Tattoos have been around for thousands of years but a huge trend has occurred in recent years with many teens opting for the age old tradition. Indeed it seems everywhere you look is another person covered in tattoos.
The big questions for people with eczema are:
• will a tattoo hide my eczema?
• will a tattoo cause my eczema to flare up?
• can I get a tattoo if I have eczema?
Most of the information I have found when researching this topic is from public forums. There is not a lot of researched data, but there is a lot of people with a lot of opinions.
Tattoos in general create a stereotype. Many people do not like them and will not look at anything positive about them. Whilst the new wave of people who love them will tell you it is worth the risks.
I am not a fan of tattoos but I will try to keep my information unbiased and will try to only give professional advice not hearsay.
What is a tattoo?
Tattooing involves deliberately placing permanent colours into the skin. Considering the popularity of tattoos complications are relatively rare. However the introduction of foreign substances into the skin can result in a toxic or immunological response.
What does this mean for a person with eczema?
Eczema sufferers are at a higher risk of being allergic to the dyes used in tattooing. It is advisable to have a patch test attended prior to having your tattoo to determine your suitability to having the dye pigments in your dermis. The tattoo artist will inject a tiny amount of the dye into the skin where you want to have the tattoo.
After a few days have the patch checked by your doctor for inflammation or infection. If it is clear you are most likely not allergic to the dye. Even if the patch test is clear it is not a guarantee that you will not have a reaction to the tattoo.
It is good to note that some doctors and dermatologists will be against you having a tattoo because of your eczema and some will be against it because they are against tattoos in general. And sometimes a tattoo artist will refuse to tattoo you because of your condition.
Care and Fading
Eczema skin is dry and scaly and is easily irritated by triggers. Heat created from the needle which is heated as it penetrates the skin, and the attack of the skin due to the procedure are both triggers that could flare up eczema. A flare up of eczema is possible even if the tattoo is applied to an area of skin free from eczema.
The healing time for a tattoo will be prolonged if it is performed over eczema or if eczema flares up during/after the procedure.
What to do
Apply moisturisers regularly and resist the urge to scratch. It is often difficult to tell if the itching is worse when you have eczema or if it is the scabbing of the tattoo causing the itch. Some people have noted fading of their tattoo due to the use of eczema creams including topical steroids whilst others deny it.
Complications from tattooing are relatively rare however allergic reactions, acute inflammatory reactions, infections and contracting infectious diseases are all possible. Always have a tattoo performed at a reputed tattoo shop that uses sterile instruments.
Note: Although it is possible to acquire HIV from piercing or tattooing, there have been no documented cases of this happening at a professional business. There are cases of HIV transmission as a result of amateur tattooing. If any problems develop after piercing or tattooing, see a dermatologist right away.
Henna Tattoos apply the dye to the skin surface so the skin is not penetrated. Many people believe this to be a safer form of tattooing than permanent tattoos however the American Academy of Dermatology released a warning that black henna tattoos made with the chemical paraphenylenediamine (PPD) can cause serious allergic reactions and eczema.
To sum up
• Always have the area patch tested before tattooing
• A tattoo may cause eczema to flare up even if it wasn’t present on that area prior to the tattoo
• Some tattoo artists will not perform tattoos over eczema
• Tattoos over eczema or on eczema prone skin may be itchier and will take longer to heal.
• Consider having a tattoo carefully and always use a reputable tattoo artist who uses sterile equipment.