Why Do Color Tattoos Itch More?

Getting a tattoo is always a painful process, and to some, it could be more painful than others. Bad reactions to tattoos can happen right after getting a tattoo, or it can happen years later. But how do you know whether the pain and itchiness you’re feeling after getting ink are normal or not? Have you gotten a color tattoo, and it’s driving you crazy? Why do color tattoos itch more?

Itching is a natural part of your tattoo’s healing process. Most people tend to develop an allergy to a particular color of ink. Red ink causes the most itch and allergic reaction, but you run these risks with any color. Tattoos will itch for one or two weeks, but this isn’t the case with colors.

You need to pay close attention to your skin and know how to spot the signs of infections, allergic reactions, and other problems. Continue reading as we discover why color tattoos itch more and what you should do when you notice an adverse reaction!

Why Do Colored Tattoos Itch More Than Black Ones?

Thousands of people have adverse allergic reactions to the actual ink pigment used in tattooing. Tattoo pigments are often made from dyes that consist of plastic materials.

According to recent studies, an allergic reaction from tattoos can occur immediately after getting tattooed.

An allergic reaction can also happen many years after getting a tattoo, even after it has fully healed.

As a result, you may have severe itching, along with your skin getting a red glow and hive-like bumps on the surface.

Colored potions of tattoos will often raise as much as a centimeter above the skin’s surface and could affect the texture of your skin and the way your tattoo looks.

Red dye in tattoo inks is the main culprit for causing problems, whether eaten in out food sources or injected into our skin with needles.

Red dye for food consumption can be entirely created in a lab, which is typically the way the artificial red food colorings are made. However, it could also be made less artificially from the cochineal bug and is known to be called carmine.

Both of these sources have a high chance of causing allergic reactions, with carmine being so problematic for some people that it has to be labeled as such, not just labeled as a red dye, on several packaging.

Keeping this in mind, the allergenic potential for red ink tattoos is considered to have a much more severe allergenic potential than other tattoo ink colors.

Although any color of tattoo ink can cause you to have an allergic reaction with excessive itching, just like any color of food dye can.

Because the red pigment has a very strong pigmentation, it has great power of staying on your skin, just like how red dye is more challenging to get out of your hair than other colors.

Tattoo artists tend to rely a lot on red tattoo ink, which is used heavily in their projects.

Red ink and different tattoo colors are much more likely to be itchy in the shorter term, but in the longer term as well! However, allergies to red tattoo ink are typically more common and severe than allergies to other colors.

Heavy metals used in red tattoo ink are strongly believed to be the primary reason why it’s so harsh and often rejected by our bodies. A mercury-based metal known as cinnabar used to be very commonly used in the red tattoo ink.

Still, tattoo artists have argued that it is no longer used.

How Long Should Your New Tattoo Itch?

About a week after you get your new ink, you will start to feel the urge to scratch it. By the time your tattoo starts to feel, the desire to scratch might become worse and worse. It is crucial to know that you should not scratch or pick at your tattoo during this stage.

A tattoo should only itch for about one or two weeks. Once your skin has healed all over and the scabs fall off, you should not be experiencing any itchiness any longer.

However, in some very rare cases, some people may still experience their tattoo itching for months, or even years, after they have gotten their tattoo.

Like everything else, there are exceptions to how long your tattoo is going to itch.

Treating An Itchy Tattoo Correctly

The correct treatment for a very itchy tattoo may depend on its underlying cause. New tattoos are prone to infection and damage, so you should take extreme caution not to mess up the surrounding skin or ink. Older tattoos can also be vulnerable to skin damage in some rare cases.

Take a look at some easy ways to relieve your itchy tattoo:

Cool Compress

Coolness may ease itchiness while also reducing some swelling. Be sure to ask your tattoo artist before using any compresses around new and fresh tattoos.

Keep Your Tattoo Moisturized

If your skin seems dry while itching, moisturizing may be the answer! You can use an oatmeal-based moisturizer or a thicker cream made from cocoa butter for old tattoos.

Stay away from any products with fragrances and colors, as products like this can cause you further irritation and may even increase the itchiness.

Drawing Out Your Ink

Unfortunately, if the tattoo ink itself is causing your itchy tattoo, you cannot simply take it out. If you think this is the case, you need to make an appointment as soon as you can with a dermatologist to professionally remove your tattoo.

Sometimes, you may even be left with a permanent scar of where the tattoo was. It could also be much more difficult to remove tattoos darker in color.


Experiencing itchiness is entirely normal in the first few days of getting your tattoo. However, if the itchiness continues and nothing you do makes it better, you may need to see your doctor for a professional opinion.

Remember always to make sure your tattoo artist takes the correct precautions and never settle for any unhygienic behavior or equipment.

Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you

working on tattoo at my studio
Working at the studio on one of my projects

Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.

Design and tattoo ideas

For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):

Tattoo meaning

If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).

Tattoo aftercare

The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):


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