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Tattoo Aftercare

Tattoo Ink Allergy: 5 Things You Should Know - Sorry Mom

The possibility might not even occur to you.

Most people don’t expect themselves to have a reaction to tattoo ink and are surprised when their tattoo does not seem to be healing as their tattoo artist advised. But the fact is, a tattoo ink allergy is a concern for a small population of people who get tattoos. It might be a thought that you have never even considered before.

So, is it possible to have an allergy to tattoo ink? It certainly has been the case for some -few- people, who have found rashes and infections developing immediately after they had their ink done. Even worse, some people have experienced the effects of an ink allergy occur years after they have gotten their work done.

However, it is worth mentioning that this happens very rarely, so no stress.

In this post, we'll talk about tattoo ink allergy, its symptoms and what to do if your body shows signs of having an allergic reaction to ink.

Can You Be Allergic to Tattoo Ink?

Tattoo allergies tend to be rare, where the ink causes your immune system to react. However, that is not to say that there is zero chance of this either. Your skin may react in unexpected ways after getting a tattoo.

While it's normal for it to be sore and swollen, your skin can develop an infection or rash which can be extremely painful and uncomfortable, depending on the severity of your allergy.

Symptoms of Tattoo Ink Allergy

While it certainly depends, a tattoo ink allergy can manifest in a number of different symptoms that range in painfulness and discomfort.

If you have just gotten your ink done, it is completely normal for your tattoo to be slightly inflamed and swollen for at least two weeks after getting the tattoo.

Your skin will feel sensitive and sore. It will also undergo a process of scabbing and peeling as the skin renews itself from the new pigment inserted.

However, tattoo ink allergies usually form with some of the more severe symptoms that will last longer:

  • Increased redness
  • Pain around the area that is not subsiding
  • Rashes or bumps
  • Fever, chills and shivery
  • Fluid builds up
  • Pus draining from the area
  • Scaly skin around tattoo
  • Skin tags or nodules

Difference between an allergy and an infection.

The symptoms are very similar between the two but there are some discernable differences.

Allergies usually only affect the skin around your tattoo, especially if your allergy is to the ink specifically. An infection usually lasts longer and is more severe, affecting your overall condition through fever and chills.  

Read also: Tattoo Infection: What to Do

How to Treat a Tattoo Allergy?

If you find that your allergic reaction is not severe, over the counter antihistamines like diphenhydramine can help reduce the symptoms of the allergy. Applying a cold compress can help alleviate discomfort on the area. Itch-relieving creams are also a good option to help soothe the skin.

If you find that the effects of the allergic reaction are not subsiding with generic over the counter treatments, seek advice from your healthcare provider or dermatologist.

More serious reactions my require the use of antibiotics or corticosteroids to help curb the inflammation.

5 Things You Should Know About Tattoo Ink Allergy

1. No Need for Tattoo Removal

Tattoo removal after an allergy is usually not necessary once you have treated the area and its symptoms have subsided. This depends on the severity on your allergy and if it has escalated to an infection, which can affect the pigment which causes people to remove the tattoo.

Every case is different, and the best course of action is to always consult your healthcare provider.

Read also: Tattoo Removal Aftercare

2. Allergy Test to Reduce Risks

Minimize your risk of future allergies by getting an allergy test done with your healthcare provider. This way, you will be able to discern the ingredients you are sensitive to which allows your tattoo artist to avoid certain ingredients for future tattoos.

3. Prior Skin Conditions: Be Careful

Underlying skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis can make you more susceptible to allergies. Skin diseases like these can be triggered from getting a tattoo.

4. Hipersensitivity to Certain Colours

Allergies usually occur due to a certain hypersensitivity to a colour of ink. Each colour ink may contain ingredients that you are sensitive to. For example, red ink contains iodine which many people are allergic to.

5. Consider a Patch Test

Consider doing a patch test with your tattoo artist. Apply ink onto your skin and wait 24 hours to see if any swelling or redness occurs.

How Long Do Allergic Reactions to Tattoos Last?

There is no set timeframe for how long allergic reactions tend to last. With the right treatment, the reaction might full subside in a few days. However, this can differ if you have had an especially severe reaction and the reaction can last up to a few weeks.

Every individual and their skin type is different. The severity of your allergy will depend on each person and their underlying conditions. This will affect the duration of the allergic reaction you may experience.

The best thing to do is to consult with your healthcare provider to gather an accurate timeline of how long your reaction will last.

Can Your Body Reject Tattoo Ink Years Later?

An allergic reaction can occur immediately after you have gotten your tattoo or even several years later. Skin diseases like psoriasis can be triggered by your tattoo, appearing around your ink.

Allergic reactions to tattoo ink that appear years later can be triggered from new treatments like antiretroviral treatment for HIV or from joint replacement surgery. 

Long story short: yes, your body can reject tattoo ink after some years.


Tattoos are a lifelong commitment that can present issues if you are not diligent with your health.

If you are in doubt, the best course of action before getting a tattoo is to do your research on pigments and any pre-existing skin conditions you may have.

Lastly, getting an allergy test done may even help reduce the chances of you getting an allergic reaction to tattoo ink or even an infection to your tattoo altogether.