How Do I Recognize an Allergic Reaction to a Tattoo?

Article Details
  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article

The signs of an allergic reaction to a tattoo are often similar to those a person may get with a contact skin allergy. For example, you might notice redness and swelling, a rash, and itching, all of which may get worse when exposed to light or heat. Sometimes blisters develop as well. Typically, the rashes are caused by the coloring used for applying the body art, but the signs may not develop right away. You could develop symptoms weeks, months, or years after the body art is applied, or in some cases, not until a subsequent application.

Inflammation, redness, and rashes are among the most common signs of an allergic reaction to a tattoo. Such a reaction is not common, but when it does develop, it is often the result of an allergy to one or more of the pigments used to create the tattoo. This type of allergy may also cause itching that lasts beyond the initial healing of the body art. It is important to note that signs of an allergic reaction to a tattoo do not always show up right after you receive it. Instead, you may not develop signs of an allergy for weeks or even months or years afterward.


Sometimes an allergic reaction to a tattoo is fairly mild and amounts to small bumps and redness that fade over time and leave the body art intact. This is not always the case, however. Some people have reactions so severe that there is a good deal of redness and swelling. The body may even react so strongly to the body art that it manages to push the dye out of the tattoo, leaving the body art without its intended color. This often occurs with body art that uses red dye, but it can develop with other colors as well.

An allergic reaction to a tattoo can sometimes be aggravated by sunlight. For example, you may suffer significant worsening of symptoms such as swelling and redness when sunlight hits the tattooed area. In fact, some people first notice the reaction after they have spent some time outdoors in the sun with the affected area exposed. Additionally, you may notice that your allergies to body art dye become worse in the presence of heat. Swelling can become more prominent, and itching may develop as well.

The fact that you didn't have an allergic reaction to your first tattoo, doesn't mean you are definitely not allergic. This is true even if years have passed since your first body art was applied. Some people do not develop any signs of allergic reactions until their second or even third tattoos are applied. Others may develop slight redness and itching but not have a severe reaction until receiving subsequent body art. If this happens to you, you might suffer such symptoms as severe redness, itching, and blistering of all your tattoos, including the oldest one.



Discuss this Article

Post 2

I have a little butterfly on the inside of my arm, but that's the last one. My cousin had a tattoo on the outside of each ankle, and eventually, couldn't curl her toes on one foot.She saw a neurologist, who said the tattoo artist had inadvertently nicked a nerve when he did the tattoo. He said it was because the tattoo was so near the bone, and there wasn't as much padding between the skin and the nerves as there is on other parts of the body. She had to do physical therapy to get movement back in that foot.

I'm just enough of a wimp that I wouldn't get another one because of that. Nerve damage and allergies? I don't need another tattoo. Besides, I can spend that money so much more wisely on something else -- like getting out of debt.

Post 1

Tattoo allergies are awful! And if they're really bad, sometimes, skin grafts are necessary. I saw something about that on one of those emergency room shows on TV. Just out of curiosity, I asked my doctor what really happened if someone was allergic to tattoo ink, and she told me that the TV show was pretty accurate.

She said if something like Benedryl didn't help the allergy, then the tattoo might have to be removed by cutting it away from the skin and having a skin graft done where the tattoo was. That's extreme, and kind of rare, but she said she's seen it happen.

Rare it may be, but it's enough to keep me from even thinking about getting a tattoo. My skin is sensitive anyway, and it would be just my luck to be highly allergic to tattoo ink, and find out after the fact. No thank you.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?