Infected Tattoos: Signs, Causes, How to Cure & Everything

There is no doubt getting a tattoo seems an interesting idea. You cannot only ink one or more tattoo, but you can opt for multiple designs as well. Whether it’s a heart-warming quote or a creative idea, a tattoo attracts everyone. You may not believe it, but having a tattoo is not fun always the idea. It is because you might get an infected tattoo. Moreover, getting an infected tattoo is a real and under-discussed problem which could lead to harrowing skin conditions.

Various reasons are associated with an infected tattoo and not following correct hygiene problem is one of them.  Also, it is worth noting that you cannot do anything to prevent getting an infected tattoo. However, spotting it at the initial level can help in this context and alleviate further skin issues. This article will highlight everything you should learn about infected tattoos. Plus, make sure to consult with your doctor immediately once you encounter symptoms to get it treated immediately.Infected-Tattoo

Causes of an Infected Tattoo, Symptoms, and Prevention


Contaminated ink and tattooing equipment is the leading cause of an infected tattoo. These factors contribute to bacterial infections including Staphylococcus aureus and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacterial infection. These bacteria affect your skin causing wounds, redness, and blisters.

1.     Staphylococcal Bacteria

This is a standard cause of an infected tattoo. You can treat various species of staph bacteria via antibiotics.

2.      (MRSA)

Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus is one of the species of staph bacteria. Additionally, this kind of bacteria resists an antibiotic which is why it is complex to treat. You can spot MRSA via specific symptoms such as body pain, fever, and pneumonia. Plus, it can contribute to further complications like:

  • Red, blistering patches
  • Organ failure
  • Swelling and infection of the tissues that connect heart valves
  • Toxic shock syndrome
  • Bloodstream infection
  • Coma

3.     Nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM) Infections

NTM infections are also a standard cause of infected tattoo. It occurs when tattoo artists use unsterilized water during ink dilution and contaminated ink. You can spot it via the onset of transparent or red patch or bump on the tattooed-skin.

It is evident that bacteria contribute to an infected tattoo. Despite that, there are factors associated with the condition as well such as:

1. Inappropriate Cleaning

You should ensure best tattoo cleaning practice. You need to wash the area at least twice a day preferably in the morning and night. This cleaning procedure is essential to follow individually after spending your day in a dirty environment. You should invest in gentle antibacterial soap. Plus, avoid running cold water on the tattooed skin. Always use warm water as it kills 99% germs and bacteria. Not paying attention to the hygiene will only increase the buildup of bacteria which eventually worsen the infection.

Unsanitary Equipment or Environment

Believe it or not, unsterilized equipment and unhygienic environment are standard reasons to get an infected tattoo. A shop or environment where the process of tattooing is undergoing must be clean and clear from any bacteria.

Moreover, equipment such as ink pots and needles need to be sterilized. Plus, equipment/apparatus should be wrapped in the form of the coating before each tattoo appointment to ensure sterilization. This way, the spread of infectious bacteria will be neutralized as well.

There are chances that equipment used there in the procedure is not cleaned if you get a tattoo from a private studio or shop. Getting a tattoo in this condition can contribute to infection as improper sterilization of the equipment transmits bacteria from one person to another in no time.

Small studios or nonprofessional tattoo artists do not have a proper disinfecting session which is why your tattoo gets infected. You should conduct a thorough search before scheduling an appointment with an artist to avoid circumstances like this. Make sure you do not waste money and time only to get an infected tattoo.

2. Tattoo Wrapping

Your artist washes the area with a soapy solution after completing the tattoo design. This step is followed before wrapping the tattoo. Also, tattoo wrapping develops a protective barrier against bacteria until you reach home and clean it again. Various tattoo artists discouraged re-wrapping because original tattoo wrapping is done by a professional. A certified artist covers your tattoo after extensive cleaning in a sterilized environment.

You may not create a bacteria-free environment at home where re-wrapping is supposed to be performed. Germs or bacteria often present around the tattoo and treating it in the humid, sweaty, and warm environment can allow them to breed in a short time span. This condition is likely to increase the chance of an infected tattoo. Therefore, do not try to re-do your tattoo if your artist prohibits.

3. Improper Aftercare Instructions

Your tattoo artist should provide a detailed list containing instructions about how to keep a new tattoo protected against dismantling factors. An infection occurs when you got a tattoo for the first time and are not aware of core points in this context. A little negligence can lead to harrowing skin problems. That is why always ask for the precautions after the session to steer clear of the tattoo infection.

4. Picking Scabs Off

A layer of scabbing grows when a tattoo begins to heal. This scabbing is necessary and works as a shield to protect tattooed skin against germs and bacteria. You may pick off a thick or big scab unknowingly, however; it can hinder the healing process.

