Messed Up Tattoos | What Should You Do If Your Tattoo Is Messed Up

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When you get a tattoo for the first time, or a brand new one, you naturally get that excited feeling and want to show it off to your friends and family. That’s all part of the fun of getting a tattoo. And you do it for yourself too, for that feeling of satisfaction and pride, and maybe it even means something special to you that no one else knows about. These are all great reasons for getting a tattoo, and they are usually successful and the person who got one is pleased with the outcome. But even in the best-case scenario, sometimes things go wrong. You can get an infection, the tattoo artist can make a mistake, the tattooed area can become deformed, there are lots of things that can cause a tattoo to go bad. So what can be done about messed up tattoos? And why does this happen?

Why do these messed up tattoos happen?

Allergic Reactions

Although unexpected, for many people, certain tattoo dyes, particularly yellow and red, can lead to an allergic reaction, chiefly when touched by sunlight. Your first signs that there is a problem would be that you may notice your tattoo might start to itch or swell, and you might get a rash. This can occur right after receiving the tattoo, but if it doesn’t don’t think that that means you’re safe. It could also happen years later. If your skin only becomes slightly itchy and there are just several bumps, you should apply steroid cream. If your reaction gets worse, becomes painful or doesn’t go away in about 2 weeks, then you should call your doctor. There is no way of telling beforehand whether or not you are allergic to tattoo ink, so, unfortunately, you have to find out the hard way.

Allergic Reactions
Allergic Reactions

Light Reactions

Certain types of ink have a reaction to light, in particularly sunlight. So if you don’t keep a fresh tattoo covered for about 2 weeks to protect it, your skin can swell or redden. This most commonly happens with yellow inks, but it can also happen with red. A mild case will heal with the use of anti-histamines or steroid cream, but if it doesn’t improve, visit the doctor.

Skin Infections

One of the biggest risks when getting a tattoo is if your tattoo artist doesn’t take the time to clean their equipment properly or uses it on multiple people. If this is the case, you could get an infection. If your skin swells, turns red, feels sore, or you notice pus coming from the tattoo, be sure and see the doctor. You must have antibiotics to clear it up. If this goes neglected, it cold permanently deform your tattoo, leaving you with a messed up tattoo, and become a danger to your health as well.


While you might think that tattoo ink is harmless, on occasion, the immune system attacks the pigment in the ink as if it were a threat, and responds by sending cells to the area to fight it. These cells gather around the tattoo and nodes develop which are called granulomas. If you see this problem developing, visit the doctor. They might require tests to be sure there are no other causes for this situation. Your doctor will treat granulomas with steroids, either taken orally or given as a shot.


Tattoo Keloid
Tattoo Keloid

Keloids are basically sections of scar tissue that become raised above the skin. They form under the tattoo and branch out from there. Keloids are hereditary and are more apt to afflict people with dark skin. Treatment starts with silica products and steroid shots or prescription creams. If it’s removed using surgery, the keloid can grow back even bigger without closely managed aftercare from your doctor. If you have experienced keloids before, or someone in your family has, you would be smart to forego getting a tattoo.

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Blood Diseases

Logically, we all know that tattoo needles come in contact with blood. If yours wasn’t cleaned properly, you could be exposed to all sorts of diseases spread by the blood, like tetanus, hepatitis B or C, or HIV. Bacterial diseases are common as well. Select your tattoo artist carefully. Ensure needles and other instruments are properly sterilized and that the artist wears gloves.

MRI Complications

It’s not uncommon for a tattooed area to swell or burn during an MRI. But this is just a temporary messed up tattoo. This is rare and usually simply goes away without being of particular concern. Inform your radiologist about your tattoos so that they can take the proper measures. Your skin might not react, but tattoos can alter the quality of the MRI image.

Problems With Removal

In a case where an allergic reaction or infection won’t go away – or if you decide that you really hate the tattoo – you aren’t necessarily stuck with it. You can have it removed. Laser removal has advanced quite a lot, but isn’t perfect. It seldom scars, but it can change the texture or color of your skin, particularly if you have a darker toned skin type.

What Should You Do If Your Tattoo Is Messed Up

Using an experienced tattoo artist with a solid reputation and a clean studio, who comes highly recommended by people you know you can trust, should put you at ease when you go to get your tattoo done. All you really have to worry about is whether or not the tattoo you specified will meet your expectations. Unfortunately, it can happen that your tattoo artist errors, and instead of the exciting new tattoo you wanted, you end up with a messed up tattoo that not only disappoints you, but maybe embarrasses you as well. Now what?

Well, as the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So hopefully, you’ve spoken to your tattoo artist and given them clear instructions about the type of design you wanted in order to avoid any possible misunderstandings. This way, at least you won’t have to blame yourself.

So what’s the next step? Notify your tattoo artist as soon as possible. Normally, a tattoo artist will offer to fix or cover-up the messed up tattoo in some way, or offer some type of compensation. If the worst happens they should offer to provide removal.

Yet not every tattoo gone wrong is the fault of the tattoo artist. Sometimes errors happen because of the client.

For instance, many of the clients who are displeased with their tattoos have chosen a name or quote and misspelled it themselves, or they got the meaning of a certain word or symbol wrong.

Early Mistakes During the Tattoo Session

For all of your excited anticipation of your tattoo’s completion, it’s important that you remain patient while your tattooist is creating it. The tattooing process isn’t a simple one. It involves brushing, inking, shading, and a whole lot more, so don’t panic if your tattoo doesn’t look the way it’s supposed to while the tattoo artist is still working on it.

But if you do see something that seems to be wrong, like a certain color, pigment, or an outline, you should tell your tattoo artist right away.

