Text today for a free consultation and get $100 off a complete removal package. Click here to book by text.

Tattoos

Infected Tattoo Stages: Signs of Infection from Tattoos and After Tattoo Removal

blog post alt tag
This guide is here to help you understand the differences between infected tattoo stages & offer first-hand knowledge on how to recognize an infected tattoo.

It’s not uncommon to see tattoos in our everyday lives anymore. From popular tv shows like Euphoria to professional workplace settings, tattoos have taken the world by storm. It’s become increasingly popular and in demand with mainstream media and social pressure to express individuality. It’s a wonderful thing to see the world becoming more accepting of the tattooing community. 

With the rise in tattoo demands, naturally, there is a rise in tattoo artists. That being said, those who seek to receive a tattoo need to be aware of proper tattoo licensing and shop sterilization. This article will address the safety precautions you need to be aware of before getting tattooed. 

Whether it’s your first tattoo or you’re a seasoned expert, tattoo infections can occur. It’s important to be aware of infected tattoo stages and when to seek additional medical assistance. We’ll also be breaking down the signs of an infected tattoo, what causes tattoo infections, how to treat tattoo infections, and signs of laser tattoo removal infection in this article.

What Are The Signs Of An Infected Tattoo?

tattoo infection, tattoo infection stages, infected tattoo, tattoo blistering, tattoo rash, tattoo scarring, tattoo swelling, tattoo inflammation, red tattoo allergies, tattoo allergy, itchy tattoo, raised tattoo

A tattoo infection is the cause of bad bacteria entering the open wound which often leads to redness, swelling, inflammation, a rash, or bumpy skin around the tattooed area. It’s normal in the tattoo healing process to have some redness, swelling, and inflammation, but if those factors progress or occur for more than a few days, you likely have an infection. Below are some causes that lead to tattoo infections. 

Tattoo Infection Causes

tattoo infection, tattoo infection stages, infected tattoo, tattoo blistering, tattoo rash, tattoo scarring, tattoo swelling, tattoo inflammation, red tattoo allergies, tattoo allergy, itchy tattoo, raised tattoo

How to tell if a tattoo is infected? As mentioned, exposure to bacteria, viruses, or unwanted substances in the body through the broken skin often leads to infections. Here is a list of causes:

  • Contaminated Ink: Contaminated inks include expired ink, cross-contaminated with a used needle, or homemade materials used to tattoo with. 
  • DIY Kits: DIY kits are often stick and poke equipment which can be difficult to sterilize properly. Also, you’re likely to get tattooed in an unsterile area such as your friend’s basement by an untrained tattooer. 
  • Improper Aftercare: Improper aftercare is one of the most common reasons for tattoo infections. Most tattoo artists will provide aftercare tips to keep the tattooed area safe from infections. If the client does not follow the aftercare tips properly, it can lead to infections. It’s important to listen to your tattoo artist’s advice on proper aftercare. 
  • Unhygienic Practices: Reusing materials, not properly sanitizing the station between clients, not wearing gloves, or poorly cleaning and wrapping the tattoo can cause infections. 
  • Unlicensed Tattoo Studios: Licensed tattoo shops are inspected by a health agency and have to meet certain sanitized and safety requirements to remain open. An unlicensed tattoo studio likely does not abide by the sanitation and safety protocols set in place by health agencies. 
  • Weak Immune System: Some people may be allergic to materials in the ink. It’s important to be aware of the ingredients in the tattoo ink your artist uses and if you are allergic to any of the components. Tattoo ink is not FDA regulated so there could be components that are not listed, which is why it’s important to see a reputable tattoo artist who uses quality tattoo ink. According to the article Think Before You INK: Are Tattoos Safe? The FDA has found components in tattoo ink that are used in printers and car paint. 

Treatment For Tattoo Infections

If you believe your tattoo is showing signs of infections, it’s important to consult your doctor first and foremost. Below are some common treatments for infected tattoos. 

Antihistamine Medication: For inflammation, it’s recommended to take an antihistamine which can reduce swelling, redness, and inflammation. Some common antihistamines to take are Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra. 

Over-the-Counter Medication: Medication such as Tylenol can help reduce an infected tattoo’s swelling, redness, and inflammation.

