from other conditions around your tattoo. Redness can be mistaken for a rash, as can temporary minor irritation.

However, many rashes on tattoos do generally just look like the many other common skin rashes that can occur for various reasons. This means that your tattoo may looking blotchy with varying shades of redness, and it could also look/feel very dry in places.

White spots can also appear in places whenever a rash occurs within the area.

tattoo rash

This could be a possible allergic reaction

Are Rashes Normal On An Old Tattoo?

Whilst rashes can occur around older tattoos, they are generally not as serious as when they appear on brand new tattoo.

Infections are much less unlikely due to the skin having already formed a protective layer around the area, and the skin will also be much less sensitive once it’s fully healed.

However, tattoos can develop allergic reactions to the ink many years after the tattoo was actually created, meaning that although it’s uncommon, your old tattoo can break out in a rash if an allergy develops around the area.

a tattoo red rash

An old tattoo can also be irritated by various products and materials and can produce a rash for this reason.

If this happens to your old tattoo regularly, it's best to keep an eye on what you're currently treating your skin/tattoo with to make sure that there aren’t any specific products or ingredients that could be causing these rash outbreaks to happen every time that they're applied.

Summary

Rashes aren’t a common side-effect of the tattooing procedure, so if you do get a rash around your new tattoo which doesn't disappear after a couple of days, it’s advisable to get it looked at by either your tattoo artist or a doctor so they can give you they're professional diagnosis.

Tattoo rashes aren’t always a cause for concern though, and hopefully with this advice, your new tattoo can continue to heal well and come out the other side looking beautiful.

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