Plus, pulling off scabs can also take off ink of the area which ultimately leads to the patchy or faded appearance of your new tattoo. You need to keep in mind that pulling off a scab also re-opens the wound allowing bacteria to enter and to make it infected in no infection

5. Certain Medical Condition

Various medical conditions affect the functioning of your immune system. Although it is a surprising fact, getting a tattoo can adversely impact your immune system. That is why you should consult with a medical professional before scheduling your tattoo appointment to ensure that the procedure does not contribute to any health ailment. You can also find out whether your immune system is potent enough to fight infectious bacteria or not.

6. Lifestyle Choices

A healthy body can neutralize the effects of bacteria before they contribute to a chronic skin condition. It would not be wrong to claim that your lifestyle determines the strength of your immune system. This way, it can ward off many infectious bacteria without affecting your health. You should incorporate proper sleep patterns and a balanced diet into your lifestyle to keep your body healthy.

Moreover, your diet can also combat threatening factors. Not getting required sleep and various addictions hinder tattoo healing process impacting your immune system. If you want to maintain an attractive tattooed body, you need to pay some attention to your lifestyle choices as well.

7. Quick Bathing

You should keep your tattoo dry as much as you can. And when it comes to bathing, do not spend more than 10 minutes in a shower particularly in first two weeks. This time is crucial, and you should dedicate it in drying your tattoo. Also, water seems a house of billions of bacteria and exposing your tattoo to it for the maximum period may invite a few more germs to infect a tattoo.

8. Excess Use of Lotion

No question a moisturizing lotion boosts the recovery process, but it could cause trouble if you overdo it. Applying a thick coat of ointment or lotion cannot only impede oxygen, but it creates a humid and warm environment where bacteria can breed extensively. You need to apply a minimum quantity of lotion on the affected area. It is best to skip a day or two between ointment applications.

9. Do not Touch your Tattoo

Your brand new tattoo may look ravishing, but you should not touch it frequently. Moreover, you should not allow anyone else to touch your tattoo, as well as this, could be an effective way to transfer germs and bacteria. Rubbing dirty hands on the tattoo invites infection. Plus, make sure your hands are cleaned when you touch it and rewash your hands after touching it to keep it protected.

10. Do Not Scratch the Tattoo

Scratching a tattoo may provide relief from constant itching. This practice is dangerous as you might pull off a scab during scratching. When you scratch a tattooed area of your skin, it may lead to thick scabbing, scarring, and worse – bleeding. You transfer bacteria from one place to another via constant scratching.

There is no denying that a new tattoo encourages you to scratch the area and it seems impossible to resist. Despite that, you need to stay careful and avoid this gross habit. Tattoo artists suggest that when you encounter the urge of scratching the tattooed area, you should dab it via a cotton cloth. Be sure to stay gentle with dabbing and do not push the area.

Also See: 10+ Things You Need to Know About Laser Tattoo Removal

How to spot an Infected Tattoo

It is common to encounter pain or swelling after getting a tattoo. Dermatologists suggest keeping an eye on the tattoo as swelling, redness, or pain. These issues take a week or two to heal completely. Despite that, if the intensity of pain increases or redness does not go in the estimated period – it is time to visit a doctor without further delay. Moreover, you should comprehend that the symptoms of an infected tattoo vary depending on various factors such as:

  • The location of an infection
  • The type of bacteria
  • Wound size
  • How your body reacts to an infection
  • Reaction after antibiotics

Apart from pain, redness, and swelling, there are several visual or physical symptoms of an infected tattoo. The following signs will help you to detect an infection before it contributes to daunting skin problems.

1. Rash

Rash occurs in multiple sizes, shapes, colors, and textures. You can find some of these rashes smooth and red whereas other might be pimply or bumpy. A rush on your tattoo contributes to skin irritation. You should know it is an indication of an infected tattoo if irritation increases and the size of a rash get large with each passing day.

2. Tattooed Area Feels Hot when You Touch It

Your body naturally takes time to heal after getting a tattoo. So, tattooed skin stays warm for a few days due to boosted blood flow to the specific area. As a result, temperature of the site increases. This warmness should be cooled down in a few days. There could be a possibility that your tattoo is infected if your skin still feels hot after a week.

3. Uncontrollable Itching

An itchy sensation occurs when the tattoo becomes dry. You may encounter it at the beginning, but itching goes away gradually. An infection may be present on the tattooed skin if itching persists after soothing it prescribed tattoo lotion. You should consider visiting your dermatologist if itching does not heal within a week.

4. Unsightly Scabbing

Tattoo artists state scabbing is common during tattoo healing procedure. It should not appear thick and crusty. Infected tattoos become uneven due to thick crusts, and that is why you can spot them quite quickly. Plus, bleeding on the itchy scabs also indicates an underlying infection that you should treat immediately.

5. Blistering

Blistering is an uncommon side-effect after getting a tattoo. Dermatologists consider it a dangerous skin condition – so experiencing blisters around tattooed area seems suspicious. So, you should never overlook blisters on your tattoo as it could be a sign of an utterly annoying infection.

