We reached out to experts to find out what you should know before getting a vein tattoo.
This type of tattoo isn’t entirely risk-free. But then, getting a tattoo always involves some level of risk, with an infection being the main cause for concern.
The risk for an infection gets a little higher when it comes to tattoos on veins, according to Dr. Stacey Chimento, a board certified dermatologist at Riverchase Dermatology in Bay Harbor Islands, Florida.
“Tattoos involve applying pressure on your skin with a needle, which can rupture the vein, making it bleed into the surrounding tissue and cause an infection,” she says.
If you have varicose veins, Chimento goes on to explain, this could make things worse and result in veins that protrude even further.
“Varicose veins struggle to heal due to their pre-existing damage. If pierced during the tattoo session, they could randomly bleed internally or externally, affecting surrounding organs,” she says.
Another thing to keep in mind when considering a tattoo to cover varicose veins? How that tattoo could potentially impact any future treatment of the veins.
“To treat the diseased veins, they need to be somewhat visible. And if left untreated, the blood can leak into the leg tissue and cause hyperpigmentation. Although rare, infections and undiagnosed veins can cause a need for urgent care if left untreated,” Chimento says.
It’s hard to say. The consensus seems to be that tattoos on veins are no more painful than other tattoos.
That said, varicose veins themselves can sometimes hurt. If your varicose veins already cause you pain and discomfort, chances are having the area inked could hurt a little more.
Keep in mind that pain is subjective and everyone’s threshold is different. The part of your body being tattooed, the skill of the artist, and the health of your veins in that area can all factor into how much pain you feel.
When it comes to aftercare for tattoos on veins, the instructions are the same as with other tattoos, says Jamie Kan, a tattoo artist in Vancouver, British Columbia.
The goal of aftercare is to keep the tattooed skin free of bacteria to prevent an infection and scarring.
Follow the aftercare instructions provided by your tattoo artist and keep watch for signs of potential issues, like an allergic reaction or an infection.
Key symptoms to pay attention to include:
- worsening or severe pain, swelling, and redness
- extreme itchiness
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact a healthcare professional right away.
If you’re considering a tattoo on your veins, it’s also important to consider potential outcomes beyond your risk for complications.
Your veins could have an effect on the appearance of the tattoo, for example.
“Aside from getting sick, you may be unhappy with the way the tattoo looks on your skin, as the bulging veins can distort the image you were hoping for,” Chimento says.
“I’ve actually refrained from tattooing prominent veins unless it’s a very mild case,” Kan says. “The skin and the coloring can distort the tattoo, so I always do a consultation in person first to see if I’ll take the project on.”
Kan also lets her clients know beforehand that tattoos on veins may look slightly different after healing, in comparison to other tattooed areas on skin without prominent veins.
Here are other things to keep in mind when considering a tattoo on your veins:
- Weight changes and blood circulation can cause veins to shift or bulge, changing the appearance of your tattoo over time.
- All tattoos carry some risks, including infection and allergic reactions.
- Choosing a reputable studio and tattoo artist who practices stringent health and safety protocols can significantly reduce your risk for complications.
- If you have symptomatic varicose veins, you’ll want to check with your doctor before getting a tattoo.
If concealing spider or varicose veins is your main motivation for getting a tattoo, know that you have other options, including at-home and professional methods.
For concealing veins at home, Chimento suggests:
- makeup, such as a yellow or orange waterproof color-correcting concealer
- skin-colored compression stockings to hide the veins and improve circulation
If you want to get rid of varicose and spider veins rather than just conceal them, you have a few options:
- Sclerotherapy. With this common treatment for varicose and spider veins, a chemical is injected into your vein, causing the walls of the vein to stick together and stop the blood flow.
- Laser therapy. Laser light can destroy varicose and spider veins, offering quick and dramatic results without damaging your skin. Small spider veins sometimes disappear immediately.
- Vein surgery. Two types of surgical procedures can treat varicose veins: litigation and stripping. Litigation involves tying off the vein to prevent blood from pooling. Stripping involves removing the vein entirely to prevent varicose veins from reappearing.
You can get a tattoo on your veins, certainly. That said, if you’re only after a way to conceal varicose or spider veins, it could be worth exploring other methods with a dermatologist before heading to a tattoo studio.
As with all tattoos, getting a vein tattoo done by a reputable and experienced artist is key to reducing your risk for complications.
Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a Canada-based freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.