e13cb10720f31c3e81584d04ee44408be273ead219b2184995f0_640_tattooTattoos are beautiful and everyone should have a beautiful tattoo accompanied with an enjoyable experience. More people are embracing body art. And, unfortunately, some are not receiving an enjoyable experience to go with their fresh body art. This makes up majority of the tattoo business. Cover-ups keep artists busy. There are numerous reasons why people are seeking artists to cover up their tattoos. Everything from matured taste or change in heart to bad art, an inexperienced artist, to a poor heal will result in a cover-up or tattoo removal. While there are many great personable artists others have poor attitudes and this hinders the overall experience. Clients end up with something they didn’t want because they were pressured into accepting a design to being bullied into it. In the end, what triggers the cover-up or removal is obvious, it’s because tattoos are more than just body art. Each one can symbolize many things. And every time a client looks at their body art they reflect on the experience and the artist that did the work. That’s what makes up the emotional and spiritual component to the tattoo process. They either love it or hate it. And a bad tattoo will affect people substantially. I’ve seen it.

This is why Idea to Ink came to life. From Idea to Ink these books will assist readers in attaining beautiful body art by enriching the whole experience with knowledge and inspiration. By empowering people with information, poor body art can be a thing of the past. Awesome body art starts with the client and the more the client knows the better it is for the artist. There is more to the technical process than what meets the eye. And I know clients are craving this information. I’m asked all the time! Thank you for inspiring the Idea to Ink.

 Why You Should Read This Blog

 This blog was written for those that love body art and want to ensure that their body art heals beautifully. If you are seeking additional information about tattoo aftercare and how to help your body heal your tattoo this blog is for you. It will equip you with all kinds of tips and tricks. If you are new to tattoos and aftercare this book was designed with you in mind. Each post represents a subject about tattoo aftercare along with the common FAQ’s which are answered revealing the Do’s and the Taboos! This blog added a chapter strictly dedicated to healing complications, how it may have occurred and how to resolve it or take action to resolve it. This blog will help you.

What To Do When Meeting With Your Doctor

e83cb40829f7083ecd0b470de7444e90fe76e6dd1eb112489df0c1_640_tattooWhen or if things go wrong and you need to see your doctor it is wise to know your facts and be as informative as possible. Your family doctor knows your medical history. Be open, honest and give facts that will help your doctor in determining how to help or treat your healing tattoo.


Bring your aftercare sheets with you. Let your family doctor know what products were used to care for your tattoo. Bring the products with you so you can review the ingredients together.


Be open and honest. If you may have done something differently than outlined in your aftercare let your doctor know!


Bring your calendar with you (hopefully you took  the time to make a healing journal!).  this will let your doctor know when you were tattooed, what actions you took in what time frame and how the tattoo seemed to heal or when it showed signs of trouble.


Ask your doctor to take a culture sample of your tattoo. This way you know exactly what it is. In some cases MRSA is the culprit causing problems. Without the proper diagnosis (culture sample) it can get missed and cause a great deal of grief later!

Other Things That Can Cause Poor Healing

e835b20e29f7003ecd0b470de7444e90fe76e6dd1eb112489df0c1_640_tattooSun burns will create healing problems too! If a healing tattoo gets sun burned it will dramatically fade the tattoo. The contrast will be nearly lost. It also appear blotchy after it heals. A rework will be required to correct this.

Medical or skin conditions will influence how well the tattoo will heal. Do not tattoo an area that appears to have blemishes or boils. If one of these get punctured during the tattoo process it will get into the rest of the tattoo (turning the tattoo into a giant pimple!). If you have psoriasis avoid tattooing the skin that if affected. In the event that it does get tattooed the tattoo will have psoriasis.

Infections and allergic reactions will also result in poor healing that will have a permanent effect on the tattoo. To help avoid this follow proper aftercare protocol, test pigments out on your skin prior to being tattooed, test products too before applying it to the whole tattoo. Be aware of any allergies and inform your artist of them.

What To Do If Problems Happen

Poor healing can result in a poor looking tattoo. What causes the poor healing can be numerous. The reason why it happened could be because of the artist or it could be the client at fault. A number of things could have contributed to a healing issue. In order to fix the problem and or prevent it from happening again, both artist and client need to work together. Ideally the client and the artist will work together without a finger pointing blame game. When this is achieved a means to make things right arises.

Ideally the client and the artist will work together without a finger pointing blame game. When this is achieved a means to make things right arises.

A professional Tattoo Artist will consider how they may have come at fault and study the area in the tattoo to see if a single area is localized to indicate any issues with pigment. If it’s localized it may be indicating that there is an allergic reaction. Or there could be an issue with just that color or bottle of ink. Perhaps many other clients came in showing issues with the same color. In this way the artist is able to judge to see if they’re supplies or materials are causing a problem and can eliminate it. Perhaps the wrong aftercare was suggested! Work with the artist and find a solution.

