Do tattoos have a smell?

Someone gets a henna tattoo.
Henna tattoos are painted with a henna plant paste and have an earthy smell.

Tattoos (along with piercings) are one of the most common types of body modification. Previously reserved for only a small part of the population, tattoos now enjoy more mainstream popularity. Along with this come many questions from people considering their first experience with ink.

Do tattoo needles hurt? Are they expensive? Could having a tattoo hurt my job prospects? Is it dangerous? Do tattoos have a smell?


All great questions. Let's tackle the one about tattoos and smell. The short answer? No, not really. Tattoos don't have a smell. Typically, if your tattoo does have an odor, it's a sign something is wrong.

When you come home after getting inked, the only thing your tattoo should smell like is the antibiotic ointment your tattoo artist applied upon completing the artwork. It may also smell slightly of blood, as most people bleed a bit during the tattoo process (after all, your skin is being pierced with a tiny needle). However, your tattoo shouldn't emit any discernable odor. During the healing period, if your tattoo shows signs of infection -- redness, pus and a bad smell -- get medical attention and contact your tattoo artist.

Henna tattoos, on the other hand, do have a smell, and that's how you can tell they're safe. Henna is a natural paste that stains the skin and is painted on in intricate designs (typically on the hands). Henna tattoos usually last from one to three weeks. Although henna looks black when it's first applied, it will eventually dry and appear orange or brown. Natural henna should have a strong, earthy scent. Black henna, on the other hand, is usually made up of chemicals and can cause severe skin reactions, including blisters, burns and scarring. It may have a chemical odor or no odor at all [source: Henna Services].

On a more lighthearted note, if you've ever wondered what a tattoo should smell like, French designer Christian Audigier attempted to market the answer in 2008. His Ed Hardy collection of fragrances, inspired by Hardy's tattoo designs, smelled of citrus, fruit and herbs.


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Henna Services. "Henna- dos and don'ts for best stain." 2015. (Jan. 23, 2015)
  • Massacre, Megan. "Tattoo Aftercare With Megan Massacre." Fox News Magazine. May 1, 2013. (Jan. 23, 2015)
  • Moss, Doug and Roddy Scheer. "In the Ink: Do All Tattoo Pigments Use Mercury and Other Toxic Heavy Metals?" Scientific American. Oct. 7, 2011. (Jan. 23, 2015)
  • Petrović, Sandra Raičević. "In Honor of Tattoo Art – Ed Hardy Fragrance by Christian Audigier." Frangrantica. March 23, 2008. (Jan. 23, 2015)