Here's What A Tattoo Allergy Looks Like

First and foremost, congrats to you if you’re joining the club of us inked folk and getting your first tattoo. While it is fun and exciting, while it's healing, you’ll want to know what a tattoo allergy looks like. It's important to get help ASAP if you start experiencing any of the following symptoms. Though rare, an allergic reaction to ink can occasionally happen and it’s not something you want to mess around with.

For the full story on what an allergic reaction to a tattoo looks like, I contacted Dr. David E. Bank, Director at The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery in New York. He tells me, “Usually people with a tattoo allergy [experience] a raised, bumpy, rash-like appearance to the skin around and on the tattooed area. Some reactions can be dry, itchy, flaky." For particularly intense allergic responses, he adds, “At times, hives are present [and] in certain cases, the area may be filled with edema.”

Though any ink color can potentially cause a reaction, those with sensitive skin might want to be extra wary of red ink. Everyday Health shared, "Red tattoo ink is the most common cause of tattoo allergic reactions, although any color can be to blame." As for why, Mike Martin, president of the Alliance of Professional Tattooists told Today, "The prevalence of a rash appearing is uncommon although not unheard of throughout the tattoo industry. Some folks' bodies do not like red pigments."

If you're experiencing any of the symptoms above, follow Dr. Bank's tips for treating an allergic reaction fast.

1. Call Your Artist

You need to contact your artist to know exactly what inks were used, as that will help clue your doctor into what's causing an allergic reaction and how to treat it.

2. Visit Your Doctor


The most important step of all, you need to get to a doctor quickly if you notice a rash developing. Allergic reactions won't clear on their own, and you'll want to get an expert's strategy on how to treat it.

3. Follow The Treatment Plan

Dr. Bank suspected you'd be given a steroid cream to treat a rash, and it's crucial not to slack off and skip an application for it to fully heal.

4. Keep The Rash Clean

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Once the initial allergic reaction is quelled, Dr. Bank suggests keeping it clean and promoting further healing with bacitracin or hydrocortisone cream. Of course, consult with your doctor for specifics.

5. Avoid The Sun

Certain tattoo inks can trigger an allergic reaction after exposure to the sun and, if that's what you experienced, you'll need to keep your tattoo under wraps until the rash heals.

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