Delayed Allergic Response?

Last week I got this interesting letter and photos;

"My tattoo is almost five years old, healed beautifully, hasn't been retouched, and held its colors amazingly well. I never had a problem with it, until September, when I got back from Burning Man. A week or so after I got back, the red outlining on the right side of my tattoo starting itching really bad and I was constantly scratching at it. The left side (both sides are identical) itched also, but not as badly, and didn't end up scarring. I'm still not sure why the reaction happened."

So… what did ookumbubbleoo do take at Burning Man?

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.

51 thoughts on “Delayed Allergic Response?

  1. Uh that really sucks! Could it be the ammount of UV light it got from the sun? or am I talking out of my ass

  2. I read that red ink can get all psycho radioactive, or something similar, when in direct sunlight for too long. Crazy that it could happen 5 years later, though!

  3. The same thing happened to me with some black ink a year ago. I had it for a couple years and it didn’t get any sun, but suddenly started itching really badly and was severly raised. To this day I have no idea what it was, and it never came back. I think it was some kind of metal in the ink to make it super black and almost shiny.

  4. Ive heard about that happening with a specific brand of red ink to some people around here. I will post again when I find out which brand…good luck with the healing.

  5. Thats odd that it happened, but it actually looks pretty good. Whats burning man?

  6. if I scratch some of my tattoos(alot) they go like that…. must be how the linework was put in ……looks like its just the linework in the pic… sorta like scratching a scar

  7. one of the tattoo artists i work with back home has told me that under heat some time the ink in tattoos can swell up no matter how old they are

  8. About once a year the tattoos I have on my wrists will do something similar. My symptoms go away after roughly a week though.

    Do you think it could possibly be attributed to the very high alkaline content of the sands in Black Rock City ?

  9. mine raise like that when it’s humid. it might just be those specific parts have been scarred, and raised b/c of sun/humidity……no?

  10. Thanks Tanya, it looks awesome wish I could go. I’ve never seen anything quite like it

  11. one of my tattoo artists told me (when i got a red star in my ear) that some people have bad reactions to red every once in awhile for no reason. don’t know why though. i didn’t have any problems and i hope this dosn’t happen to my ear this summer…

  12. i think it looks pretty cool. gives it a bit of a 3D edge, some depth, an element of uniqueness. as long as it doesn’t get worse and spread i think it’s kind of an improvement.

  13. I agree that it looks sort of cool, I would have preferred the whole outlining on both sides did that or none of it! I just think it’s odd that a small section of it reacted the way it did. The middle top portion of my tattoo also has red in it, a more solid section, that had no reaction what-so-ever and it received the same amount of sun (I was running around in a bikini top and tank tops all week).

    Personally, I have reoccuring reactions to white ink more than anything. This is the first time I’ve reacted to red.

  14. I had trouble with the red ink in the flames on my chest piece for a couple months when the tattoo was still new. I found that trying hard not to itch helped the swelling go down, and eventually the problems went away. I’m not sure if I was reacting to the ink or not.

  15. I had an allergic reaction to red ink as well, but initially right after the work was done. I was told that certain red inks have something in them that initiates an allergic reaction to certain people… Mine went away in a couple days and had a little bit of itching on the surface as well as one of my lymph nodes swelling up as it .. absorbed the ink i guess? I don’t know.. anyway the general consensus of people I talked to said it had to do with specific kinds of red ink… i dont know.

  16. If it had scarred on the other side as well, it’d actually look quite interesting. Sorry to hear it happened, though.

  17. When ever my left arm has too much sun, the yellow in my forearm flower swells up and itches beyond belief. After a few hours out of the sun it’ll go back to normal.

  18. i have stars on both sides of my neck… 2 red and 2 grey… the red ones will get itchy from time to time while nothing happens with the grey ones…

  19. well lets make a good thing out of this ordeal
    the scarring (imo) adds to the tattoo.. i think it looks great =/
    a fortunate misfortune?

  20. Sometimes my chest tattoo will raise up and itch in spots when I wear a bra that chafes it, usually only in the spots near my armpit. I always assumed I just have sensitive skin and I am irritating it- interesting to know that sunlight also can do this.

    For the people with tattoos that react to too much sun, do they react any differently (less, equal to, more) if you’re wearing sunblock?

  21. ive had a tattoo on my arm for a few years and it gets all raised and itchy sometimes without any warning and then it just goes away. wierd.

