It’s perfectly normal for a new tattoo to be a bit sore - and then itchy! - for a while after being inked.
But how long is normal, and when should you be concerned?!
Soreness is to be expected after a tattoo; being jabbed repeatedly with teeny sharp needles is, after all, a trauma to the skin. And while it’s happening, the sensation can often be more accurately described as pain than mere discomfort!
It’ll depend on where on the body you get your tattoo how sore it will be, and also on the skill and light touch of your tattooist, as well as how much skin your tattoo design covers.
Some places - over bone for example, or where there are more nerve endings, or areas of skin that move and stretch, are more likely to hurt.
In the immediate aftermath, and for the next few days, the site of a new tattoo can feel stingy and sore, maybe a bit like sunburn or a light graze. Slight inflammation and soreness is normal for skin that has been broken and needs to heal.
This is the time when you have to be extremely careful not to touch the tattoo, not to get it wet or pile on the creams. A brief wash with lukewarm water and a light film of appropriate balm, and that’s it. The first stage tends to last three or four days; you may notice blood and plasma oozing from the site. This is normal; just wash it carefully and don’t pick at it!
The next stage tends not to be sore so much as itchy! This is when the tattoo starts to scab over. Resist the urge to scratch! You do not want the scabs picked off. The scabbing stage can last a few days.
The tattooed area is unlikely to still feel sore after about two weeks. But what would classify as abnormal and what should you do about it?
Get advice if:
- your tattoo is more than slightly hot and swollen
- your tattoo is weeping beyond the first few days
- your tattoo is very red or very painful at any point
Check with your tattoo artist if you’re worried in the first few days, or if you’re experiencing pain rather than soreness after a week.
And do consult your doctor if you’re worried about infection! If your tattoo is hot, swollen, and painful beyond those first few days, you may need antibiotics.
There is also a slight possibility that you could experience an allergic reaction to the ink; it’s not very common but it does happen, so do keep an eye out for extreme swelling and pain and get it sorted as soon as possible.
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If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.