How to Avoid Common Problems with Tattoos

Are you worried about infection?

Bad reactions to ink?

Blotting, misspellings, and other mishaps?

Then protect yourself and your clients by avoiding common problems with tattoos.

Avoid Common Problems with Tattoos

Avoid Infection

Since it can take more than a month for a tattoo to heal completely, it requires daily vigilance to avoid infection.

Happily, using the best antibacterial soaps for tattoos lowers the risk substantially. Wash the skin twice a day and apply a thin layer of aftercare lotion. You only need a bandage for the first day as it may bleed and leak a little ink.

If you keep the tattoo clean and dry, there shouldn’t be any problem with infection.

Don’t scratch it, don’t go swimming, and don’t expose it to sunlight. Protect the area from chafing by your clothes.

If the irritation is distracting, apply a little numbing cream.

But if you see swelling and redness, contact your doctor.

Allergic Reactions and Worse to Ink

More frightening than infection is the reaction some people have to tattoo ink.

Contaminated inks can cause everything from rashes to keloid scars and worse. Inks with toxic ingredients like heavy metals may be linked to cancer and longterm health problems (1).

Some inks react to MRIs by causing a burning sensation in the skin.

If you’re a client, educate yourself about the best tattoo ink brands. When you visit the studio, ask to see what the artist uses.

It’s helpful to understand which pigments are the riskiest. For example, red inks get a bad rep because they used to depend on heavy metals to achieve their rich color.

For your first tattoo, black ink alone may be safest. Non-toxic black inks use carbon black, a safe ingredient.

If you’re an artist, don’t try to save money by using cheap ink. Understand the ingredients, buy from reputable sources, and keep an eye on expiration dates. If you mix your own, use distilled water and other safe carriers.

Inks That Don’t Stay True to Color

Another problem that can happen regardless of the brand is white ink that turns yellow (2). This happens due to sunlight exposure.

Reds may also fade when exposed to UV radiation.

But it’s easy to prevent these problems by using sunscreen for tattoos. They prevent sunburn and keep the ink vibrant.

It’s still important to use highly-pigmented ink as it reduces the chances of the tattoo changing color.


Blotting happens when the artist has a heavy hand. Too much ink goes in too deep, and the outline blurs.

New artists are prone to this mistake.

Before you ink someone, put in your practice time. Become familiar with your tattoo machines, too.

Misspelling and Miscommunication

At some point, as an artist, you’re going to screw up. Perhaps you’ll get the spelling wrong or fail to understand what the client wanted. That’s the moment where true professionals shine.

Fix your mistake graciously.

If you’re the client, and you see something wrong, speak up. It’s better to catch it in the studio before your tattoo begins to heal.

Tattoos That Cause Unwanted Attention

Unfortunately, we live in a world where tattoos aren’t always acceptable. You may find yourself needing to hide the tattoo at work or in the presence of certain judgmental people.

As a client, prepare ahead of time by keeping tattoo cover-up makeup on hand. Buy a tattoo sleeve or opaque bandages to keep the ink out of sight.

As an artist, be prepared to answer questions about how to cover up tattoos. You’ll probably also get asked about how to remove tattoos, so learn about that as well.

Addiction to Tattooing

Believe it or not, it’s possible to get addicted to being tattooed.

The process releases endorphins, the hormones that make us feel pleasure (3).

Having body art can also make a person feel more confident and attractive.

We’re not saying that this is actually a problem. We simply recommend that after you get your first tattoo, wait at least six months before you get another one. Give yourself a chance to see how you like it.


With a little patience and a little good sense, it’s not hard to avoid any pitfalls associated with tattooing. After all, anything worth doing is worth exploring.

1. by Helen Suh Macintosh, published April 24, 2007, accessed July 19, 2019

2. by Devon Preston, published October 30, 2018, accessed July 19, 2019

3. by Friderike Moon, published June 8, 2017, accessed July 19, 2019