Can You Get A Tattoo If You Have Diabetes?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on October 30, 2020
    Last Updated: November 15, 2020

About 10 percent of all Americans currently have diabetes. Diabetes can affect all areas of life, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t get a tattoo.

Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you may still be able to get inked. You have a few things to think about and questions to ask, but it’s possible.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about getting a tattoo if you have diabetes.


Your Diabetes

Many diabetics can safely get tattoos, but you have to consider your specific condition. If your diabetes is under control, you shouldn’t have a problem getting a tattoo. You can follow the same steps as someone without diabetes.

However, you should monitor your symptoms for a few months before getting a tattoo. Make sure you don’t have too many blood sugar spikes. High blood sugar can reduce your body’s ability to repair the skin where you get a tattoo, so it can take longer to heal. The longer it takes to heal, the more likely you’ll develop an infection around the tattoo.

Ideally, your blood sugar levels should be in a normal range, but they don’t have to be. If your levels are normal for you, you may be able to get a tattoo even if your blood sugar is high.

Type 1 vs. Type 2

You should also consider if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The different origins of each condition can affect how you treat your diabetes and what you need to do to get a tattoo safely. In either case, keeping your glucose levels as steady as possible before and during your tattoo session is important.

For example, if you have type 1 diabetes, knowing how your body handles high and low blood sugars (and having insulin on hand) is ideal before getting a tattoo. Especially since you might be in the chair for a few hours, expect snacks or medication (or both) during the process.

If you have type 2 diabetes, you should still aim to control your blood sugar, whether through diet or medication (or a combination). Ensuring that your blood glucose levels remain steady while you’re getting your tattoo is essential for your safety and the quality of your tattoo.

Talk to Your Doctor

Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you should talk to your doctor before getting a tattoo. Your doctor can review your A1C levels to make sure they’re in a normal range for you, which means you’re doing a good job of controlling your blood glucose. 

Your doctor can also advise you on whether your history of diabetes could impact the healing process. For example, someone with poor glucose control (a high A1C) may experience more severe bruising or longer healing times. Your doctor may caution against getting a tattoo if you are not handling your sugar levels well enough for your skin to recover safely.

Tattoo Location

When you have diabetes, you need to be careful about where on your body you get a tattoo. You should avoid areas that don’t have the best circulation. A lack of circulation can make it harder to heal, and it can be even harder when you have diabetes.

Specific spots to avoid include your feet, ankles, and shins. You should also avoid injection sites, like your abdomen and thighs. If you take insulin shots, it’s especially important to keep these areas clear so that you can keep taking your insulin without discomfort or exposure to infection..

Design

Along with where you get your tattoo, you should consider the tattoo design. Having diabetes doesn’t restrict what type of tattoo you get, but if your skin takes longer to heal than average, you might choose something less intricate.

Apart from that, there’s no reason you can’t have the tattoo you want in whatever design you and your tattoo artist agree on.

Some people with diabetes get tattoos of a medical symbol or something else to represent their diabetes. Medical tattoos can be a useful replacement for a medical alert bracelet, so it’s worth discussing that option with your doctor and a tattoo artist.

The Artist

Once you’re ready to get a tattoo and know it’s safe for you, you should choose a reputable tattoo artist. You may also want to ask about the artist’s tattoo experience to see if they’ve worked with diabetic clients before.

Be sure to look at the hygiene and safety procedures your tattoo artist and parlor follows. They should always use a clean needle and a disposable ink container.

If you aren’t comfortable with anything a tattoo artist does or doesn’t do, move on. When you have diabetes, you want to make sure you can get your tattoo safely, and the right tattoo artist will respect that.

Consultation

If possible, you should get an initial consultation with a tattoo artist. You can use the appointment to ask about the artist’s procedures and tools they use to do tattoos. Your tattoo artist may be able to alter the tattoo procedure to account for your diabetes.

The process should be the same, as all reputable tattooists use sanitary supplies, but incorporating breaks for snacks or medication could be helpful for keeping you comfortable and safe. Having diabetes may also change the aftercare that your tattoo artist recommends, especially if you bruise or bleed easily. 

It can seem embarrassing to bring up a medical condition to your artist, but it’s important for you to get a tattoo while reducing your risk of complications. For example, if you experience a low while getting your tattoo, either the artist or a support person should know how to recognize the dangers and help you treat it.

You can also ask your tattoo artist about normal scabbing and peeling after a tattoo. If you’ve never had a tattoo, you can learn what to look for and what may be a sign of something serious.

Getting the Tattoo

On tattoo day, make sure you eat like you usually would to keep your glucose at a safe level. If you can, try to schedule your tattoo appointment for right after breakfast or lunch so that you can eat a suitable meal or snack right before. You want to avoid spikes during your tattooing session, but skipping a meal can cause too-low dips.

Though there’s no part of the tattooing procedure that should impact your blood glucose, there are many factors at play. For example, exercise, too little sleep, and even stress can affect sugar levels. Therefore, you should still check your blood sugar as normal during and after your tattoo appointment.

Aftercare

After you get home from your tattoo appointment, you can follow the aftercare instructions from your tattoo artist. You can follow many of the same steps as someone without diabetes. You’ll need to keep the area clean, and you may need to keep it out of the sun while the skin heals.

If you talked to your tattoo artist about your diabetes, they might have special instructions for you. It’s especially important for people with diabetes to avoid infection risk as much as possible by sticking to correct cleaning procedures and using an appropriate healing lotion.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan-friendly aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.

Be sure to monitor your tattoo for changes, such as scarring or other visible changes. If something doesn’t look right, call your doctor or tattoo artist to verify that it’s normal.

Risks

Getting a tattoo can be risky for anyone, and the same is true even if your diabetes is under control. General risks after a tattoo include scarring or skin infection at or near your tattoo.

You could also have an allergic reaction to the tattoo ink or the tattoo supplies, but this isn’t unique to folks with diabetes. 

To lower your risk of complications, make sure you take your aftercare seriously. 

Can Diabetics Get Tattoos?

Many diabetics can get tattoos, but you have some unique considerations. First, you need to have control over your diabetes and blood sugar levels. Then, you need to choose a reputable tattoo artist who follows standard safety procedures to protect you during the tattoo.

As long as you work with a good tattoo artist and follow their aftercare steps, you should be able to safely get a tattoo despite having diabetes. You can get a tattoo of whatever you want, and your diabetes doesn’t have to keep you from expressing yourself with a body modification.