There’s no evidence to suggest that getting tattooed raises your risk of serious complications with lupus. But since the autoimmune disease affects the skin’s healing process, you may want to take extra safety precautions.
If you have lupus, you may be wondering whether a tattoo is the best choice for your health and wellness. Since the autoimmune disease causes the body to attack its own tissues and can slow or hinder wound healing, it makes sense that it would affect your tattoo healing, too.
However, current research suggests that getting inked doesn’t raise your risk of flare-ups, organ damage, or any other long-term lupus-related complications.
That said, the recovery process may take longer and require more care. Taking certain precautions — such as leaving your tattoo wrapped for longer or applying extra moisturizer — can help ensure optimal healing. Here’s what to know.
Though the current research is limited, scientists have concluded that getting a tattoo with lupus is generally safe.
Four participants with lupus did experience mild to moderate flare-ups. But the average time between the tattoo and the flare-up was about 9 months — so the inflammation is not necessarily related.
As a result, the researchers concluded that tattoos seem to be safe for people with SLE who have mild-to-moderate symptoms.
Researchers also found 13 people with CLE-caused skin lesions on tattoos. These lesions appeared within 1 week to 16 years after getting the tattoos.
As a result, scientists concluded that people should be warned of the slight risk of lesions developing on tattoos. But again, there’s no evidence that the tattoos actually caused the lesions.
In a small 2023 study of almost 100 tattooed people with SLE, about 7% of participants self-reported experiencing adverse reactions to their ink, including:
- mild infections (treated with antibiotics)
- muscle pain
- skin reddening
- lymph node swelling
As a result, researchers concluded tattoos to be relatively safe in those with SLE due to a low risk of mild adverse side effects.
While mild to moderate lupus shouldn’t cause any serious tattoo-related issues, those who are more severely immunocompromised may want to take extra care before going under the needle.
Those who are
- with severe lupus
- with any autoimmune condition
- who take immunosuppressant medication
- who are otherwise immunocompromised
Ultimately, anyone with a chronic condition may want to take extra precautions when getting tattooed. When in doubt, consult with a healthcare professional.
If you have lupus and decide to get a tattoo, there are ways to minimize risks and promote healing.
Consider waiting until your condition stabilizes before getting a tattoo. Getting inked during severe symptoms or a major flare-up may increase risks.
Thoroughly research the tattoo artist and facility before committing to your tattoo. A clean, hygienic, and comfortable session will help improve healing. Be sure to ask for pictures of previous work to ensure proper technique.
Prepare for a more dedicated aftercare process. According to Lupus UK, healing times may be double if you have the autoimmune condition, especially if you’re on steroid treatment.
For instance, you may need to wrap your tattoo for 2–3 days rather than 1–2 days. Your tattoo may not form a scab for up to 14 days and remain flaky for up to a month.
It may take up to 3 months for the entire healing process, during which time you may need to apply extra moisturizer to encourage healing.
Contact a dermatologist or another medical professional at the first sign of a flare-up, infection, or other concern. Although many people are inclined to speak with their tattoo artist at the first sign of a problem, those with autoimmune conditions should seek professional medical support ASAP.
According to current research, getting a tattoo when you have lupus shouldn’t pose any serious concerns. That being said, the healing process may take longer and require more care, and you may have a slightly increased risk of mild adverse outcomes, such as infection.
To minimize risks, avoid getting your tattoo mid-flare up or when symptoms are severe. Visiting a dermatologist and being diligent about aftercare will also support a smooth healing process.