Home Tattoo How Do Tattoos Get Infected: 9 Signs & 5 Healing Procedures [Covered]

How Do Tattoos Get Infected: 9 Signs & 5 Healing Procedures [Covered]

Infections Associated With Tattoos
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An infection is one of the most common and serious risks of getting a tattoo. Left untreated, it can cause pain, damage, and even life-threatening consequences.

Tattoos consist of numerous tiny ink deposits beneath the skin's surface, and infections may occur if the ink is contaminated or if the tattoo is done in nonsterile conditions.

This article will provide a comprehensive guide on preventing and treating tattoo infections so you can enjoy your ink without concerns. We'll cover essential topics, including recognizing signs of an infected tattoo that shouldn't be ignored, steps to take if your new tattoo becomes infected, and how to maintain an infection-free tattoo.

How Do Tattoos Get Infected: An Overview

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Before delving into how tattoos can get infected, we must familiarize ourselves with the telltale signs of an infected tattoo.

9 Infected Tattoo Warning Signs You Can't Ignore

When you get a tattoo, you break your skin and pierce the dermis with ink, which can lead to infection. Inflammation, redness, and discomfort are natural signs during healing, but certain signs indicate an urgent issue. You can't ignore these signs of an infected tattoo:

  • Heat: You might feel slightly warm after getting a tattoo. The warmth will subside in a few days. A tattoo that feels hot or emits heat could indicate an infection. The heat indicates inflamed blood flow, suggesting your body may be combating an infection.
  • Swelling: It is normal for a tattoo to experience slight swelling following the procedure, but this should diminish within a few days. If the swelling persists beyond a week or extends beyond the tattooed area, it could be a sign of infection. Swelling may also cause the tattoo to appear distorted or blurry, impacting its overall appearance.
  • Excessive Discharge: Pus, a thick fluid that's yellowish or greenish, is made up of dead white blood cells, bacteria, and debris. It signals an infection, which a healthy tattoo shouldn't have. It might indicate an infection if you notice pus, crusty or sticky residue on your tattoo or bandage. Pus can also affect your tattoo's appearance, making it look cloudy or lackluster.
  • Unpleasant Odor: A healthy tattoo should be devoid of any foul or unpleasant smell. Detecting an odor emanating from your tattoo or encountering a scent reminiscent of something rotten or sour when changing your bandage might indicate an infection. Such odor may signify bacterial growth and deterioration, indicative of improper tattoo healing.
  • Discomfort: Post-tattoo discomfort and soreness are normal but should lessen as your tattoo heals. If pain persists for over a week or intensifies, it could indicate potential nerve and tissue damage that may impact healing and aesthetic outcomes.
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  • Formation of Blisters: Blisters, small fluid-filled bubbles on the skin from friction, heat, or irritation, are not normal during tattoo healing. Blisters near your tattoo may indicate an infection. They could be caused by an allergic reaction to ink or aftercare products, indicating an issue with your tattoo.
  • Abnormal Scab Growth: Scabs are a natural part of the healing process during the tattoo healing process. They will naturally slough off when ready. However, be cautious of infection if scabs are excessively large, thick, or dark. Bacteria and debris can be introduced if you pick or scratch your tattoo, hindering healing and making you feel itchy and scratchy.
  • Fever: A heightened body temperature, or fever, is not normal during tattoo healing. You may have an infection if you experience chills, sweating, headaches, or body aches after getting a tattoo. Fever may also indicate a systemic infection affecting your entire body, posing as a potentially severe condition requiring urgent medical attention.
  • Prolonged Redness: Redness after tattoo application usually subsides within a few days. If redness around the tattoo persists beyond a week or spreads beyond the tattoo area, it could indicate an infection. For further evaluation, monitor redness with other early stages of tattoo signs (swelling, heat, pus, odor, pain, blistering, enlarged scabs, or fever).

Infected Tattoo: Steps for Healing and Prevention

black ink infected tattoo

An infected tattoo usually looks like red streaks or pus at the tattoo site. In most cases, an infected tattoo will not heal on its own, and if left untreated, it will worsen and can lead to serious health complications. Don't panic if you suspect your new tattoo is infected. Follow these steps to treat the infection and prevent further damage.

Here's what you need to do if your new tattoo is infected:

Step 1: Contact your tattoo artist or a medical professional. Contact the person who did your tattoo or a qualified doctor when you suspect an infection. They will assess the severity and give you the best advice.

