The skin around your tattoo is hot, red, and swollen. It hurts to touch. Maybe it’s leaking pus.
It’s clear that you have an infection.
Let’s get right down to business. Here’s how to clean an infected tattoo in three steps.
- How to treat infected tattoo at home
- Four reasons why a doctor needs to see the infected tattoo
- How to prevent tattoo infection
How to treat infected tattoo at home
The first thing to do is to wash your hands before you touch the tattoo. Pretend you’re a doctor washing up for surgery and do a good job.
Next, wash the infected skin with soap and lukewarm water. Please don’t hold the tattoo under running water or submerge it.
Even if it’s painful to touch, be gentle and give it your best effort to clean it and rinse it. (Don’t put alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on the tattoo as it will slow down the healing process).
Then, use a clean paper towel to blot it dry.
Let it air out for a few minutes.
After that, use clean hands to apply a thin layer of tattoo ointment. It’s not necessary to use antibiotic cream unless the doctor recommends it (1).
Repeat the cleansing and moisturizing twice a day, morning and night.
You should see an improvement within a day or two, depending on how nasty the infection is. Taking an anti-inflammatory may help with the pain.
But there’s a catch. We recommend getting medical advice if you think your tattoo is infected. Here’s why.
Four reasons why a doctor needs to see the infected tattoo
There are different kinds of infections. Some will go away with home treatment.
But others may lead to surgical removal of skin, amputation, heart infections, organ failure, or death.
You can’t tell by looking at it how bad it’s going to get – a doctor may have to take a small sample of skin for analysis. Then they can provide the proper treatment to clear up the problem ASAP.
For example, a staph infection requires antibiotics. You may have to use an antibiotic cream and take pills to recover.
But MRSA is a type of staph infection that’s resistant to antibiotics and won’t go away quickly. It requires alternative management.
There’s also a type of fungal infection that causes patches or bumps and intense itching. But it can spread.
Conversely, you could be having an allergic reaction to the ink.
If any of these conditions worsen, you’re likely to end up with symptoms like oozing pus, a crusty rash, a high fever, body aches, or diarrhea. If you have any of those symptoms, get medical help right away.
Getting a professional diagnosis and the correct treatment ensures your good health and keeps the tattoo from being ruined.
How to prevent tattoo infection
If you’d like to avoid dealing with an infected tattoo, it’s easy. Help the tattoo healing process along by keeping the skin clean and moisturized.
Most important: always wash your hands before touching the tattoo.
On the first day, remove the bandage according to the instructions you received. The tattoo will be sore and red, but that’s normal in the beginning. It may have leaked ink, blood, and plasma into the bandage, and that’s okay.
Wash your hands, then wash the tattoo. Dry it carefully with a clean paper towel.
Now it’s time to either apply moisturizer or a bandage like Second Skin. If you choose the latter, it will protect the tattoo while you sleep.
On the second day, rewash it in the morning and at night. Put on moisturizer. Otherwise, check the bandage to see if it needs to be changed.
Over the next few days, the tattoo may begin to scab. The redness and sensitivity should fade.
By the end of the week, the scabs will begin to flake off. Let it happen naturally.
On the other hand, if you’re using a bandage, it’s time to take it off.
By this point, the skin should be itchy but not swollen or red.
Be patient for another week or two before you go swimming, take a bath, or spend time in the sun without protecting the tattoo.
The outside of the skin should look healed by the end of the second or third week. The inside will still be finishing repairs. Keep moisturizing, and the ink will stay vivid.
Now, here are tattoo aftercare products that we recommend for treating an infected tattoo.
Provon Antimicrobial Lotion Soap
This medical-grade soap is perfect for cleansing new tattoos. It prevents infection and helps clear up problems, too.
Thankfully, it doesn’t sting or dehydrate the skin. For that matter, it doesn’t even smell medicinal.
The active ingredient is 0.3% PCMX, also known as chloroxylenol. It’s effective against all sorts of germs that cause disease.
Many reviewers are thrilled at how well it takes care of their tattoos. They’ve also used it for treating scrapes, bug bites, surgical incisions, and diaper rash.
Careboree 100% Cotton Lint-Free Tissues for Sensitive Skin
Do you know why we recommend paper towels instead of cloth towels for drying a new tattoo? It’s because of lint and bacteria. Please don’t contaminate your tattoo with fuzzies or somebody else’s germs.
Try these generously-sized wipes instead. They are thin, soft, and super absorbent.
Plus, they are designed for sensitive skin as they are made from pure cotton with no added fragrance or chemicals.
Sanibalm PLUS Tattoo Aftercare Non-Petroleum Roll-On Balm By Saniderm
This is a tattoo aftercare moisturizer that artists use and recommend. It’s a companion product to the waterproof Saniderm dressing that can speed up healing.
It’s a soothing balm in a stick applicator for less mess. Hold it for a moment against the skin, and it will melt right in.
It’s infused with tattoo healing ingredients like sea buckthorn seed oil, proven to accelerate regeneration. But feel free to use it to brighten up healed tattoos, too.
Aquaphor Healing Ointment
Is Aquaphor good for infected tattoos? Not everyone’s a fan of this petroleum-based ointment as too thick a layer will keep the skin from breathing. If you choose to try it, only apply a small amount.
On the other hand, it does help seal out microbes and lock in moisture. It’s fragrance-free and has no harsh preservatives.
People also use it for chapped hands, diaper rash, and cracked heels.
In conclusion, we hope you have a positive experience with your new tattoo. Keep it clean and hydrated, and you’re on your way to enjoying a lifelong work of art.
1. https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/aftercareinformation/pages/conditions.aspx accessed March 10, 2021