Topical Creams: Topical creams such as Aquaphor healing ointment and petroleum jelly are best for keeping the tattooed area hydrated and reducing infection symptoms such as redness and inflammation. 

Other Treatment Tips for Tattoo Infections:

  • Contact your tattoo artists if concerns of infection arise. 
  • Keep the tattoo clean with warm water and mild soap.
  • Wear gloves to avoid scratching the tattoo and pat where it itches. 
  • Keep your bed sheets clean from dust, dirt, or pet hair coming in contact with the open tattoo.

When To See A Doctor For An Infected Tattoo

tattoo infection, tattoo infection stages, infected tattoo, tattoo blistering, tattoo rash, tattoo scarring, tattoo swelling, tattoo inflammation, red tattoo allergies, tattoo allergy, itchy tattoo, raised tattoo

If you begin to develop a fever or hot & cold chills, abnormal scabbing (like the photo above), or the tattoo begins oozing, then you should consult a doctor. Most infections can be treated with antibiotics but if you continue to have a rash or swelling for more than a week after antibiotics, you might need to consider removal. 

Infected Tattoo Stages

Below are some early-stage tattoo infections that will help you determine and stop the spread. The following supporting information is from the American Academy of Dermatology Association

Infection

tattoo infection, tattoo infection stages, infected tattoo, tattoo blistering, tattoo rash, tattoo scarring, tattoo swelling, tattoo inflammation, red tattoo allergies, tattoo allergy, itchy tattoo, raised tattoo

A tattoo infection can occur immediately after getting one or days to months after receiving the tattoo. The type of reaction you will begin to see when an infection is starting to occur is if the tattooed area becomes darker instead of lighter over time if the pain worsened vs subsiding, a rash or painful bumps develop, you begin to develop a fever or hot & cold chills, puss starts oozing out of the tattoo, or the tattoo becomes an open sore. If you have any of the reactions listed, it’s important to take action and see your doctor immediately to prevent worsening infections such as staph. 

Rash From An Allergic Reaction

tattoo infection, tattoo infection stages, infected tattoo, tattoo blistering, tattoo rash, tattoo scarring, tattoo swelling, tattoo inflammation, red tattoo allergies, tattoo allergy, itchy tattoo, raised tattoo

An allergic reaction from the tattoo ink can occur at any stage of your tattoo’s lifecycle. You could show allergic reactions immediately after receiving the tattoo or years later. Symptoms of an allergic reaction often develop after a medical treatment such as antiretroviral treatments or joint-replacement surgery. 

The most common tattoo color that people tend to have allergic reactions to is red. The components in red ink typically have a higher amount of metals in the ink which often leads to allergic reactions. Signs of tattoo allergies are the development of a rash, redness, swelling, inflammation, blistering, bumps, flaky skin, or watery fluid leaking from the tattoo. 

If you start to notice an allergic reaction developing from your tattoo, we recommend consulting a doctor or dermatologist about your options. They may suggest a topical steroid cream if your symptoms are mild, but if you are having trouble breathing, feeling tight in your chest, dizziness, hives, or serious pain, you’ll want to see immediate medical assistance and consider tattoo removal options. It’s important to note that laser tattoo removal will not be an option for tattoo allergy reactions. 

Blistering

tattoo infection, tattoo infection stages, infected tattoo, tattoo blistering, tattoo rash, tattoo scarring, tattoo swelling, tattoo inflammation, red tattoo allergies, tattoo allergy, itchy tattoo, raised tattoo

Blistering can often occur during the tattoo healing process, but if your tattoo continues to blister after a few days of healing, it’s likely caused by an infection. It’s recommended to keep the tattoo clean with warm water and mild unscented soap, keep it covered while it’s still open and out of the sun for a few days, and keep the tattoo out of bodies of water while it’s healing. We recommend consulting your doctor who can recommend a good topical cream or antihistamine medication to reduce the blistering. 

When blisters occur from tattoo removal, we usually recommend cleaning the treated area and using a sterile needle to drain the blister at the base. Then we recommend cleaning the treated area again and keeping it covered to heal properly. 

Signs Of Infection After Getting Tattooed

The following section will break down the tattoo healing timeline to help you determine the signs of a tattoo infection at each stage in the process. 