They may recommend an in-person visit, prescribe antibiotics or other medications, or refer you to a specialist. Prompt action is crucial, as some infections can worsen rapidly and require immediate attention.

Step 2: Keep the area clean and dry. The tattooed area should be kept clean and dry to prevent infection and promote healing. Wash it gently with warm water and an antibacterial soap.

Avoid scrubbing or rubbing the tattoo, as it irritates and removes scabs. Rinse off the soap thoroughly, then pat the area dry with a clean towel. Do this at least twice daily or as directed by your tattoo artist or doctor. Avoid alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or harsh chemicals, as they can damage the tattoo and hinder healing.

Step 3: Use prescribed or recommended topical treatments for tattoo skin infection. Apply any prescribed or recommended creams, ointments, gels, or sprays to your tattoo. These products may contain antibiotics, antiseptics, anti-inflammatories, or other ingredients to fight the infection and soothe the skin.

Apply a thin layer and cover with a sterile bandage if necessary. Only use products prescribed or recommended to you by a tattoo artist. Follow the instructions for proper usage and application frequency.

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Step 4: Avoid picking or scratching your tattoo to avoid infection. Resist the urge to scratch or pick at your tattoo, even if it's itchy, scabby, or blistering. Picking or scratching can worsen the infection and cause permanent damage.

It introduces more bacteria and dirt into the wound, leads to bleeding and scarring, and disrupts healing. If you experience itchiness, try applying ice or an anti-itch cream if your tattooist or doctor recommends it.

Step 5: Keep an eye on your tattoo's condition and seek additional medical attention if necessary. You should see improvement within a few days of following these steps.

If the infection doesn't improve or worsens after a week, spreads to other parts of your body, or you experience symptoms of tattoo flu or severe pain, you must contact your doctor immediately. They can provide advanced infected tattoo treatment options such as intravenous antibiotics, wound debridement, skin grafting, or surgery.

Following these steps promptly and carefully increases your chances of healing and preserving your tattoo's quality. Remember that prevention is the best approach. In the next section, we'll guide you on how to keep your tattoo infection-free and avoid these problems in the first place.

Infection-Free Tattoos: Discover the Secrets

bad infected tattoo

Preventing tattoo infections is crucial to the longevity and appearance of your tattoo. Following simple steps before and after getting your tattoo can ensure optimal healing and free it from infection.

Here's how to make your tattoo infection-free:

Tattoo Care is Key: Take excellent care of your tattoo by following the aftercare instructions provided by your tattoo artist. They are experts and will give you specific guidelines on cleaning, moisturizing, protecting, and healing your tattoo.

It's important to stick to these instructions for the best results. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact your tattoo artist for guidance.

Let Your Tattoo Breathe: Avoid suffocating your tattoo with bandages or clothing. Oxygen is crucial for proper healing and to prevent bacterial growth.

Only cover your tattoo with a sterile bandage for a short period after getting it done, according to the tattoo artist. After that, give your tattoo as much exposure to air as possible unless you need to protect it from dirt, sun, water, or other irritants.

Monitor Healing Progress: Regularly check your tattoo's healing process by gently touching it with clean fingers. Pay attention to its temperature, texture, moisture, and pain level.

An infection may occur if you notice unusual changes like excessive heat, swelling, dryness, or pain. Contact your tattoo artist or doctor immediately to take appropriate action.

By diligently following these steps, you can ensure your tattoo remains infection-free and maintains its beauty for years. If you still have questions about tattoo infections, we'll address some of the most commonly asked ones in the following section, providing more information and tips.

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We have provided comprehensive information about tattoo infection prevention and treatment, allowing you to cherish your ink worry-free. Pay attention to the signs of an infected tattoo - learn how to respond.

Keep your tattoo infection-free by following our tips and advice. Your tattoo's health is essential, so seek professional treatment if needed. Reach out to your tattoo artist or doctor without hesitation if you have concerns or notice signs of infection. Enjoy a well-healed and beautiful tattoo for years to come.

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Matt Callard
I am a passionate traveler, as if traveling were my full-time job. I like to change my surroundings and environment, like changing desktop wallpaper. Nature increases the concentration in my writing, which helps brainstorming flow in my blood. I have a cat named Kitana. She is the most desperate about traveling, more than any other cat. How do I know? If I miss any tour in any week, she literally destroys my clothing with her wolverine nails.

