How to Deal With a Tattoo Infection (and How to Prevent It From Happening Again)

There's a lot that people should know about tattoos before taking the plunge and actually getting them, two of them being the design and location, but another aspect that not too many people take into account beforehand is what to do in the case of a skin infection. Should you immediately see a doctor? What are the signs it's infected compared to normal steps in the healing process? And what are the odds of your tattoo getting infected anyway?

While you should expect to feel some amount of discomfort after getting a tattoo, tattoo infections aren't all that common, though that all depends on how you take care of them as soon as you leave the tattoo parlor.

"Tattoos generally get infected due to improper aftercare," LA-based tattoo artist Johnny Dagger told POPSUGAR. "The client should be very careful about how they clean and maintain the tattoo." Going to a tattoo shop without the proper licensing or sanitation measures in place also puts you at risk of your body art later getting infected, so Dagger recommends doing your research and making sure you're in contact with a trustworthy artist at a reputable tattoo parlor before booking your appointment.

In the event that your tattoo still gets infected even after doing your research, the issue likely lies somewhere in your aftercare practices. Read ahead for some tips on what you should do when your tattoo gets infected.

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What Should I Do to Make Sure My Tattoo Doesn't Get Infected?

Whether or not your tattoo ends up getting infected is all dependent on your aftercare practices, which is dependent on making sure the area stays clean. "Keeping the tattooed area clean is the most crucial part of preventing an infection," Dagger said. "Don't apply ointment on the tattoo with dirty hands, and make sure your hands are washed thoroughly before touching the tattoo."

Outside of cleaning your tattoo, you should also avoid taking baths, going to the pool, or anything else that involves submerging your body in water so it can heal properly.

What Happens If an Infected Tattoo Isn't Treated Properly?

Not that we actually needed to tell you this, but if you think your tattoo is infected, you should absolutely take steps toward treating it. "If an infection is not treated properly, your tattoo will not heal, can fall out completely, and/or leave scarring," Dagger said.

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How Can I Tell If My Tattoo Is Infected?

There are several signs to look out for if you think your tattoo is infected. According to Dagger, that includes prolonged (i.e. more than two days) swelling around the tattooed area, increased tenderness of the tattooed area, and rashes, redness, or bumps on the tattooed area. You should also keep an eye on pus coming out of the tattoo, but don't be alarmed if you see blood and plasma immediately after your appointment — that much is normal.

What Should I Do If My Tattoo Gets Infected?

The first thing you should do if your tattoo is showing the above signs is to reach out to a doctor, if possible, to assess the situation. You'll get a better idea of how serious the infection is and where you should go from there.

If you catch the infection quickly and it remains nonserious, Dagger recommends you stop using ointment and wash your tattoo with antibacterial soap three times a day. Then, he said, you should let it "dry heal" without any ointments or creams.