Tattoo Healing Problems and How to Solve Them



Healing complications happen. Something will induce ahealing problem. These reasons vary. Sometimes it is a result of improperaftercare. Other times it is because of something that happened during thetattoo process. Identifying what caused it or how is the goal so that thingscan be corrected and allow the tattoo to heal. Then, after healed, the tattoocan be corrected, if need be. Both client and artist must reframe from pointingfingers and blaming one or the other. A number of things could have contributedto it and neither one is happy about it. It sucks for both parties involved!

Ideally nothing will go wrong while your tattoo heals. Thebest way to ensure that it does heal well, is to follow your artist’s aftercareinstructions. This is especially so if you have any allergies or medialconditions (be sure you informed your artist of them!). Based on your allergiesor medical conditions an artist will give you proper aftercare to accommodateyour needs. Be sure to follow his or her instructions. Problems happen when aclient deviates from following the aftercare or purchasing new products forcleaning and caring for their new tattoo. Remember, there is no ‘one right way’to heal a tattoo. Most artists will inform their client to either use H2Oceanaftercare products or to follow one of the two ‘Universal’ Aftercare Methods.Your artist knows how their work heals best. Follow his or her preference! Whenin doubt call and ask your artist. He or she can give you the best directive.No matter how logical or right your friend sounds because his or her artistsays ‘this is the way to do it’, don’t, their artist isn’t your artist.

In the event of a healing issue, it is recommended that youkeep a journal or mark down on a calendar everything that happens while yourtattoo is healing. This starts with the second you leave the tattoo shop. Takenote of what you did that day. Did your bandage get loose or fall off while youwere on your way home? Did you go home right away or did you go shopping or towork? When did you remove the bandage? How did you clean it? What products didyou use? How did your tattoo look? Did you take a photo? Keep track of theselittle details. If you need the info later you’ll be glad you did.


Reactions to pigment is an unpleasant experience for both the artist and the client. Pigment reactions are not very common. Before this can be identified as a pigment reaction other reactions need to be ruled out. For example, you could be allergic to the aftercare product that you are using. Consider what soaps or moisturizers you are using that could be causing a problem. Discontinue using that aftercare product and see if it makes a difference.

Infections are sometimes mistaken for a pigment reaction. Infections are more common than pigment reactions. Infections are the most common and are crowned for being the number one mischief maker.


• Swollen, and irritated in areas within the tattoo
• A red zone is growing in on or around the tattoo
• Sometimes there is a possibility of vein-like lines cascading away from the tattoo
• The tattoo area is giving off heat, it’s warm or its hot
• Particularly thick scabs or persistent and painful scabbing
• Blisters and or sores indicate an advanced infection


1.Clean the tattoo and surrounding area thoroughly and regularity with antibacterial soap and water.

2.Use triple antibiotic ointment (DON’T if you’re allergic to penicillin or Sulpha Drugs! See a doctor ASAP)

3.Keep dirty hands, pets, debris and anything else that may have bacteria on it away from the tattoo

4.See your doctor, you may get prescribed antibiotics.

5.Inform your artist.


Although it is uncommon to have an allergic reaction to tattoo inks or pigment it does happen. This is especialy the case if you have sensitive skin.

Signs that indicate areaction to pigment:

•             Specific areas of the tattoo that contain that same color will take longer toheal

•             In some cases it may not heal

•             These areas will appear as a rash or raised area

•             May appear milky looking and thick

Hydrocortisone ointment will help overcome the skins irritation and allow it to heal. However, months could pass without the skin settling down. When this happens it will cause itching, and irritation.

What does a pigment reaction mean?
It means that your skin is trying to reject that particular substance that was in the pigment.

How do you deal with a pigment reaction?
You can see a doctor, a dermatologist, or both, but if only antibiotics are prescribed (and there is no infection) there is something a tattoo artist can do for you to help you and it delivers effective results.
The artist will have to tattoo that area. The artist however will not be injecting pigment into your skin. Instead they will be running a magnum (shading needle grouping), with low power, using distilled water or witch hazel instead of ink.
Simply put, this will open up the skin and give it a way to reject the unwanted ink. Usually this only needs to be done once. It is very effective. Usually the inflammation will go away after the procedure along with most of the unwanted ink. After the skin has healed, the artist will be able to judge if it needs to be done again.

Between six and twelve months this area can be tattooed again. This time a different color needs to be selected.

If you have particularly sensitive skin you are more likely to be prone to allergic reaction to tattoo pigments. To help avoid this it will be beneficial to you and your tattoo artist to do tests so that a tattoo can be completed in confidence. There are many different brands of tattoo inks out there and what your artist uses may or may not be problematic with your skin.

To test to see if you react to the pigment your artist can do one or both testing methods. One testing method is to break your skin by scratching it with a tip of tattoo needle then quickly covering the area with a smear of pigment. This needs to be done with each color that will be used (this includes the black and white pigment). After about a minute you can wash the pigment off. After 24 hours you may notice if you had a reaction to the ink or not. The other method is to tattoo the skin with a small dot in each color then you can wait a year and see if you reacted to these colors over the time frame. If not you can be tattooed in confidence and those little dots can easily be covered by the tattoo.

The red dyes in red sharper markers or in other non-toxic markers can cause issues with healed tattoos and sometimes issues will not arise for quite some time, even years. To avoid having any issues make sure your artist does not use red markers on you.


Poor healing can result in a poor looking tattoo. What causes the poor healing can be numerous. The reason why it happened could be because of the artist or it could be the client at fault. A number of things could have contributed to a healing issue. In order to fix the problem and or prevent it from happening again, both artist and client need to work together. Ideally the client and the artist will work together without a finger pointing blame game. When this is achieved a means to make things right arises.

Ideally the client and the artist will work together without a finger pointing blame game. When this is achieved a means to make things right arises.

A professional Tattoo Artist will consider how they may have come at fault and study the area in the tattoo to see if a single area is localized to indicate any issues with pigment. If it’s localized it may be indicating that there is an allergic reaction. Or there could be an issue with just that color or bottle of ink. Perhaps many other clients came in showing issues with the same color. In this way the artist is able to judge to see if they’re supplies or materials are causing a problem and can eliminate it. Perhaps the wrong aftercare was suggested! Work with the artist and find a solution.

In the event that the tattoo healed with a scar it is best to wait up six months to a year before reworking the area. This will give the skin enough time to fully heal before reworking


When or if things go wrong and you need to see your doctor it is wise to know your facts and be as informative as possible. Your family doctor knows your medical history. Be open, honest and give facts that will help your doctor in determining how to help or treat your healing tattoo.

Bring your aftercare sheets with you. Let your family doctor know what products were used to care for your tattoo. Bring the products with you so you can review the ingredients together.

Be open and honest. If you may have done something differently than outlined in your aftercare let your doctor know!

Bring your calendar with you (hopefully you took the time to make a healing journal!). this will let your doctor know when you were tattooed, what actions you took in what time frame and how the tattoo seemed to heal or when it showed signs of trouble.

Ask your doctor to take a culture sample of your tattoo. This way you know exactly what it is. In some cases MRSA is the culprit causing problems. Without the proper diagnosis (culture sample) it can get missed and cause a great deal of grief later!

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