Why are the lines in my tattoo raised?

Why are the lines in my tattoo raised?

Share this article

One of the strangest sensations that tattooed people deal with, is the occasional swelling of their tattoo, causing the linework to feel raised.

This can be disturbing, but it is normal for this to happen occasionally. But why does it happen at all?

Fresh tattoos will be swollen and not ‘settled in’ yet

If your tattoo is very new, it is likely that the lines feel raised and swollen simply because they are a bit swollen. Your new tattoo is an open wound, and the impact of the tattooing process will usually result in some swelling.

After a month or so, your tattoo should begin to settle in, and you shouldn’t be able to feel such a difference between your new ink and the rest of your skin.

Older tattoos may be raised due to scar tissue

If your old tattoo still occasionally feels raised and swollen, this could be due to scarring. Thicker lines, and more pressure applied during tattooing, can cause some scarring. It’s nothing to be concerned about, but it can sometimes raise up, and this is generally caused by changes in body temperature or weather conditions, as well as general health. 

Many people notice the swelling happens during the summertime, when weather is warmer and humidity higher. This can cause the skin to swell slightly, including your tattoo.

It may also feel slightly itchy, but applying some body lotion or a cooling aftersun can help calm the itch. Other people may notice the lines feel more raised in the winter, when their skin is drier and retracts a little bit. We’re all different!

Allergic reactions to ink could cause swelling

Another reason your tattoo may swell could be a reaction to the pigments in tattoo ink. It’s very unlikely to be the case, as allergic reactions are rare, but if your tattoo feels itchy as well as swollen this could be the cause.

Allergic reactions are not always immediate, it could crop up for an older tattoo just as easily as a new one. If the itching feels very localised and raised only around particular colours, it could be worth getting allergy tested.

Allergic reactions are more likely to feel irritated constantly, rather than the come and go swelling that some people experience with their tattoos. A topical ointment can usually help with any minor itching, but if the itching persists or gets worse you may need medication, or even tattoo removal in extreme cases.  

How to treat a raised tattoo

If your tattoo is new, follow our ultimate healing guide here, and soon enough the swelling will calm down. If your tattoo is old, try applying body lotion regularly to keep the skin moisturised. This can help to prevent swelling related to humidity changes in the air, especially in the winter when skin dries out quicker. And if you feel the swelling is a result of an allergic reaction, try a topical allergy relief cream, and contact your gp if you feel it’s not improving at all. 

Read more

Tattoo Healing: Here's What to Expect After Getting Inked