In the event that the tattoo healed with a scar it is best to wait up six months to a year before reworking the area. This will give the skin enough time to fully heal before reworking

Other Reasons Why Tattoos Scar

ed32b70f21f21c3e81584d04ee44408be273ead219b2184995f0_640_tattooSome people are prone to keloid scars. Those that are prone to developing keloid scars have a higher chance of ending up with a tattoo that scars. People who are more likely to develop a keloid scar tend to have darker skin pigment. When a keloid scarred tattoo heals it will appear raised and it may feel ‘rubbery’. If you intend on tattooing this area again, wait six to twelve months before having touch-ups or adding to the design.

Usually when a tattoo heals and it results in a scar it is due to excessive scabbing (depending on area, how the tattoo was completed or from the result of aftercare). When scabs are removed prematurely (from picking or getting hit or pulled off accidently) this will scar the tattoo, pull pigment out and or leave blank spots and appear blotchy. If the tattoo is not moisturized enough and gets heavily scabbed this too can cause a scar if it ‘cracks’.

Inexperienced Artists

Photo by Tobyotter
Photo by Tobyotter

Healing problems can arise when an inexperienced tattooist completes the tattoo. This is especially the case when the artist has not had a proper apprenticeship or is ‘self-taught’. Self-taught artists are labelled ‘Scratchers’. Scratchers tend to work out of their home and did not complete a proper apprenticeship in a reputable shop. Scratchers can be very dangerous due to lack of knowledge.

The biggest concern about scratchers is the lack of knowledge about proper sanitization and sterilization and the proper protocol when dealing with biohazards and biohazardous material. Cross contamination is a major concern and issue. There are more scratchers or kitchen artists or backyard ‘tattooists’ than there are professional tattoo artists. With this arises the growing concern for health care. Unfortunately many people, especially young people, are getting tattoos from scratchers because the price is significantly lower.

There is a chance you may have read about an artist being investigated whom worked from home. Most of these publications inform the public that health officials investigated an ‘at home tattooist’ after receiving multiple reports of tattoo infections. After investigating the work atmosphere a public notice is advised for anyone who received a tattoo from this ‘tattooist’ to get tested for all kinds of infections and disease. There are many ways to cross contaminate while tattooing and an uninformed and uneducated person will discover most (if not all) the ways to do it.

If the tattoo has outline work that appears to be ‘carved’ indicates that the tattoo needle had a barb or hook. Needles get barbed or hooked from being mishandled such as being dropped. A hooked or barbed needle causes scarring. An inexperienced artist may not have checked the needles before tattooing. By using an eye loupe or magnifying glass the needles can be checked for burs, barbs or hooks. While tattooing the needle can become damaged. This happens accidently by knocking the tip off of a hard object on the work station or by refilling the tube with ink and accidently hitting it against the bottom of the ink cap. This type of damage will cause scarring and it will show in the tattoo’s line work. All of the line work that was completed with a damaged burred needle will be raised. A raised line is not smooth or flush with the skin. It will protrude above the rest of the skin.

If a problem arises from seeing a ‘kitchen artist’ the best case scenario is poor healing from a lack of experience in tattooing rather than a cross contamination.

One other thing that can cause scarring is from having a dull needle. Tattoo artists will change out needles often, especially if the tattoo is larger or placed in an area where the skin is tougher, such as the chest. An inexperienced artist may not do this.

An inexperienced artist will cause problems by tattooing incorrectly. This happens when the angle of the tattoo machine is held at a degree that is not between 90 or 45 degrees. When handled outside of these angles the tattoo machine is more likely to cut or slice the skin.

Worst case scenario, an inexperienced artist will be reusing needles which is horrible! Needles need to be discarded and are intended for single use. Reusing needles not only dulls them but reused needles will spread blood disease and is a major no-no that is not practiced in any legitimate tattoo shop.

Allergic to Tattoo Ink

Although it is uncommon to have an allergic reaction to tattoo inks or pigment it does happen. This is especialy the case if you have sensitive skin.

Signs that indicate a reaction to pigment:

  • Specific areas of the tattoo that contain that same color will take longer to heal
  • In some cases it may not heal
  • These areas will appear as a rash or raised area
  • May appear milky looking and thick
Photo by gojeffrey
Photo by gojeffrey

Hydrocortisone ointment will help overcome the skins irritation and allow it to heal. However, months could pass without the skin settling down. When this happens it will cause itching, and irritation.

What does a pigment reaction mean?

It means that your skin is trying to reject that particular substance that was in the pigment.

How do you deal with a pigment reaction?

You can see a doctor, a dermatologist, or both, but if only antibiotics are prescribed (and there is no infection) there is something a tattoo artist can do for you to help you and it delivers effective results.