  22. Ten years after my trouble-free tattoo had been done, the red outline raised up a lot, but without itching. Now it goes up and down seemingly without reason. Actually, I don’t mind because when it’s raised, it looks like a scarification !

  23. Well, I don’t think I have a story for the situation.. I -may- have had a couple of instances where my tattoo inch has itched with too much sun. But it could have been a mosquito bite. Either way. That looks like something that would make me worry something fierce. If I weren’t such a nightowl/insider.

    Hope the guy’s tattoo turns out okay.

  24. That’s clearly an light-allergic reaction to some substance inside the ink. Since you may not want to use that substance anymore, it would be nice if you could trace back the ink or the pigments in the ink.
    This will be difficult, since these are not revealed by the ink factories. I think it would be a good idea if the ink manufacturers would provide a contents sheet with their inks and the tattooers would be able to provide such a sheet to their customers.
    If allergic incidences would be reported, at least some knowledge base could be setup about the allergenicity of the pigments.

  25. Hmm, my tattoos raise when it gets really humid, but also sometimes when I’ve had a lot of sex. Likely a wierd bloodflow thing. I don’t know when they raise during lovin’, as I’m usually paying attention to other things, I only really notice after.


  26. I’ve noticed off and on my back tattoos get raised and a bit itchy. Its not directed to sun or humidity or anything like that it’s strange, it’s just sporatic.

    None of my other tattoos do this, but I have a very sensitive back to the point where I must cut the tags off of every shirt I own. Maybe that has something to do with this?

  27. I get an allergic reaction sometimes on a couple of my tattoos, they both have the same brand ink in them. It’s not often but when it happens the skin of the tattoo swells up and gets really itchy and sore. Might just be something triggered the reaction after all this time. Mine seems to happen when I run around the desert with shorts on. *shrugs*

  28. I have a red reaction just like that, it came only a couple weeks after I put the red in. DO NOT USE FERRARI RED BY SCREAM INK. Nearly everyone we have put that in reacts the same way, we have thrown out all traces of red from that company.

  29. PS. I put A&D on it and the reaction subsided, but that could also be attributed to the cold weather.

  30. I had something similar happen but was due to my drink being spiked a few months ago. During the night i remember my tattoo becoming incredibly raised and was burning like it was trying to get out of my skin. I have never felt pain like it, I still remember it and I was incredibly wasted (cheers to whoever spiked me. Very mature.) It’s pretty much the only thing I remember from the night. The same thing also happened with a certain brand of suntan lotion. It wasn’t the sun – my arm got all raised and itchy before I made it into the sun! Agony!

  31. Update: I put Kiel’s moisturizer (for face) on it and it actually went down significantly. It’s still raised, and itches from time to time, but is not as severe as it was a week ago.

    The answer to Shannon’s question in the post…shrooms. :X

    Thanks to everybody that posted with info and advice!

  32. the sun may not have any thing to do with it , i have a star on my leg that rarely see the sun , it also healed nicely but about 3 months ago it bubled up and was itchy as hell
    an expernced artist told me it amight be a high lead content in the ink

  33. it’s usualy “intenze” red ink that causes this problem, but any red ink can do it.
    it’s actually a mild infection that can react at any time for any reason it seems.
    under the advice of highly experienced tattoo artists, i’ve been told that going over it with a DRY needle will help… NO vaseline and NO water. you get a perscription cortizone cream and wipe that on the newly opened tatt, wrap with saran, and that will help.
    an artist at my studio had the same problem with his, we did this and it’s totally fine now.
    hope this helps!


  35. I was told to run the needle with sterile water into the ink when that happens ,but hey I like my waffles crispy with auntie jamyma’s surapy ~_0

  36. psoriasis, had it on my elbow for 2 years till it showed up.
    Im guessing of course but it seems so.

  37. i have this reaction really seriously. just thought id add to ookumbubbleoo comment about putting moisturizer on it.moisturizer has alcohole in it and in the long run makes it farrr worse to heal. use the tattoo cream you put on it when it first done.bapanthin or whatever it is do NOT put moisturizer on it unless you want it to never go away. takes about a year and a half for it to go down the scare tissue or go to a surgery get it cut out and tattoo over the scar. new red ink does not re-act

  38. my tattoos have a similar (but not as extreme) reaction when there is a climate change…I’m guessing that maybe she doesn’t generally reside in the desert?

  39. Living in Hawai’i, I get that reaction a lot. It’s usually with black ink though. It doesn’t cause any long lasting problems, but the skin does break easier then normal.

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