Infected Tattoos: What They Are, How to Treat & Cure

A guide to identifying infected tattoos. Most tattoo infections cause a rash or bumps in the area around the tattoo.

The idea of getting a tattoo sounds intriguing without a doubt. There is no limit to the number of tattoos one can have, and you may select multiple designs as well. Tattoos are appealing to all kinds of people, whether they are heartwarming quotes or unique designs. Even though it may not seem like it, getting a tattoo isn’t always the most fun option. Due to the risk of infection from a tattoo. Furthermore, infected tattoos are a real problem that is under-considered and can result in a wide range of painful skin conditions.

Infection can arise for a number of reasons, and improper hygiene is one. In addition, you cannot control the spread of an infection through a tattoo. Detecting it at an early stage will alleviate further skin problems in this respect. The purpose of this article is to explain everything you should know about tattoos that have been infected. Additionally, you should get treatment as soon as you encounter any symptoms by speaking with your doctor immediately.

Infected Tattoo

infected tattoo

Infected tattoo stages

Tattoo infections are characterized by a rash or red, bumpy skin around the tattoo site.

If your skin is sensitive, the needle may cause irritation in some cases. You may experience symptoms for a few days, then they should disappear.

You should see your tattoo artist or doctor if these symptoms persist for more than a week.

The aftermath of getting a tattoo is often painful or swollen. Observe any swelling, redness, or pain surrounding the tattoo. Healing takes one to two weeks. Nevertheless, if the pain gets worse or if the redness does not go away within the estimated time, it is time to see a physician immediately.

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

Tattoos that are infected often display a variety of symptoms, including pain, redness, and swelling. If you look for the following symptoms, you can catch a skin infection before it turns into a serious problem.

Consult your doctor if you experience:

  • Fever
  • waves of heat and cold
  • abnormal shivering
  • the tattooed area is swollen
  • with pus coming out of it
  • red lesions around the area
  • accompanied by streaks of red tissue
  • accompanied by hard, raised tissue
Infected tattoos are mostly caused by contaminated ink and tattoo tools. The factors listed above lead to bacterial infections such as Staphylococcus aureus and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The bacteria cause blisters, redness, and wounds on the skin.

Staphylococcal Bacteria

An infected tattoo usually results from this type of infection. A variety of staph bacteria can be treated with antibiotics.


This staph bacterium is an antibiotic-resistant type. Moreover, the bacteria resist antibiotics, which is why treating them is so difficult. MRSA can be spotted by observing specific symptoms such as body pain, fever, and pneumonia.

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

Nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM) Infections

The infection of NTMs is also a common cause of infected tattoos. Tattoo artists use contaminated ink and unsterilized water when diluting ink. On tattooed skin, it is evident as a red or transparent patch or bumps.

It is evident that bacteria contribute to an infected tattoo.

infected tattoo

Unsanitary Equipment or Environment

Getting an infected tattoo is due to unsterilized equipment and an unhygienic environment, whether you realize it or not. There should be no bacteria in a shop or environment where tattooing is being performed.

Sterilization is also necessary for equipment such as ink pots and needles. Moreover, equipment/apparatus should be sterilized by wrapping them in coatings before every tattoo appointment. Therefore, spreading infections will be prevented as well.

If you get a tattoo in a private studio or shop, there is a chance that the equipment is not cleaned. As improper sterilization of the equipment spreads bacteria from person to person in no time, getting a tattoo in this condition can cause an infection.

The reason your tattoo gets infected in small tattoo studios or by nonprofessional tattoo artists is that they do not have good disinfectant procedures. For circumstances like this to avoid, you should carefully research an artist before scheduling an appointment.

How to spot an Infected Tattoo


A rash may be of any size, shape, color, or texture. Rashes can range in texture, from smooth and red to pimply or bumpy. An irritated tattoo is caused by a rush at the time of application. Whenever irritation increases and the size of a rash gets larger, you should know you have an infected tattoo.

Tattooed Area Feels Hot when You Touch It

It takes time for your body to heal after getting a tattoo. Due to boosted blood flow to the tattooed area, tattooed skin stays warm for a few days. Due to this, the site’s temperature rises. Within a few days, this warmness will be cooled down. After one week, if your skin is still hot, it may be infected.

Uncontrollable Itching

When a tattoo becomes dry, it will become itchy. Initially, itching may occur, but it disappears gradually. A tattooed person’s skin may be infected if its itching persists despite applying tattoo lotion to soothe it. When itching does not stop within a week, you should consider seeing a dermatologist.

