Is My New Tattoo Infected? What Should I Do About It?

Updated on March 18, 2020
Organised Kaos profile image

As a self-proclaimed tattoo commentator and writer, I rely on my personal experience and time working in a tattoo studio.

Infected tattoo
Infected tattoo | Source

It's been a few days since you left the tattoo studio. At first, your new tattoo glistened. Now, it's a totally different story. Your once-beautiful tattoo is covered in scabs, oozing a strange liquid, and is daily becoming more and more distracting and uncomfortable.

Maybe this isn't your first tattoo, but you had no trouble with your other ones. Maybe you didn't bother much with your other two and they turned out fine. So what's going on now?

The fact that you're wondering if your tattoo is infected means there is a high probability it is, or is at least heading that way. You need to take action now or the consequences may not be pretty.

What Are the Symptoms of an Infected Tattoo?

Your new tattoo is essentially an open wound. It is susceptible to infection because it is relatively easy for bacteria to enter the broken skin. Here are the most common symptoms of infection. If you're experiencing any of these, it's time to take action.

1. Swelling

It's normal for a new tattoo to swell, but if you find that the swelling increases over three to five days instead of decreasing, or begins to extend past the tattoo a fair distance, there's definitely a problem.

2. Heat

An infection might feel hot to the touch. While it is normal for the tattoo to feel warm, especially for the first two days, it should not feel hot and the heat should not increase. If it's infected, your whole tattoo and the area around it will be very hot to touch, and there will be heat radiating from within the tattoo.

3. Discharge

Infected tattoos often have a slimy discharge oozing from them in various places; it may appear as a clear fluid with a golden color, or a thick yellow-green goo that sits within the tattoo. You might also see pus (white, yellow, or green).

4. Odor

Often the discharge from an infected tattoo will have a nasty smell or odor. This a sure-fire sign of infection.

5. Pain

If you're experiencing extreme pain that increases over the 3-5 days, or have sharp, shooting pains from within the tattoo itself, it's likely an infection.

6. Blistering

Blistering is a sign of infection, and it can occur on top of the tattoo, manifesting as red, raised sores filled with body fluids. If your skin is bubbly or bright red, then this is a sign of infection.

7. Increased Scab Size

Due to above-normal levels of discharge, the scabs on your tattoo may appear thick and bulbous and have a yellow and green crust. Some light scabbing, however, is normal.

8. Fever and Lethargy

If you have a fever or feel lethargic and these symptoms are unrelated to other illnesses, then it's likely your body is working overtime to fight an infection. Fever is actually one of the surest signs of infection, even if your temperature is only slightly elevated.

9. Redness or Streaking

If your tattoo or the skin around it is extremely red, you likely have an infection. If you see thin red lines radiating from your tattoo, you should go to the doctor immediately as streaking can be an early sign of blood poisoning.

Signs of Tattoo Infection

(click column header to sort results)
Swelling increases after two days and extends past the tattoo.
The tattoo feels hot/angry inside and out.
Oozing yellowish-green pus.
The discharge often smells foul.
Increasing or extreme discomfort in the limb and around tattoo.
Raised red bumps filled with liquid.
Increased scab size
Scabs are large due to excess discharge.
Fever and lethargy
This is a sign the body is fighting an infection.
The most common symptoms of an infected tattoo. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you need to act now.
Infected sores on tattoo
Infected sores on tattoo | Source

What Do I Do if My Tattoo Is Infected?

If you believe an infection is present, you should get to the doctor as quickly as possible. Your doctor will, in most cases, advise further wound care and prescribe an antibiotic or a steroid for you to use. This could either be in pill or cream form. Along with your doctor's visit, you should do the following:

  • Before doing anything, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water and dry on a clean towel or air dry.
  • Wash all the excess fluid and pus off the tattoo with warm water. Avoid keeping your tattoo wet for too long, and use an antibacterial wash or soap. Use only your hands to wash and not a cloth.
  • Rinse with a gentle saline or salt water solution. Dissolve approximately 1 - 2 tablespoons of salt in about a liter of warm, sterile water (that you have boiled and cooled) and gently rinse.
  • Do not scrub at the scabs, but gently wash away foreign particles and extra fluids. Forcing scabs off will almost certainly damage your art.
  • Very sparingly, pat dry using a cloth without fluff particles or let it air dry.
  • Make sure it dries completely.
  • Apply any ointments prescribed by the doctor or pharmacist as directed.
  • Wrap your tattoo in specially designed non-stick gauze when the tattoo is in a dirty environment. Also, wrap it when the tattoo wound is moist, when sleeping, and when you're wearing clothes that may rub and irritate.
  • Be sure your tattoo gets time to air-dry in a clean place.
  • Try to keep your tattoo as dry as possible, except during the treatments your doctor has prescribed for you.
  • Protect your tattoo from sunlight as much as possible.

What Will Happen to My New Tattoo After the Infection Heals?

The end result for your tattoo depends on how severe the infection is and whether thick scabs, blisters, or sores have appeared. Fading of color or design is the most common result, though in extremely nasty circumstances, the tattoo will develop scar tissue. In rare cases, people have lost limbs due to infected tattoos.

