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What to Do When Your New Tattoo Bleeds?

Some bleeding is normal during and after the tattooing. However, persistent blood and lymph even days after the session is a red flag. Many factors cause this, and several things resolve it as well.

Getting a tattoo is a fun thing, but it comes with certain potential, yet rare risks. Sometimes, things happen and there might be some negative outcome or an unpredicted side-effect, so it is good to know things ahead, just in case. One of those negative outcomes could be bleeding that won’t stop.

Tattoo Bleeding During The Tattooing

If the tattoo bleeds during the tattooing, this is relatively normal for most people. The bleeding might last even after the session is over, but no more than 48 hours. If it persists longer than this, you should rinse and clean with antibacterial soap, and see a doctor as soon as possible (in case this is an infection).

What makes tattoos bleed?

The sight itself is scary enough surely, but what causes this rare issue? I say rare because these days, most, if not all tattoo artists, are excellent experts and know what they are doing.

Anyway, bleeding of a tattoo, along with spilled ink, is called a blowout. This happens when the artist presses the tattoo machine too heavy and hard on your skin. The ink goes so deep even beyond the first skin layer, and seeps into the fat tissue underneath!

Have you ever seen people with tattoos that look like “oil spill”? Blurry lines, lots of ink everywhere, shades look rough, and there is color all around the contours? This is a tattoo blowout, and there must have been blood and pain in that session!

Is bleeding during a tattoo session normal? What about after the session?

bleeding during a tattoo session

Of course, it is normal to bleed because tattooing is a process of inflicting small, tiny ‘injuries’ on the skin, to insert ink. Some people bleed more, and some less – just as some feel pain more, and some are quite tolerant.

Bleeding during the session is normal if you are making a huge tattoo, and you are on that chair for hours without a break. After a while, the skin gets ‘fed up’ from irritation and pain, and starts bleeding. Overall, there will still be lymph and even some blood after the session is done, in the first 24 hours, up to 48. After this time, the best part begins – the scab & healing!

Other factors that increase tattoo bleeding

If you are taking specific medications, be extremely careful with everything involving procedures on the body, because blood will be thinner and not coagulate (thicken) fast enough. For example, Ibuprofen, hypertension meds, or some painkillers could affect this issue.

The other factor is alcohol. Do not touch alcohol right before and also a day or two after the session. Let the tattoo reach that initial ‘dryness’ when the skin is tight, and you feel there will be a scab layer very soon. Alcohol thins the blood and will slow down the tattooing process, as well as the healing process, of course.

Also, consider the body part where you place the tattoo. If it hurts more, it might bleed more is what I say. Some body parts will hurt more, and some less. In my experience, there is the most lymph (and even some minor bleeding) on the inside of the forearm, as well as the top side of the feet (where the bones and veins are most visible, above the toes), and the ribs. There was least bleeding in areas like the stomach, shoulders, upper back, legs, and thighs, etc. Still, for some people, it is the other way around, and everybody is different.

When should you call the artist and a doctor?

As a rule, the tattoo should not be extremely bumpy or uneven – it is normal if the skin there is swollen, but too bumpy like 3D is no good. If it has bubbles, or breakouts/blisters, this is alarming. These issues might go along bleeding, so call the artist to let him know, and then call a doctor.

Another rule is that the tattoo can bleed and release lymph in the first 48 hours tops, but if it continues more than that, it is another red flag of a tattoo made improperly in some way. Of course, if you put aside the medicines and alcohol, and still can’t find a reason for it – this could be serious.

When a tattoo bleeds, oozes, and/or is bumpy and blistering as well – it could be an infection. Now you have to see a doctor as soon as possible because there is nothing the tattoo artist can do at this point.

How do resolve this?

The best you can do, until you see a doctor, is to clean the skin with antibacterial soap and lukewarm water, then gently pat with a clean towel. Do not wear tight clothing or synthetic material! The doctor will surely prescribe some soothing cream or antibiotics to lessen the swelling and deal with the blisters. But, the downside of this is that the tattoo might look faded or scared when all this passes.

In the long term, tattoos that bled for a long time and were made like a blowout are resolved in a few ways. You just have to be persistent and determined to make the best of them. First, fully healed, you can do a coverup or a correction, of course in another salon and a different artist! Since you just got this new tattoo, I’m guessing you want to keep it, only in a better, corrected version.

Some tips in the meantime:

  • Skip gym sessions or sports activities
  • Cancel cosmetic salon services (tanning, saunas, waxing over that skin area)
  • Skip swimming, pools or shared tubs, jacuzzis, etc.
  • Do not use exfoliants or scrubs.
  • If the tattoo doesn’t stop bleeding, and you have to wait a bit to see a doctor, rinse the tattoo often, and use the soap sparingly, not every time you cool off the skin with water. Pat dry with a clean towel every time.


Do not worry about light bleeding during the tattooing process, just make sure to keep the skin clean and contact a doctor right away if symptoms continue. Keep in mind that meds and alcohol play a role, but also the choice of an artist as well!