Tattoo Swelling – How To Reduce & Ensure Proper Healing

Tattoo swelling is pretty normal but you might still want to know how to reduce tattoo swelling for your own comfort and peace of mind.

The very definition of swelling is an ‘abnormal enlargement of a part of the body’ so from this alone, it’s pretty easy to understand why tattoo swelling can be alarming for many. It’s a sign of inflammation and health concern, so addressing this common occurrence in new tattoos is a must.

Experiencing swelling can be alarming so it’s important that you know why this is happening to you and what you can do about it. To help you understand such situations better, read on.


What is Tattoo Swelling

Swelling is a natural response of the body to various things. Usually, it’s a result of an inflammation or fluid buildup. They can be caused by a wide range of things including injury, disease, hormonal changes, sting, infection, pregnancy, medication, and diseases. They can be internal or external.

Tattoo swelling falls under the external category that is caused by an injury. Since the process of tattooing involves punching a needle through the skin to deposit ink in the dermis, it can definitely damage and injure the skin. Not to mention that the tattoo machine as well can repeatedly bump on the topmost layer of the skin, so the tattooed area can really get beaten up.

As a result, the body reacts accordingly to heal the area. To help heal the injury, the body diverts white blood cells in the area which can result in localized fluid retention. By putting more fluid in the affected locale, you also get to move the body part with less ease, preventing the injury from worsening. So, all in all, it’s one of the body’s ways to help heal you.

What can Cause Tattoo Swelling?

While it’s normal for a newly tattooed area to swell and bruise, it doesn’t always occur. There are certain factors for tattoo swelling and here are the most common ones:

The tattoo location

Generally speaking, certain body parts are more likely to swell for various reasons and if you chose them for your new tat, swelling should be expected. The entirety of your legs, for one, is prone to swelling. Areas where blood flow is high and are fleshier also tend to swell easily.

The tattoo process

As mentioned above, a tattoo is an injury on the skin. The process in itself will damage the skin which will then require healing. In addition to this, the length of the session, equipment, and skill level can also be the very reasons for a tattoo to swell.

If the tattooist is slow, heavy-handed, and inefficient in finishing a piece, your skin can get more beating. A low-quality tattoo machine that’s too powerful and poorly handled can also needlessly injure your skin. These will all result in some serious swelling.

Consumption of blood thinners

If you consume any blood thinner before your tattoo session, may it be a medication or caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, you’ll experience more blood loss. This will then result in swelling as the tattoo heals and some panic since tattooing doesn’t have to be overly bloody.

Skin numbing products

The use of skin numbing products also causes swelling to get their job done. So if you opted for its use, expect the tattooed area to be somewhat enlarged.

Sensitive skin

Some people just really tend to have skin that easily bruises and swells, so they can also expect their tattoo to swell when new.


Swelling can also be a sign of infection. If the tattoo parlor you went to have questionable hygiene maintenance procedures or if you didn’t really take good care of your new ink, your tat can be swelling because it’s infected.

How to Reduce Tattoo Swelling: 4 Effective Tips

So how do you deal with tattoo swelling? Here are our tips:

Ensure proper tattoo aftercare.

One of the most effective ways to avoid your tattoo from getting infections is by ensuring proper tattoo aftercare measures. Follow what your tattoo artist advised you to do and do your own research. Keep your tattoo clean and dry at all times and do not pick at the flakes.

Don’t put too much pressure on the tattooed area.

Putting a lot of weight on an injured area can worsen the injury, so don’t put your weight on it or use it the muscles in the region to lift heavy weights.

Rest, Ice, and Elevate

Most swelling is dealt with the RICE method but in the case of tattoos, you really can’t compress the area to prevent swelling, as mentioned above. However, you can still follow the other three steps: rest, ice, and elevate. These will help immensely in reducing the swelling of the area.

However, when icing a fresh tattoo, try to not soak it in moisture. Keeping a fresh wound wet is not ideal.

Keep away from heat

Heat will induce blood flow to the area which can make matters worse for a swollen tattoo. Do not wash the fresh tattoo with warm water for at least the first 48 hours and do not apply hot compress on it.

FAQs on Tattoo Swelling

Want to know more about tattoo swelling? The answers to these questions might be able to help you out.

How long will my tattoo be swollen?

It depends on where the tattoo is located. For most areas, it should only last for 24-48 hours after the session. If the tattoo is placed near a joint or a movable area, you can expect swelling for up to 7 days.

Can you put ice on a swollen tattoo?

You can ice a swollen tattoo through an ice pack or a cold compress. Putting ice directly on the tattoo may not be ideal, however, because it can keep a fresh wound wet for long periods.

Is it normal for a tattoo to be red and swollen the next day?

Yes, this is usually a normal thing to experience.

How much swelling is normal for a new tattoo?

It depends again on the area where the tattoo is located. In large flat areas where the skin doesn’t get stretched all the time, it should be a bit raised to moderately enlarged but not bulging. In areas near joints and movable body parts, some bulging can be expected, especially if you move the nearby joint all the time.


All in all, some swelling can be a normal thing to experience when you get inked. While it’s still best to remain vigilant on what it looks like and how it subsides, most cases shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. Follow our tips above in how to reduce it and you’ll surely get rid of the issue in no time.

Recomended Resources:

1. Tattoo Itching: Top Things to Stop and Cure

About the author

I’m S.R Bhuiyan, a proud Tattoo artist. I will share the body art journey with you here in PrettyJust. I have 10+ years of experience in the field of tattoo, piercing, nail art, and skincare. Check out my bio which has my tattoo studio/cat/travel pics!

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