Swollen, infected foot tattoo
Swollen, infected foot tattoo

I Looked After My New Tattoo, So Why Did I Still Get An Infection?

There are many reasons that your tattoo may have become infected, in some cases, it's just a case of bad luck. Here are some other common causes of infection:

  • Touching the tattoo with dirty hands (usually by accident).
  • Using too much aftercare cream and creating a moist environment where bacteria thrive.
  • Knocking or hitting your new tattoo and causing wound trauma, or not resting the limb and excessively exercising right after getting inked.
  • The presence of other diseases or illnesses can slow healing.
  • Fluff from clothing or bed linen, or other foreign bodies like dirt or grime getting into the open tattoo.
  • Cross-contamination between other infected fluids can cause infection. Opened and pre-used aftercare creams and ointments can contain bacteria and germs from a prior user.
  • A weakened immune system due to excessive drinking, lack of sleep or rest, drugs, or bad diet can lead to infection.
  • Low blood flow to the wound can impede healing. This can be caused by excess swelling of the tattoo tissue.
  • The artist used contaminated equipment or ink.

Should I Tell My Tattoo Artist If I Develop an Infection?

Your infected tattoo is not the responsibility of the tattoo artist or studio. Technically, the studio was only responsible for what happened while you were being tattooed and they have no obligation to fix or re-do your tattoo.

The only situation in which the artist might have a legal obligation to fix an infected tattoo is when you have proof that you were tattooed in unsanitary conditions and proof that you correctly performed the aftercare recommended by the tattoo artist. But really, would you let them touch you again? A better option might be giving the health department a quick call so you can save another person the stress you're now experiencing.

Why Should I Contact the Studio?

The studio may be able to provide you with information relevant to your healing issue. If you're lucky, they may offer to fix any color distortion or fading for free or at a reduced price.

Contacting them also informs the tattoo artist that you're experiencing a problem. Since you're essentially a walking advertisement for their work, odds are that they want you to look as good as possible. If you never tell them that something's wrong, they won't be able to help fix it.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2013 Anne


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      14 months ago

      hi, my tattoo is red and so sore its been a week it has a yellow crust here and there as well as parts of the tattoo looks like the ink is pulling away form the skin like a cut, will nuban and septogard help, and is my tattoo going to be ruined

    • profile image


      23 months ago

      My eyebrows are scabbed and red after microblading

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      What do i do with my two days tattoo it has puss inside.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I got my tattoo a year ago and recently it’s been bothering me but tonight I noticed it was bleeding. It hurts to touch but it’s not red or swollen.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      My tatto is red hot and has a yellow crust on this can anybody help me with advise I had it done on the Friday

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Hi just got a new tattoo 2 days ago and i forgot your not allowed soak it in a bath and now ive spots on my tattoo what does this mean!!!

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I have got new tattoo 4 weeks ago. but i have got redness and itchng around tattoo since the first day but no pain . I visited tattoo artist and he recommended to visit doctor . I am worring about it .

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I got a small tattoo 3days ago, within minutes the skin was pink and swelling about an inch around the tattoo. I had a larger tattoo last summer that did the same thing but healed fine. I also have very fair skin. This tattoo blisters when i use a&d cream but not without. There is a clear discharge, it doesnt feel very hot, it hasnt gotten worse, i dont feel feverish. Is there a chance im allergic to one of the colors?

    • Rituparna Biswas profile image

      Rituparna Biswas 

      5 years ago from kolkata

      Informative article.Planning to get a tattoo.Thanks for the information.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Idk if my tattoo is infected but i did it by myself

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Excellent article. Thank you!

      I'm concerned my new tattoo is infected. I've never had a problem with them healing before, but this one is extremely sore after six days and the redness is extending down about 2 inches below the tattoo. My artist is a professional and is extremely clean. I wasn't sure what to do, but I think now after reading this I'll be headed to the doctor today.

    • FlowerCS profile image

      Lindsey A S 

      5 years ago from Delaware

      Great hub!

    • Organised Kaos profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS)

      Interesting product. You're right regarding the ingredients being ideal for tattoo healing. It sounds like mother nature makes the best lotions in the end! many thanks for your ideas!

    • Organised Kaos profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS)

      Thankyou very much for your kind words Amethystraven, it came up ok this one! :)

    • Amethystraven profile image


      6 years ago from California

      This is an excellent hub. I have tattoos myself and I have never experienced anything as far as an infection. For those that do experience the symptoms you listed as far as infection and something gone horribly wrong, the first thing should definitely be the doctor. I have always used the same organic product with essential oils in it that fight bacteria and infections, and I have never had a problem with my tattoos healing. Always check out who you are getting a tattoo from. Make sure they don't reuse needles and that they always have a sterile environment. If they don't sterilize the environment in front of you, ask them to. They should not get offended. If the tattoo studio is well respected and recommended, then once the tattoo is done it is up to the person who got tattooed to take care of it. The tattoo artist should not be blamed for a person's lack of care once the tattoo is done. Organised Kaos, you give excellent aftercare information as well. I really like this hub. I give it a thumbs up.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)