Why Do Healed Tattoos Occasionally Feel Raised?

There are three possible culprits.

At least a few times each year one or two of my tattoos become raised at the same time. For at least a decade, I never even considered investigating why healed tattoos raise. It took some careful observation and process of elimination to determine it was the same two tattoos. Punk rock's secret hand shake, my black flag tattoo, would become raised at the same time as the carefully shaded bow on my back. My first suspect was, of course, my favorite tattoo artist from New Hampshire who had done me the favor of numerous piercings and tattoos throughout my life.

Before I launched into a full investigation filled with accusations and betrayal, I had to do some digging on my own. Since my tattoos rarely become raised, it was pretty much years before I got in a routine of looking at outside factors. What was I doing when my tattoo became raised? What was the temperature during the alleged tattoo raising? What was I eating during the event? I discovered that my two tattoos became raised in the summertime, but other than that, I'm still not sure why it's happening. After ruling out an allergic reaction to the ink, the verdict is still out. If you're also feeling baffled by your tattoo's random raising, there are three main factors that could be the culprit, there could be many factors causing your precious tat to become raised at any given moment.

1. An Allergy To The Ink

While it's unlikely that you develop symptoms of an allergic reaction to a healed piece of ink, you may find yourself suffering from an itchy, inflamed tattoo shortly after because you are allergic to the ink. According to sources at Skin, allergies to the ink used for tattooing is rare, but it can happen. Red and yellow inks tend to be the most common according to many tattoo forums. Fortunately, if the random raising of your tat isn't painful and infrequent than you probably don’t need to rush to have it removed. Aloe vera, coconut oil, and even a mild topical allergy medication can bring down the bumps instead.

2. The Weird Weather

For me, the raising of my tats are almost always in the summer — or winter nights where I’ve planted myself in front of a space heater for warmth. Since humidity and dry air can cause skin irritations, many artists cite this as the most likely reason that your healed tattoo suddenly becomes raised. My advice to myself each time this happens is, “For everything that is good and pure in this world, do NOT itch your tattoo.” According to sources at Tattoo About.Com, scratching a healed tattoo won’t damage the color, but you could break the skin and damage your ‘too for good. It’s best to apply wash it and apply a nice emollient to keep your sooth and preserve your ink.

3. Or Just You

Yes, you could be the culprit behind your raised tattoo. Even if you didn’t have eczema or another skin condition that could dry out your skin before, it's always possible to develop them later in life — after you've added some ink to your skin. Even more likely, a change in your ‘tude could cause your ink to raise along with your blood pressure. According to sources at Roberts Tattoo Studio, changes in blood pressure, a surge of adrenaline, or something you ate can all attribute to mystery of why your healed tattoo is raised.

Most often than not, your tattoo will return to its normal self in no time even if you don’t apply a topical anti-itch solution. If your tat is not already healed, check with your artist and make sure you aren’t suffering from an infection or a seriously botched work of art. Otherwise, a little bit of bumpiness is no reason to fret!

Image: Kristin Collins Jackson