Unsightly Scabbing

Scabs are common during tattoo healing procedures, according to tattoo artists. A thin, crusty layer is not acceptable. A tattoo that is infected becomes uneven due to thick crusts, so you can spot it quite easily. Moreover, bleeding on the itchy scabs also indicates an infection that must be treated immediately.


Tattoos, however, rarely leave you with blisters. According to dermatologists, blisters around tattooed areas are dangerous. So, you should never ignore blisters on your tattoo because they could indicate a painful infection.

Boils/Pimples and Pus Discharge

At first sight, a pimple does not seem to be troubling. Pus-dripping pimples, however, are a cause of concern. An infected tattoo also causes a pimple to develop into a painful boil or become large. It usually appears transparent and runny in this situation.

It is important to keep an eye on the kind of pus since it can help you determine the infection type. Tattoos may release a small amount of ink, plasma, or blood in their first few days. These conditions should not last longer than 2 to 3 days.

Unpleasant Odor

The evidence does not support the claim that tattoos smell. In contrast, dermatologists assert that pus or ooze causes foul odors. If you have an infected tattoo, you should choose to have it examined.

What does an infected tattoo look like

what does an infected tattoo look like

what does an infected tattoo look like

How to treat an infected tattoo

  • Rashes and bumps can usually be treated at home with antibacterial creams and proper washing.
  • Depending on the cause of an infection, you’ll need different treatments. Depending on the bacteria or virus causing the infection, your doctor may take a swab of the area or puncture a pus pocket (if present).
  • The infection can usually be treated with an antibiotic in most cases. It may take weeks or months for antibiotic treatments to work if an infection is severe.
  • Infections caused by MRSA bacteria may not respond to antibiotics. Rather than giving you antibiotics if you have an abscess caused by MRSA, your doctor may drain it.
  • Occasionally, surgery may be needed to treat infections. A procedure may be needed to remove necrosed tissue if it has died as a result of infection (necrosis).
  • Tattoos that become persistently itchy and painful may have an atypical mycobacterial infection. Antibiotics should be administered for a long period of time.

Infected Tattoo Treatment

Your next step should be contacting your tattoo artist once you have identified a symptom and determine your tattoo is infected. Obtain effective treatment in this context by seeking advice. A severe condition may also require medical attention. For pain and swelling relief, it is essential to see a doctor.

Standard treatment seems to be antibiotics and steroidal administration. A tattoo infection might be removed through less common procedures such as hospital admission. Despite a small area of the tattoo being infected, it is as dangerous as a larger area of the tattoo design. This type of infection can cause you a great deal of trouble with your skin. Because of this, you need to get treated immediately, no matter what process you use. You can see from this that when you leave an infection untreated, it spreads to another part of your body, causing damage you cannot imagine.

The following tips along with medical assistance can help you heal infected skin.

Air the Wound Regularly

In case your wound is covered with a bandage on a daily basis, it needs to be exposed to fresh air. By doing so, oxygen will be shown to the injured tissue, resulting in a faster recovery.

Ice Therapy

By applying ice to swollen or itchy skin, you can soothe the problem. Additionally, ice therapy can help reduce minor redness. Do not apply ice directly to wounds, however, and be vigilant when doing so. Dab ice cubes gently on the affected area to prevent further skin damage.

Wound Cleaning

Infection can spread to other parts of the body if a wound is not thoroughly cleaned. If you want best and rapid results, you need to clean your injury at least three times daily. Clean a paper towel thoroughly and dry the infected area completely. It is crucial to dry the skin in this step since damp or wet skin attracts more bacteria and germs.

Avoid Exposure to the Sun

A new tattoo is susceptible to the UV rays of the sun, which you may not pay attention to. Infected tattoos can also burn. No matter if a tattoo is infected or not, it should be protected from ultraviolet rays for a week.

Additionally, you should avoid exposing the tattooed area to the sun once you spot infection in the tattooed area. Additionally, sunscreen and tanning lotion may aggravate infection and suffocate wounds. Thus, these products are not necessary to use during recovery.

Opt for Painkillers

An infected tattoo often causes pain and unease. You can minimize these feelings by taking painkillers. Please consult your physician before taking self-medication.

Go for an Anti-inflammatory Medicine

The remedy for swelling and its discomfort is to take an anti-inflammatory tablet. You can seek further assistance from your primary healthcare provider if you have concerns about overdosing.


When you discover it’s infected it is exciting and fun to get a popular tattoo. A tattoo infection can be tricky to identify as some of the symptoms resemble those encountered after a tattoo design is completed. Despite that, you should remain vigilant in this regard. Obtain information about how to maintain your tattoo’s cleanliness. Once the new tattoo has healed, follow the precautions religiously.

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