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
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.
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.
Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction
(anaphylaxis) may include:
The sudden appearance of raised, red areas (hives)
all over the body.
Rapid swelling of the throat, mouth, or tongue.
Passing out (losing consciousness). Or you may feel very lightheaded or suddenly feel weak, confused,
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.
Seek Care Today
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms
and arrange for care.
If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't
have one, seek care today.
If it is evening, watch the symptoms and
seek care in the morning.
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:
Stop any bleeding. Minimal bleeding can be
stopped by applying direct pressure to the wound. It is normal for the tattoo
site to ooze small amounts of blood for up to 24 hours and clear, yellow, or
blood-tinged fluid for several days.
cold pack to help reduce the swelling, bruising, or
itching. Never apply ice directly to the skin. This can cause tissue damage.
Put a layer of fabric between the cold pack and the skin.
antihistamine, such as Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton, to
hives and relieve itching. Be sure to read and follow
any warning on the label. Do not use strong soaps, detergents, and other
chemicals, which can make itching worse.
Protect your tattoo with a
bandage if it might become dirty or irritated.
Apply an antibiotic ointment, such as
Polysporin or Bacitracin, to a nonstick bandage, such as
Apply the nonstick bandage with the ointment on it to the
tattoo site. The ointment will prevent the irritated skin from sticking to the
bandage. Putting the ointment on the bandage first will be less painful. If a
skin rash or itching under the bandage starts, wash the ointment off and don't
use that type of ointment again. The rash may mean an allergic
Apply a clean bandage once a day and change the bandage
if it gets wet. If the bandage sticks, soak the tattoo area in warm water
for a few minutes or take the bandage off under running water in the
Leave the bandage off with the skin open to air whenever
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription
medicine to help treat your pain:
are not improving after 2 weeks of home treatment.
symptoms become more severe or frequent.
Preventing tattoo problems
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.
Do not get a tattoo while under the influence of alcohol or
tetanus shot before your tattooing if you have not had
one in the past 10 years.
Choose an experienced person who uses
sterile gloves and sterilized equipment to do the tattoo. Ask the person doing
the tattoo how he or she cleans the equipment and what
safety standards he or she follows. Sterile gloves and
sterilized equipment should be used. A fresh pair of gloves should be used for
each procedure. Make sure that the operator
washes his or her hands before putting on the gloves.
Ask the operator to change his or her gloves if he or she answers the telephone
or does anything else during your procedure.
Check the studio and
see whether it looks clean. Ask the operator about sterilizing techniques and
If you think you may
want to have your tattoo removed at a later date—dark blue, black, and red are
the easiest colors to remove with lasers. Bright colors—blue, green, and
yellow—are hard, if not impossible, to remove.
If you have had
allergic reaction to tattoo dye in the past, do not
get any more tattoos. Be sure your health professionals know about these
Wear medical alert jewelry such as a
MedicAlert tag if you have had an allergic reaction after a
If you have had an allergic reaction to the
henna used in a temporary tattoo, you have a higher
chance of developing a skin reaction to hair dye. Mix up a small amount of the
dye solution and paint it on a small patch of skin, such as the inside of your
wrist, to see if you are going to have a reaction to it. Do not use the hair
dye if your skin turns red or itches.
Check with your city or county health department to
find out whether there have been any complaints about the studio you are
thinking of using.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.