Tattoo Acne: How To Treat It And Avoid It

Tattoo Acne: How To Treat It And Avoid It

After enduring several uncomfortable hours, you’ve finally got it done! A beautiful piece of art to proudly show off on your skin. But while you’re doing your best to follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare instruction, a pimple begins to show up as your skin heals.

Now you’re worried! Will this affect your healing process? Mess up your tattoo’s colours? Will it leave a bump on your tattoo?

Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! In this article, we will be explaining what causes tattoo acne, the various ways you can treat acne on both fresh and old tattoos, and how to prevent tattoo acne from happening.


Tattooing & What Causes Acne On Tattooed Skin 

In order to create that beautiful piece of art, a tattoo machine rapidly injects ink below the surface of your skin and forms multiple puncture wounds. While redness, tenderness and itchy skin will fade as your skin heals, you might see pimples developing on your tattoo.

Given that fresh tattoos are practically open wounds, they’re more susceptible to breakouts and irritation. If you are acne-prone, you might even develop pimples on fully-healed older tattoos.

While pimples on your new tattoo won’t cause any damage, careful treatment is required to ensure that both your pimple is treated and your art is not ruined.


How To Treat Tattoo Acne

As with any tattoo, you should never pick or scratch at it, or pop the pimple that develops on it. If you do pick, scratch or pop your pimple, this creates an additional open wound and could lead to your tattoo getting infected.

How you treat your tattoo acne will depend on how old the tattoo is.

If you begin to develop a pimple on your new tattoo, you should avoid over-the-counter (OTC) topical treatments that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. While they do heal pimples, they could potentially damage your tattoo at the same time, leaving it with faded or spotty colours.

Continue with the aftercare as instructed by your tattoo artist, such as daily cleansing (with warm water and mild fragrance-free antibacterial soap) and moisturizing. Daily cleansing will help to remove the accumulation of oil and dirt that could clog your pores and potentially lead to pimples. Do note that daily cleansing can also strip the natural moisture of your skin, so be sure to use a fragrance-free moisturizer after cleansing. Moisturizing is important to prevent your skin from drying out and to stop it from producing more oil as compensation for the dryness. More oil production will clog your skin and make it more susceptible to breakouts. Avoid using moisturizers that contain mineral oil, paraffin, or petroleum jelly as they could be too heavy for us if your skin is acne prone.

Fully-healed tattoos are more receptive to spot treatments and OTC treatments, and are less likely to fade or discolour when treated for acne. That said, please consult your tattoo artist before using any products to treat the acne.


Here are some treatments to treat pimples on fully-healed tattoos:

  • Topical retinoid products like
  • Topical or oral antibiotics
  • Using body cleansers meant for acne prevention
  • OTC spot treatments like Differin Gel


How To Prevent Tattoo Acne 

You can avoid developing acne on your new tattoo by adhering to your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions. This could include the following:

  • Daily cleansing of your tattoo with warm water and fragrance-free antibacterial soap
  • Moisturizing your tattoo after cleansing with a fragrance-free moisturizer (it is important that you do not over apply moisturizer)
  • Keeping your tattoo dry and avoiding the sun after getting a new tattoo
  • Not picking or scratching at your tattoo

As mentioned earlier, it is important that you do not pick or pop your tattoo pimple. By popping your tattoo pimple, you run the risk of spreading the acne-causing bacteria which in turn causes more pimples to develop on your tattoo. Popping or picking your tattoo acne can also increase your chances of developing an infection.

Why Is My Tattoo Still Bumpy And Not Fading? 

It is possible that the bump on your acne is not caused by acne. Here are some causes of bumps on your tattoo:



If your skin is irritated, you might see the appearance of pimple-like bumps that are itchy.

Skin irritation can happen for a variety of reasons, from exposure to irritating chemicals, changes in the weather, or a lack of moisture in the skin. Using aloe vera gel can soothe your skin.



Newly-tattooed skin is more prone to infection as it is essentially an open wound. Bacteria and germs can get into the tattooed area and develop a boil-like lesion which looks similar to a pimple.

If you think your tattoo is infected, please see a doctor immediately.



It is possible that that large reddish bump is not acne, but instead hives. Hives often appear in clusters and are flat. Allergic reactions can also result in eczema which causes your skin to be very itchy and break out into a red rash.

If the root cause of your bumps turns out to be an allergic symptom,  you can treat it with OTC medication like Benadryl.


When To See A Doctor For Your Tattoo Acne

If your tattoo acne does not go away with time or home treatments, it is advisable that you consult a doctor. On, doctors are best equipped with the knowledge to help ascertain the root cause of your skin issues. They will be able to advise you on the best treatment suited for you, and can also prescribe you the right medication should you need it.

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