If a mistake is spotted early on, then it will be easier to fix, and it won’t be as painful as if it has to be done later on.

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Mistakes Spotted While Healing

When the tattoo is going through the healing process is when most mistakes are noted. The reason for this is because at this time the color starts wearing off, and when the damaged skin begins to heal by drying and scabbing, it won’t look. Like the tattoo you envisioned, particularly if the tattoo begins to losing the shading as well as the color.

Stay calm and wait until the healing process is finished. Once the tattoo heals up, go back to your tattoo artist and ask for a little reworking of the ink that has peeled or faded off.

Noticing Mistakes After Healing

This is kind of a bad time to notice that you have a messed up tattoo. Frequently, tattoo studios won’t offer a warranty to cover the time after the tattoo has healed. However, if we are only talking about some small mistakes, then the tattoo artist will rework and touch up the tattoo so that it looks the way it should and you are pleased with it.

Tattoo Safety – Selecting a Studio

A permanent tattoo necessitates opening the skin and having contact with body fluids and blood, so you really can’t afford to take any chances. Your number one priority is to make certain that the studio is clean. You should also make sure the artist has a current business license. The process should be performed in a separate area, with a clean, hard surface and nothing present that can contaminate the work area. It should also be done by someone who knows what they are doing, otherwise you can end up with a badly messed up tattoo.

Tips for Safe Tattooing

Tips for Safe Tattooing
Tips for Safe Tattooing
  • Don’t use alcohol or drugs right before getting a tattoo. It’s recommended that you don’t even take aspirin, as these things can cause your blood to become thin and this will cause greater bleeding.
  • Don’t get a tattoo if you are sick or feel unwell.
  • Be certain all needles are in sterile packaging.
  • See that the studio has machines that can eliminate germs left behind on the instruments after each use.
  • Be certain that the artist washes their hands thoroughly and wears gloves. In the United States, tattoo parlor artists are specially trained in preventing illnesses and diseases from spreading through the blood.
  • Make sure that the work area is very clean. This means spotless. Don’t take anything for granted.
  • Know every ingredient used in your tattoo, including color (pigment), the maker’s name, and the lot number. This might sound extreme, but it could wind up being very beneficial to you.
  • Closely follow all advice concerning healing. If you don’t, you could end up with a severe skin condition or illness, and a messed up tattoo to boot.
  • Do not let the tattoo artist get away without explaining aftercare to you. Don’t let them brush you off by saying that it’s not important and not to worry about it. Your tattoo could just heal on its own, because the body is amazing in its ability to repair itself, but why take the chance? You need to know what to do to help ensure that everything will be ok, so don’t be afraid to ask.
  • Furthermore, don’t follow such incorrect and old-fashioned advice as your skin needs to breathe. Then go home and take your bandage off because you were told that the tattoo needs to be exposed to the air. Keep a tattoo bandaged for several days after receiving it. That is the correct thing to do in order to avoid infection.
  • Remember that in many instances your tattoo artist is not a medical professional. You can’t count on them to always provide you with the correct advice on aftercare. Use your own knowledge as well.
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Risks of Tattoos: Infection

Any tattoo involves a chance of health problems. The worst case scenario is getting a serious infection, such as HIV or hepatitis C from unclean needles. You could also develop MERSA, which is a type of staph infection, or cellulitis which is an infection beneath the skin. Yet another hazard comes from ink that contains any mold or bacteria in it. This can cause problems with your eyes, lungs, and other organs in the body.

Temporary Tattoos

A good way to avoid permanent tattoos is to use henna-based ink which is just painted on. Be aware though, that even these tattoos can cause allergic reactions. However, this works great if you aren’t sure if you really like a tattoo or not, and along the way you may even change your mind about wanting a tattoo at all.

Amateur Tattoos

Literally anybody can poke ink, ashes, or charcoal beneath the skin with a pin. This isn’t really a good idea though, because these type of tattoos are often performed under unsanitary conditions, and there’s a much greater risk of infection. Remember that bacteria is everywhere, and it is just lying in wait for an opportunity to enter any open area of your skin, through unsanitary tools, unsanitary hands, even unsanitary bandages or contaminated water.


If something about the tattooed area or the tattoo itself seems peculiar to you, such as perhaps being especially painful, or swelling and losing its desired appearance, visit your doctor at once. You must act as soon as you suspect something is seriously amiss. If you don’t receive professional medical attention for a messed up tattoo, you run the risk of being stuck with a tattoo that looks quite different from what you had in mind, or you can even get a soft tissue infection. While tattoos are done by professionals, they are still injuries to the skin, your body doesn’t know the different, so they must be treated like an open wound.

Of course, most people get tattoos and no problems develop, and admittedly life-threatening conditions are rare, but things can really get nasty if you fail to get treatment for an infected tattoo. Sure, it could heal on its own, or you can find yourself sick with fever and chills, and you can even become critically ill. It’s not alarmist to warn you that you could wind up with sepsis that could even cause death.

Now nobody’s trying to scare you away from getting a tattoo. Thousands of people do and they remain in perfect health without experiencing anything more than mild discomfort in the tattooed area. Itchiness, scabbing, minor swelling, this is all normal after you have gotten a tattoo. Just use your common sense both before and after receiving a tattoo. Take the necessary measures to protect yourself. If you fail to do so, the consequences could be a lot worse than just a messed up tattoo.

If you have prolonged or severe swelling, or any other of the above mentioned symptoms, especially if they lead to a messed up tattoo, which is a serious indication of trouble, don’t just brush it off. Visit your doctor ASAP and don’t worry about feeling silly. When it comes to your health, you are in charge, and it’s always better to play it safe and have no regrets.