The artist will have to tattoo that area. The artist however will not be injecting pigment into your skin. Instead they will be running a magnum (shading needle grouping), with low power, using distilled water or witch hazel instead of ink.

 How does tattooing my tattoo with witch hazel help?

Simply put, this will open up the skin and give it a way to reject the unwanted ink. Usually this only needs to be done once. It is very effective. Usually the inflammation will go away after the procedure along with most of the unwanted ink. After the skin has healed, the artist will be able to judge if it needs to be done again.

Between six and twelve months this area can be tattooed again. This time a different color needs to be selected. If you have particularly sensitive skin you are more likely to be prone to allergic reaction to tattoo pigments. To help avoid this it will be beneficial to you and your tattoo artist to do tests so that a tattoo can be completed in confidence. There are many different brands of tattoo inks out there and what your artist uses may or may not be problematic with your skin.

To test to see if you react to the pigment your artist can do one or both testing methods. One testing method is to break your skin by scratching it with a tip of tattoo needle then quickly covering the area with a smear of pigment. This needs to be done with each color that will be used (this includes the black and white pigment). After about a minute you can wash the pigment off. After 24 hours you may notice if you had a reaction to the ink or not. The other method is to tattoo the skin with a small dot in each color then you can wait a year and see if you reacted to these colors over the time frame. If not you can be tattooed in confidence and those little dots can easily be covered by the tattoo.

Red Sharpie Markers

The red dyes in red sharper markers or in other non-toxic markers can cause issues with healed tattoos and sometimes issues will not arise for quite some time, even years. To avoid having any issues make sure your artist does not use red markers on you.

How do I know I am having an allergic reaction to Tattoo Ink

Photo by mytat_2s
Photo by mytat_2s

Reactions to pigment is an unpleasant experience for both the artist and the client. Pigment reactions are not very common. Before this can be identified as a pigment reaction other reactions need to be ruled out. For example, you could be allergic to the aftercare product that you are using. Consider what soaps or moisturizers you are using that could be causing a problem. Discontinue using that aftercare product and see if it makes a difference.

Infections are sometimes mistaken for a pigment reaction. Infections are more common than pigment reactions.  Infections are the most common and are crowned for being the number one mischief maker.

An infection has the following signs:

  • Swollen, and irritated in areas within the tattoo
  • A red zone is growing in on or around the tattoo
  • Sometimes there is a possibility of vein-like lines cascading away from the tattoo
  • The tattoo area is giving off heat, it’s warm or its hot
  • Particularly thick scabs or persistent and painful scabbing
  • Blisters and or sores indicate an advanced infection

What to do if these signs are present:

  1. Clean the tattoo and surrounding area thoroughly and regularity with antibacterial soap and water.
  2. Use triple antibiotic ointment (DON’T if you’re allergic to penicillin or Sulpha Drugs! See a doctor ASAP)
  3. Keep dirty hands, pets, debris and anything else that may have bacteria on it away from the tattoo
  4. See your doctor, you may get prescribed antibiotics.

Inform your artist.


e834b50a21f3073ecd0b470de7444e90fe76e6dd1eb112489df0c1_640_tattooHealing complications happen. Something will induce a healing problem. These reasons vary. Sometimes it is a result of improper aftercare. Other times it is because of something that happened during the tattoo process. Identifying what caused it or how is the goal so that things can be corrected and allow the tattoo to heal. Then, after healed, the tattoo can be corrected, if need be. Both client and artist must reframe from pointing fingers and blaming one or the other. A number of things could have contributed to it and neither one is happy about it. It sucks for both parties involved!

Ideally nothing will go wrong while your tattoo heals. The best way to ensure that it does heal well, is to follow your artist’s aftercare instructions. This is especially so if you have any allergies or medial conditions (be sure you informed your artist of them!). Based on your allergies or medical conditions an artist will give you proper aftercare to accommodate your needs. Be sure to follow his or her instructions. Problems happen when a client deviates from following the aftercare or purchasing new products for cleaning and caring for their new tattoo. Remember, there is no ‘one right way’ to heal a tattoo. Most artists will inform their client to either use H2Ocean aftercare products or to follow one of the two ‘Universal’ Aftercare Methods. Your artist knows how their work heals best. Follow his or her preference! When in doubt call and ask your artist. He or she can give you the best directive. No matter how logical or right your friend sounds because his or her artist says ‘this is the way to do it’, don’t, their artist isn’t your artist.

In the event of a healing issue, it is recommended that you keep a journal or mark down on a calendar everything that happens while your tattoo is healing. This starts with the second you leave the tattoo shop. Take note of what you did that day. Did your bandage get loose or fall off while you were on your way home? Did you go home right away or did you go shopping or to work? When did you remove the bandage? How did you clean it? What products did you use? How did your tattoo look? Did you take a photo? Keep track of these little details. If you need the info later you’ll be glad you did.