6. Boils/Pimples and Pus Discharge

The occurrence of a pimple does not seem troubling at the initial level. However, a pimple discharging pus is a matter of concern. Also, a pimple developing into painful boils or becoming large is a symptom of an infected tattoo. Pus usually seems transparent and thick or runny in this case.

You need to keep an eye on the kind of puss as well as it can help diagnose the kind of infection. It is worth mentioning that, in a first few days, a tattoo is likely to release a tiny amount of ink, plasma or blood. However, this condition should not exceed 2 – 3 days.

7. Unpleasant Odor

There is no evidence available to prove that getting a tattoo creates some smell. However, various dermatologist claim that ooze or pus contribute to foul odor. You should opt for an examination in this case to get treatment for an infected tattoo.

8. Red Streaking

The appearance of red lines on the site of tattoo or long red lines looks streaking away from the design of your tattoo are a symptom of septicemia which is also called blood poisoning. It is considered an initial level of infection. However, this condition can turn into a threat if not treated immediately.

9. Constant Bleeding

Bleeding usually slows down once after the completion of a tattoo design. And, it impedes after 2 – 3 days due to the formation of scabbing and clotting around the tattooed skin. That is a normal condition. You should know your tattoo is infected if bleeding begins again or continues after the given period specifically over the heavily scabbed area. It starts to crack and ooze. You should consult with your doctor to get prompt treatment.

10. Lymph Nodes Swelling

Your body is surrounded by tiny lymph nodes that help ward off impurities from the body. These lymph nodes begin to swell if the infection occurs near them. You can find them in armpits and neck. However, if you come across symptoms of an infected tattoo, there are substantial chances that your lymph nodes are swollen as well. You need treatment immediately to combat harrowing signs like these.

11.                        High Temperature and Tiredness

The symptoms of an infected tattoo contain potential to boost your body temperature along with lethargy. If you encounter these symptoms with constant tiredness, you should get in touch with your doctor for an extensive examination. Moreover, an infected tattoo often brings signs such as increased breathing or fast heart rate as well. You need to seek urgent medical assistance in this case as it could be a symptom of a daunting condition like sepsis.

Ø Infected Tattoo Treatment

Once you spot a symptom and figure out your tattoo is infected, your next step should be consulting your tattoo artist. You should seek advice in this context and find effective treatment. Also, medical help is essential if your condition is severe. Consulting a doctor is necessary to get treatment promptly and relief from pain and swelling.

Antibiotics and steroidal administration seem a standard treatment. Your health care providers might opt for less common procedures such as admission to hospital to drain tattoo infection. Infection is still dangerous if it has occurred on a small area of your tattoo design. A little infection like this can land you in great skin problems. That is why you need to get it treated immediately regardless of process. It is evident that when you left an infection untreated, it spreads to another area of your skin causing damage beyond your imagination.

Here are some useful steps to follow to heal your infected skin along with medical assistance.

1.     Air the Wound Regularly

You need to expose your wound to fresh air on a daily basis individually if you wrap it in a bandage daily. This way, the injury will receive plenty of oxygen which will speed up the recovery process eventually.

2.     Ice Therapy

You should soothe itchy or swollen skin via applying ice to the area. Moreover, ice therapy is ideal to minimize minor redness as well. However, be vigilant when placing ice to the wounds and do not apply directly to it. Wrap an ice cube in a damp cloth and dab the affected area gently to prevent further skin damage.

3.     Wound Cleaning

Cleaning a wound seems disturbing but is necessary to impede the growth of infection to other areas. You should clean an injury at least three times in a day to get best and quick outcome. Make sure to dry the infected area entirely with a clean paper towel. This step is crucial as dry skin is less likely inviting to bacteria and germs as compared to damp or wet skin.

4.     Avoid Exposure to the Sun

You might not pay attention to it, but a new tattoo is vulnerable to ultraviolet rays of the sun. The new tattoo is also prone to burning if it is infected. We suggest covering a new tattoo from UV rays for at least a week whether it is infected or not.

Additionally, once you spot infection in the tattooed area, you should not expose it to the sunlight until the infection is healed completely. Plus, sunscreen or other products like tanning lotion will likely to aggravate infection and suffocate the wound. So, you do not need to apply these products during the recovery process.

5.     Opt for Painkillers

You can minimize the pain and unease via taking painkillers that an infected tattoo often brings. However, do not opt for self-medication and consult with your doctor first.

6.     Go for an Anti-inflammatory Medicine

An anti-inflammatory tablet can help combat swelling and provide relief from the condition. Just make sure to avoid overdosage and schedule an appointment with your primary healthcare provider to get further assistance.

Bottom Line

Getting a popular tattoo is fun and exciting until you identify it is infected. No question spotting an infection is confusing as some of the symptoms are quite similar to the standard conditions you encounter after the completion of tattoo design. Despite that, you need to be vigilant in this context. Spend extra time to get information on how to keep your tattoo disinfected. And follow precautions religiously until your new tattoo heals properly.