Directly After Your Tattoo Session

Immediately after receiving your tattoo, your body begins the healing process. The tattoo artist should cover the area with saran wrap and bandage in order to keep the plasma and blood your body will excrete trapped to keep the area from leaking and avoid potential bacteria from entering the open wound. 

You should keep the tattoo wrapped for 5-6 hours before washing it with mild unscented soap and covering it again. In this stage, as long as you take care of the tattoo properly, you shouldn’t see signs of infection. You’ll experience some minor pain, redness, swelling, and inflammation. 

First Few Days: Sore And Oozing

The first few days will feel sore and your body will continue to excrete plasma to heal the open wound. In this stage, it’s normal to have some redness, swelling, and inflammation but be wary of the development of a rash, blistering, or bumps surrounding the tattoo. 

In this early stage, tattoo infections can start small but it’s important to monitor if the pain is increasing, the redness or swelling increases which would indicate that it is infected, and recommended to consult a doctor to stop the infection early. 

Second Week: Scabbing And Itchiness

tattoo infection, tattoo infection stages, infected tattoo, tattoo blistering, tattoo rash, tattoo scarring, tattoo swelling, tattoo inflammation, red tattoo allergies, tattoo allergy, itchy tattoo, raised tattoo

During week two, you would have stopped covering the tattoo and exposed it to the air to start drying out and healing. It’s normal during this stage for the tattoo to scab and itch, but it’s important to monitor how much scabbing is occurring and how severe it itches. 

If the scabbing starts to become red and inflamed, you likely have an infection that needs a doctor’s attention. If your tattoo is oozing or developing an open wound (like the photo above) you’ll need to see immediate doctor attention to stop the spread of infection. 

To avoid infection at this stage, it’s important to keep the tattoo clean and hydrated. You’ll need to avoid picking at the scabbing, keep the tattoo hydrated with an unscented lotion, and try to avoid contact with unwashed hands, pet hair, and excessive sweat. 

It’s ideal to avoid working out and excessively sweating until the scabbing stage has stopped and the new skin has developed. You’ll also want to avoid swimming in any body of water during this stage of the process as well. 

Days 14-30: Dull And Slightly Dry

This should be the final step in your tattoo healing process. Your skin should have regenerated a new layer of protection and feel slightly dry. During this stage, your tattoo should have dramatically reduced swelling, redness, and inflammation. 

There should be little to no scabbing left during this stage. Infections at this stage would look like a rash or tiny bumps around the tattoo, inflammation, painful swelling, and continual redness. 

Infections at this point are likely the cause of a tattoo allergy and will need medical assistance to treat properly. You can avoid infections at this point by keeping it clean and hydrated with an unscented lotion.

Signs of Infection After Laser Tattoo Removal

If you decide after receiving the tattoo that you no longer want it on your body, there is the option to receive laser tattoo removal. Much like receiving the tattoo, infections can occur after laser removal.

Laser tattoo removal healing is a similar process to receiving the tattoo. Infection may occur with improper tattoo removal aftercare. It’s important to consult your laser technician with any questions or concerns about the healing process. 

During laser tattoo removal, the tattoo becomes an open wound again and needs to be cleaned and treated properly to avoid infections. Laser tattoo removal infections can often look similar to tattoo infections. Signs of infection after laser tattoo removal include blistering, redness, swelling, and inflammation beyond the norm. If you start to develop an infection, it’s important to consult your laser technician who can provide the proper medication and advice to stop the spread of infection. 

Learn More About Laser Tattoo Removal Aftercare

Now you know the signs of each infected tattoo stage and how to identify laser tattoo removal infections as well. Keep in mind when researching tattoo shops and laser tattoo removal studios, if they are reputable establishments your risk of receiving a tattoo infection will decrease. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the laser tattoo removal process, check out some of our other blogs where we cover how laser tattoo removal works and everything you need to know about the process and why you should avoid home tattoo removal methods. Talk to a tattoo removal expert today by booking a free consultation.

Get your free estimate

We’re on a mission to give you the most straightforward, easy and efficient laser tattoo removal experience. Your estimate will be entirely bespoke to your tattoo; the size, the colours, the ink. It won’t take long and afterwards you’ll have a plan to finally get rid of your unwanted tattoo and get back to being you.

Get Your Free Estimate

Find your nearest Removery

With over 150 studios you're sure to find one near you. We look forward to seeing you!