What Does an Infected Tattoo Look Like

Getting a tattoo is an exciting experience, but it’s important to keep your wits about you. After all, you are having someone mark up your body — for life. While most tattoo artists take their job very seriously and only want to help their clients, new research shows that there may be more danger in getting a tattoo than you might expect. 

Infected tattoos are on the rise around the world. This means that when choosing your next design, it’s not just about what speaks to you. You should also make sure that your tattoo artist practices safe hygiene standards, disinfects their tools after every client, and sterilizes all needles before every use.

If not, you could end up with an infected tattoo — and the consequences can be unpleasant and even painful. Keep reading to learn more about what does an infected tattoo look like and how to avoid them!

What’s Causing All These Infected Tattoos?

Infected Tattoos
Image Credit: tatring.com

An infected tattoo happens when bacteria enters your skin and causes an infection. This can happen when the tattoo artist doesn’t use clean equipment or if the artist doesn’t follow proper safety precautions. Black and gray tattoos are the most prone to infections because the inks are not sterile, and neither is the equipment. 

Unfortunately, some tattoo studios don’t have strict standards for artist hygiene, so infections are likely. Infections can be caused by a number of different bacteria, including Staphylococcus, Pseudomonas, or even E. coli. These bacteria thrive in dark, moist places, which makes tattoos a perfect breeding ground. 

If bacteria enter the bloodstream through the open wound while the tattoo ink is in progress, the infection can spread throughout the body and cause a wide range of complications.

Why Are Tattoo Infections on the Rise?

The rise in infections can be blamed on a few different factors. First and foremost, a lack of strict hygiene standards in some studios. If the artist isn’t properly disinfecting their tools and keeping everything clean, you could be at risk of infection. 

While this is bad news in general, it’s even more prevalent among certain demographics. For example, many people in the LGBTQ+ community have reported higher rates of infection when getting tattoos. 

This is likely due to the fact that many tattoo artists are not trained in how to properly take care of tattooed clients with compromised immune systems. There are also certain designs that are more likely to cause problems than others. Large, intricate tattoos, for example, can be difficult to do correctly, which can lead to more infections.

The Telltale Signs of an Infected Tattoo

If you’ve got a new tattoo and are noticing signs of infection, it’s important to see a doctor. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • Red, itchy skin: This is a sign of a bacterial infection that could lead to cellulitis, a condition that can cause permanent damage to your tattoo.
  • Swelling: This happens when the bacteria that caused the infection travels through your lymph nodes, blocking the drainage of lymph fluid.
  • Thickening of the skin: This is another symptom where the infection has spread to the lymph nodes, causing them to swell up.
  • Red streaks running from the wound: This is a sign that the bacteria has entered your bloodstream.

How to Tell If Your Tattoo Is Actually Infected

If you notice any of the above symptoms, it’s important to get your tattoo checked out. Your doctor will be able to give you a firm diagnosis and tell you what your next steps should be. If you think you might have an infection, it’s important to check in with your artist.

They may be able to offer advice on how to treat the infection at home. Alternatively, they may encourage you to see a doctor. If you’re concerned that your tattoo may be infected, don’t be afraid to get it checked.

Don’t Be Fooled by Ink Smears

If your artist is well versed in proper hygiene standards, you should be able to rule out any infections. That said, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. If your artist uses disposable or one-use needles, you shouldn’t be too concerned. These are specially made to be thrown out after each use. 

If your artist uses re-used or “cleaned” needles, you might want to think twice before going under the needle. However, even if your artist uses reused needles, there is a chance that your tattoo won’t become infected. This is because the bacteria that normally live on our skin don’t always cause an infection.

How to Prevent Getting an Infected Tattoo

To help prevent infection, make sure that your tattoo artist disinfects their equipment and follows all proper hygiene protocols. If you’re getting a tattoo from an artist who isn’t following proper protocols, it’s best to find a new artist. 

If the infection has already set in, there are ways to treat it. The first step is to remove your bandage and wash the wound with warm water and soap. You can also try applying antibiotic cream to the wound as soon as it’s cleaned. 

To make sure you get rid of the bacteria that caused the infection in the first place, you can take antibiotics. These will likely be prescribed by your doctor.


Getting a new tattoo is exciting, but it’s important to make sure that the artist is practicing proper hygiene standards. This will help to prevent infections that can cause painful and even dangerous complications. 

If you’re getting a new tattoo, ask your artist about their hygiene standards and whether or not they use disposable or one-use needles. If you notice any signs of infection — red, swollen skin, red streaks running from the wound, or itching — don’t hesitate to get it checked out by a doctor.

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