Why Is My Tattoo Puffy?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on March 02, 2023
    Last Updated: April 7, 2023

Getting a tattoo is normally a smooth, albeit slightly painful process. However, with tattoos come the occasional issues, such as swelling. If you recently got a tattoo and it has become puffy, you may wonder what’s going on. This article will look at the causes of swollen tattoos, what you can do to help them heal, and when you should seek medical attention.

Is It Normal for a New Tattoo to Look Puffy?

Yes, it is entirely normal for a new tattoo to look puffy, especially in the first few days after getting it. This is because the body sees the tattoo as a foreign object and responds by sending white blood cells to the area to help fight off any potential infections. This process can cause the skin to become inflamed and swollen, resulting in a puffy appearance.

In addition, the tattooing process itself can cause trauma to the skin, leading to swelling and inflammation. The needle used to create the tattoo punctures the skin multiple times, causing the area to become irritated and swollen.

However, if the swelling persists for more than a few days or is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever or discharge, it could be a sign of an infection. In such cases, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately.

It’s also worth noting that the location of the tattoo can impact how swollen it appears. For example, tattoos on the hands, feet, or other bony areas may appear puffier due to the lack of fat and muscle tissue in those areas.

To summarize, some level of puffiness or swelling is entirely normal for a new tattoo. However, if you have any concerns or notice any signs of infection, it’s always best to consult with your tattoo artist or a medical professional.

Other Causes of Puffy Tattoos?

There are several factors that can contribute to a puffy-looking tattoo, and these include:

Overworking the Tattoo

One of the most common causes of puffy tattoos is overworking the tattoo. This occurs when the artist applies too much pressure while tattooing, causing the skin to become inflamed and swollen. When a tattoo artist goes over the same area repeatedly, the skin can become irritated, leading to swelling and pain.

Allergic Reactions

Some people may develop an allergic reaction to certain inks, dyes, or chemicals used during the tattooing process. This can result in a swollen tattoo, as well as other symptoms such as itching, redness, and hives. If you have a known allergy to a particular substance, it’s essential to inform your tattoo artist before getting the tattoo to avoid any complications.


Tattoos are essentially open wounds, and just like any other wound, they are susceptible to infection. If your tattoo becomes infected, it may become swollen, red, and painful. Common signs of infection include pus, fever, and an unpleasant odor from the tattoo. If you suspect your tattoo is infected, seek medical attention immediately.

Improper Aftercare

Proper aftercare is crucial to the healing process of your tattoo. Failing to take care of your tattoo properly can increase your risk of swelling and other complications. This includes not keeping the tattoo clean, exposing it to harsh chemicals or excessive sunlight, and removing the bandage too soon.

What About Puffiness in Older Tattoos?

While puffiness is normal for new tattoos, it can also occur in older tattoos, especially if they have been recently touched up or if the skin in the area has been traumatized. In some cases, the puffiness may be a sign of an allergic reaction or an infection.

Allergic reactions can occur at any time, even if you have had the tattoo for years. Some people may develop allergies to certain inks or chemicals used in the tattooing process over time, leading to swelling, itching, and other symptoms. If you suspect that you may be having an allergic reaction to your tattoo, seek medical attention immediately.

Infections can also occur in older tattoos, especially if they have not been properly cared for or have been exposed to unclean environments. Infections can cause swelling, redness, and pain in the affected area. If you suspect that you may have an infected tattoo, seek medical attention immediately.

In addition, tattoos that have experienced trauma to the skin, such as from sun exposure or skin injuries, may also become puffy or swollen. In such cases, it’s essential to take proper care of the tattoo and avoid activities that may further irritate the skin.

Overall, while puffiness in older tattoos can be concerning, it’s essential to determine the cause of the swelling and seek medical attention if necessary. Proper aftercare and avoiding activities that may irritate the skin can help prevent puffiness and other complications in older tattoos.

What Can You Do to Help a Puffy Tattoo Heal?

If your tattoo is swollen, there are several things you can do to help it heal:

Keep the Area Clean

Keeping the tattoo clean is crucial to its healing process. It would be best to clean the tattoo with mild soap and water at least twice a day, especially during the first week after getting it. Avoid using abrasive scrubs or exfoliants, which can irritate the tattoo and cause further swelling.

Avoid Overworking the Area

Try to avoid activities that will cause the tattoo to become irritated, such as excessive sweating, wearing tight clothing, or excessive sun exposure. These activities can cause the skin to become inflamed, leading to swelling and pain.

Take Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

If your tattoo is painful, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help reduce the pain and swelling. However, make sure to consult with your doctor before taking any medication, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.

Keep the Area Covered

If your tattoo is still healing, make sure to keep it covered with a bandage or sterile gauze. This will help protect the tattoo from further irritation and infection. Additionally, make sure to change the bandage or gauze regularly to keep the area clean and dry.

When Should You Seek Medical Attention for a Swollen Tattoo?

While most swollen tattoos will heal on their own with proper care, there are certain situations where you should seek medical attention:

  • If you develop a fever: This can be a sign of an infection and should be evaluated by a doctor.
  • If the swelling persists: If the swelling doesn’t go down after a few days, or if it gets worse, you should seek medical attention.
  • If you develop a rash or hives: If you develop a rash or hives around the tattoo, you may be experiencing an allergic reaction and should seek medical attention.
  • If you experience excessive pain: If your tattoo is extremely painful and doesn’t respond to over-the-counter pain relievers, you should seek medical attention.


It’s important to remember that tattoos are a form of body art and, just like any other medical procedure, they come with risks and potential complications. If you’re considering getting a tattoo, make sure to choose a reputable artist and follow their aftercare instructions closely. If you experience any problems with your tattoo, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention. With proper care and attention, your tattoo will heal and you’ll be able to enjoy your beautiful new body art for years to come.

Related Tattoo Aftercare Articles