Tattoos seem to be more popular than ever, giving the false impression that getting inked is safe for anyone. While it’s possible to get a tattoo when you have eczema, it’s not a good idea if you’re currently having a flare-up or if you might have a possible allergy to the ink used.
Any concerns about getting a tattoo when you have eczema should be addressed with your dermatologist before heading to the tattoo parlor.
Eczema is a chronic condition, but symptoms can be dormant. Certain symptoms, such as itchiness and redness, could mean that a flare-up is coming. If this is the case, you may want to reschedule your tattoo appointment and hold off until your flare-up has completely passed.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is caused by an immune system reaction. You may develop eczema as a child, but it’s also possible to get it later as an adult, too. Eczema tends to run in families and may also be triggered by:
- chemicals or air pollution
Anyone who gets a tattoo risks certain side effects. When you have eczema or other preexisting skin conditions such as psoriasis, your skin is already sensitive, so you may be at an increased risk.
risks of tattooing sensitive skin
- increased itchiness from the skin healing
- eczema flare-ups, including increased itching and redness
- hyper- or hypopigmentation, especially if you’re using the tattoo as a cover up on your skin
- an allergic reaction to the tattoo ink used, which is rare, but possible
- scarring from a tattoo that hasn’t healed properly
- development of keloids
If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo to cover up scars from an old eczema flare, be aware that you’re still at risk of developing side effects. In turn, it’s possible that the scar you’re trying to cover up could worsen.
Just as you can get a variety of inks to make art on paper, tattoo inks come in different varieties, too. Some tattoo artists already have ink for sensitive skin on hand. Other shops may have to order it in advance.
It’s also important to know that a tattoo artist may not have the legal right to work on your skin if you have any lesions related to your eczema flare-up. You’ll need to wait until your skin has healed before getting a tattoo.
Questions for your tattoo artist
If you have eczema, before you get a tattoo, ask your tattoo artist these questions:
- Do you have experience with eczema-prone skin?
- Do you use ink made for sensitive skin? If not, can it be ordered before my session?
- What aftercare recommendations do you have?
- What should I do if I get eczema underneath my new tattoo?
- Are you licensed?
- Do you use single-use needles and ink and other sterilization methods?
A tattoo is created by damaging your upper and middle layers of skin, better known as the epidermis and dermis, respectively. The needles are used to create the permanent indentions along with the desired ink.
Needless to say, everyone who gets a tattoo will need to take care of the fresh wound, regardless of whether you have eczema or not. Your tattoo artist will bandage your skin and offer tips on how to take care of it.
tips for caring for your tattoo
- Remove the bandage within 24 hours, or as directed by your tattoo artist.
- Gently cleanse your tattoo with a wet cloth or paper towel. Don’t submerge the tattoo in water.
- Dab on ointment from the tattoo shop. Avoid Neosporin and other over-the-counter ointments, as these can prevent your tattoo from healing properly.
- After a few days, switch to a fragrance-free moisturizer to prevent itchiness.
It takes at least a couple of weeks for a new tattoo to heal. If you have eczema in the surrounding area, you may be able to treat your flare-up carefully with:
- hydrocortisone cream to alleviate itching
- an oatmeal bath for itchiness and inflammation
- oatmeal-containing body lotion
- cocoa butter
- prescription eczema ointments or creams, if recommended by your doctor
Your tattoo artist is your first point of contact for tips on tattoo aftercare. Some situations may require a doctor’s visit, though. You should see your doctor if you think an eczema rash has developed as a result of your new ink — they can help treat the surrounding skin with as little damage to the tattoo as possible.
You should also see your doctor if your tattoo becomes infected, a common issue that can occur as a result of scratching an itchy tattoo. Signs of an infected tattoo include:
- redness that grows beyond the original tattoo
- severe swelling
- discharge from the tattoo site
- fever or chills
Having eczema doesn’t mean you can’t get a tattoo. Before you get a tattoo with eczema, it’s important to assess the current state of your skin. It’s never a good idea to get a tattoo with an active flare-up.
Talk to your tattoo artist about your eczema, and be sure to ask them about tattoo ink for sensitive skin. Feel free to shop around until you’ve found the tattoo artist that you’re most comfortable with for your skin.