Tattoos and permanent makeup have been used by most cultures for centuries and recently have become very popular with both men and women. Most people who have a tattoo do not develop any problems. Home treatment can help speed healing and prevent problems.
A tattoo is a series of puncture wounds that carry dye into the different levels of the skin. At first, the tattoo may be swollen and there may be some crusting on the surface. It is normal for the tattoo to ooze small amounts of blood for up to 24 hours, and it may ooze clear, yellow, or blood-tinged fluid for several days.
Problems with tattoos include:
Be sure to consider all aspects of getting a tattoo. A tattoo should be considered permanent. Tattoo removal is hard and may cause scarring. It may not be possible to completely remove a tattoo and restore your normal skin color and texture. If you have not yet made a decision about tattooing, see the Prevention section for information about tattooing.
Temporary tattoos, such as henna tattoos (mehndi), may also cause problems. Although most of the ingredients in temporary tattoos are safe for application to the skin, there have been reports of allergic skin reactions (contact dermatitis) to the ingredients in some of the tattoos. Henna tattoos are not approved for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Henna is a plant-based dye and is approved for use only as a hair dye.
Consumers and health professionals are encouraged to report adverse reactions to tattoos and permanent makeup, as well as reactions to temporary tattoos.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Symptoms of infection may include:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
You may need a tetanus shot depending on how dirty the wound is and how long it has been since your last shot.
If proper technique and clean instruments are not used, there is a chance of getting an infectious disease when you get a tattoo or body piercing.
Symptoms of an infectious illness may include:
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) may include:
A severe reaction can be life-threatening. If you have had a bad allergic reaction to a substance before and are exposed to it again, treat any symptoms as an emergency. Even if the symptoms are mild at first, they may quickly become very severe.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Most minor swelling and redness (inflammation) from a tattoo can be treated at home. If your tattoo artist gave you instructions, follow them carefully.
If you did not receive instructions for skin care of the tattoo site, try the following:
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your pain:
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
You can prevent problems from developing at your tattoo site. Review the following guidelines and information before making your decision to tattoo a part of your body.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
Current as of: July 1, 2021
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2021 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.