Why Does My New Tattoo Burn?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 6, 2020
    Last Updated: December 29, 2020

You’re finally home after getting your first tattoo. It’s been a long journey, but you’ve done all the leg work. You found the right tattooist, and the two of you worked together to produce a tattoo that matches your unique personality and sense of style. 

That initial rush of euphoria starts to wear off the minute you get home. Your brand new tattoo is causing you some real discomfort, and worst of all, it burns something fierce. Don’t panic, though; that burning sensation you’re feeling is just part of the earliest phase of the healing process.

Why Does My Tattoo Feel Like It’s Burning

At the end of the day, a tattoo is just an open wound on one area of your skin. The burning sensation you’re feeling means that your immune system is working to make sure your new tattoo heals properly and efficiently.

When you sit in the chair to get a tattoo, you’re paying a tattoo artist to pierce your skin thousands of times with an electrified needle. The needle is repeatedly piercing the first layer of skin called the epidermis. The needle is injecting colored ink into the second layer of your skin, known as the dermis. Because of this, your body must heal the wound by repairing the damaged skin cells. This causes a sensation that many have likened to moderate sunburn throughout the area of the tattoo.

Send In The Platelets

In response to all of this, your immune system goes overtime to cope with ongoing trauma and initiate the healing process. Tiny white cell fragments called platelets are produced in the bone marrow and rushed to the traumatized area. 

When the new platelets reach the affected area, they form an interlocking network that begins to scab over. The thing to remember at this early stage in the recovery process is that it can take seven to ten days for a thick layer of scab tissue to form. You’re going to be stuck dealing with mild to moderate burning until your body’s platelets have had enough time to scab over fully.

Dealing With A Burning Tattoo

Now you’re finally home with your brand new tattoo, it’s time to think about aftercare. The proper aftercare regimen is something you should have spent some time discussing with your tattooist. It’s essential at this stage that you maintain your aftercare regimen and follow your tattoo artist’s instructions to the letter.

Unfortunately, many tattoo artists will gloss over the fact that a new tattoo is likely to burn, and won’t give you much advice in the way of dealing with it unless you specifically as them about it.

If your tattoo begins to burn to the point where it’s getting very uncomfortable, it probably means the area has high levels of inflammation as the body attempts to deal with the trauma. A great way to calm this discomfort is by applying a good-quality tattoo healing lotion to help soothe 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.

Another great tactic is calming down the inflammed skin by icing the area. Try elevating the tattooed area and applying a bag of ice, or you could use a cold compress if you have one available. Alternatively, a pack of frozen peas or a cool cloth may also work. Wrap the cold item in a clean material like a muslin cloth or cheesecloth and apply it for about 20-30 minutes. Don’t let the area get so cold that it begins to sting or burn even more than it was.

Try to keep it elevated during the next 24 hours. This technique decreases blood flow, which reduces swelling, alleviates pain and brings down inflammation.

When Burning Becomes A Concern

Although uncommon, a tattoo can become infected during the healing process, especially if you don’t follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions, or if you were tattooed in an unsanitary environment.

If your tattoo begins to burn to the point where it becomes unbearable, or if the burning is accompanied by extreme swelling, worsening redness, prolonged oozing or flu-like symptoms, then it’s best to get it checked out by a doctor as soon as possible, as you may have an infection.

Tattoo ink allergies can also cause burning sensations around the affected skin. If you develop a skin rash or hives around the tattoo, along with intense itching or irritation, then you may need to seek medical advice for a potential allergic reaction. These reactions are especially common when red tattoo ink has been used.

Cleaning Is Going To Burn

When you initially begin to clean your tattoo, the area is likely going to sting and burn quite significantly. Generally, the bigger the tattoo, the more it’s going to hurt to touch and clean.

Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to avoid this; you’ll just have to be as gentle (but thorough) as possible. The cleaning should begin to get easier and feel better after two-to-three days.

The Cleaning Process

Since you’ve only just removed the bandage, you’re now going to wash your new tattoo gently. For the first few weeks after getting your tattoo, do not under any circumstances submerge your new tattoo in water. 

Considering this is the first time you are cleaning your new tattoo, it’s best to hold it under a faucet. If the tattoo is large or in an awkward spot, you’re better off getting into the shower. The key is to get the water as hot as you can stand it. 

You need to use a gentle, non-scented soap and clean your new tattoo with it very delicately, building up a good lather with your fingertips. Don’t use a glove, washcloth, paper towel or loofa. After you’ve built up a good lather over the entire area of your tattoo, rinse and then pat it dry with a soft towel. 

If you’re getting a larger tattoo that will require multiple sittings, this is a ritual you’re going to have to repeat. 

The burning, redness and inflammation should subside in one to two weeks after your newly-tattooed skin has had enough time to scab over and begin regenerating. While your tattoo is healing, it’s advantageous to use a good tattoo healing lotion on the area to help keep the skin well-nourished and hydrated. This will also help to soothe any itching or irritation.


The common quote,” beauty is pain” doesn’t show any mercy when it comes to getting a new tattoo. Luckily, burning is usually a normal occurrence with a new piece of body art. If you can endure getting the tattoo, holding out for several more days of discomfort should be worth your masterpiece in the end.

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