I and my cat also participate in extreme activities like surfing, biking, hill tracking, paragliding, boating, etc. She was always there in my accidents, injuries, and stitches. She always sits on my lap when it hurts me most. The funniest part is that she has experienced all my tattoos. She sleeps on my blanket when I go through any painful experience.

My hobbies and lifestyle added many pain and injuries to my life. That is why I have a lot of experience in dealing with different levels of pain and burn. It influenced me to become a pain expert and share primary suggestions to handle any unwanted situations that hurt.


  • What Are The Connection Between Tattoos And Salt Water?

    Chlorine and saltwater pose significant risks to new tattoos, as they can draw ink from the tattoo, resulting in faded colors. Swimming can dehydrate the skin, delaying healing and causing increased itching, flaking, and scabbing. Additionally, these factors contribute to fading, uneven colors, and blurred lines in the tattoo.

  • Can A Tattoo Get Infected After A Week?

    Indeed, a tattoo can become infected within a week, with a greater likelihood than if it were to happen after two weeks. The initial week after tattooing is of utmost importance in infection prevention and treatment, considering the open and healing nature of the wound.

    It is imperative to diligently adhere to your tattoo artist's aftercare instructions during this critical period to avoid any actions that could jeopardize your tattoo's well-being and overall health.

  • Do Tattoos Get Infected After 2 Weeks?

    Tattoos can become infected after two weeks, although such occurrences are uncommon. Infections with an old tattoo typically happen within the initial week following the tattoo session, when the wound is still fresh and susceptible.

  • What Is The Chance Of A Tattoo Getting Infected After A Year?

    It is rare, but a tattoo can get infected after a year. If the skin sustains damage, bacteria may enter the dermis layer where the ink is located, leading to infection. This can occur due to injury, inflammation from conditions like eczema or psoriasis, allergies to jewelry or clothing materials, or a weakened immune system.

    If you notice any signs of infection after a year, such as blistering, swelling, pus discharge, redness, or fever, contact your doctor immediately for advice.

  • Do Tattoos Get Infected Once It’s Healed?

    Infected tattoos can develop after healing if skin damage allows bacteria into the dermis layer. The cause of tattoo infections varies, including injury, inflammation, allergy, or a compromised immune system.

    Once fully healed (usually in 2 to 4 weeks), the risk of infection diminishes as the skin forms a protective barrier over the ink. It's important to continue caring for your tattoo and avoid potential harm to it or your health. See medical guidance if you notice early signs of infection like swelling, pus, pain, or fever.

  • Can Stick And Poke Tattoos Get Infected?

    Stick and poke tattoos have a higher infection risk than professional tattoos. They're homemade tattoos with a needle and ink, lacking proper equipment and sterilization. Often done by amateurs without tattooing experience, this increases the risk of infection in several ways:

    • Using Dirty needles: Using a needle that's not properly sterilized or used on someone else can introduce bacteria and viruses, including blood-borne diseases like hepatitis or HIV.
    • Using unsterile ink: Using ink not meant for tattooing or contaminated by bacteria or dirt can introduce harmful substances, causing infection or allergic reactions.
    • Using improper technique: Lack of knowledge in needle insertion depth and design techniques can result in skin damage, bleeding, scarring, and uneven, faded tattoos.
    If you observe symptoms of infection after getting a stick and poke tattoo, like swelling, pain, pus, odor, redness, or fever, seek medical attention immediately and follow their advice.

  • What Types Of Infections Can Tattoos Cause?

    Two common types include superficial infections that solely impact the outer skin layer, like impetigo, and deep bacterial infections, like erysipelas, cellulitis, and sepsis. Cellulitis can be prevented with good hygiene and skin care.

  • What Is The Percentage Of Tattoos That Get Infected?

    Tattoo infections are estimated to occur from 0.5% to 6%, depending on various factors. The studio's quality and safety, the artist's skill and experience, the tattoo's type and location, and proper aftercare all play a role in reducing the risk of infection. Following hygiene standards and taking precautions during the healing process can help minimize the chances of infection.

  • How To Get Rid Of Tattoo Infection At Home?

    To safely address a tattoo infection, it's crucial to consult your tattoo artist or doctor. Attempting home remedies can worsen the infection, delay healing, or cause permanent damage, including scarring or discoloration.

    It can pose health risks, leading to systemic infections with severe symptoms. Always contact a professional when infection signs arise, follow their advice, and adhere to prescribed treatments. Regular monitoring ensures proper care and timely intervention, if necessary.

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