Tattoo and Eczema

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 5, 2020
    Last Updated: February 8, 2023

More commonly known as eczema, atopic dermatitis is an autoimmune disorder that causes itchy, dry skin that often appears in reddish or brownish-gray patchiness. With the prevalence of tattoos and self-expression, people with the condition may wonder about the effects of eczema on tattoos.

The itchy, frustrating skin condition might be annoying, but there have been developments with inks, and many individuals are now able to get successfully tattooed while living with eczema.

Can You Get a Tattoo With Eczema?

The answer depends on your specific case, health, and the type of tattoo you’re considering. Several eczema types exist, such as neck eczema, eyelid dermatitis, weeping eczema, and eczema herpeticum, among others.

If you only have rare flare-ups in small spots, it’s more likely you will be okay getting inked. With more extreme eczema cases, getting a tattoo is something for which you’ll want to consult your dermatologist.

Allergies and Ink

A consideration for those with eczema is the possibility of having an allergic reaction to the ink in tattoos. When you get a tattoo, your skin is pierced with the needle, causing heat, aggravation to the epidermis, in addition to the ink placement deep within the skin.

All of these factors are prime ingredients for a potential eczema outbreak, but it doesn’t have to mean you’ll suffer from a flare-up. Newer inks for sensitive skin now exist, so this is an option to consider.

Patch Test

If you are sensitive to allergies, you may want to test a little discrete spot on your skin before getting a full tattoo. You can explain your concerns to the tattoo artist and have a tiny test mark done in the area you plan to have inked. 

This technique is not so different from the full allergy panel tests doctors perform and can give you a better idea of whether you might have a significant allergic response if the dose (or, in this case, amount of ink) was substantial.

If you don’t react to this test area, that does not guarantee you won’t have a flare-up with a more considerable ink job. If you do get an adverse reaction to the trial spot, though, it’s a reliable indication that you could potentially have an ongoing reaction to the ink. Those who are on antiretroviral medication for HIV may be more prone to an allergic reaction.

The concerning part about a potential allergic reaction is that they don’t always happen immediately. In rare cases, a reaction can occur weeks and even years later if your body suddenly decides to turn on the foreign substance. This occurrence is not typical, yet it’s something to keep in mind if you know you have an incredibly sensitive system.

Risks with Eczema and Tattoos

While you might only have a temporary reaction to getting a tattoo, you want to consider the risk before you go to your appointment. For those who have regular eczema occurrences, the tattooing process provides prime conditions to experience a new flare-up.

If you do encounter an eczema episode after getting inked, your tattoo will likely take more time to heal and poses an increased risk of infection. Other possible hazards include:

  • Patchy or inflamed skin
  • Developing keloids
  • Itchy or red skin
  • Scarring
  • Hypo- or hyperpigmentation
  • Allergic reaction to the ink

An infection is one of the most concerning risks with eczema and tattoos, therefore, taking precautions and proper after-care steps to prevent one is crucial.

Preventing Infection From a Tattoo

If you have eczema, you’ll want to take extra-special care to avoid infection and reduce your chances of a flare-up if you get a tattoo.

Keep Your Body Healthy

Whether you take wellness seriously or not, it’s smart to pay special attention to your immune system both before and during the healing process of your tattoo. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, taking supplements that can help reduce eczema, and continuing with any eczema-suppressing medications if you already take them is wise. Your body will heal faster and fight off potential infections better when it’s healthy.

Wash Your Hands

Keep the bandage on your new ink for the first 24 hours, and after that, keep it clean every day as it heals. When you care for your fresh ink as it’s healing, never touch it without first washing your hands. Whether you’re changing a bandage or showering with your new tattoo, wash your hands thoroughly with soap for at least twenty-seconds, focusing on the palms, fingers, and thumbs.

Cleanse Your Tattoo

Wash the tattoo with gentle soap, preferably something that is both for sensitive skin and also has antiseptic properties. Something with tea tree oil in it can help eczema and is also antibacterial. If you’re extra-sensitive, you can use something like Aveeno or any other anti-itch cleanser.

Letting Your Skin Dry

After cleansing the area, dry your inked skin with a freshly-cleaned cloth or pat gently with a paper towel. Allow the skin to breathe for five to ten minutes before you apply ointment.

Applying a Lotion

With clean hands (if you’re touching things around the house while letting your tattoo breathe, rewash your paws), spread a thin layer of a healing lotion to the tattoo.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan 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.​ Click here to buy from Amazon.

Once you’ve gotten through most of the healing process, some individuals like applying witch hazel for a while to continue the healing process. For many people, witch hazel can help keep eczema flare-ups at bay. Fragrance-free cocoa butter or a lotion that contains oatmeal can help your skin continue to heal, also.

Can a Tattoo Artist Refuse Me?

If you have an active flare-up, yes, a tattoo artist has the right to refuse service. Most tattoo artists would not ink skin that appears affected by eczema or another skin condition, at least if they are professional with their services. A licensed artist has ethical standards to uphold, thus they legally can refuse work if it appears risky or if they think it will affect the end product and eventually ruin the aesthetic of your skin.

What Should I Ask a Tattoo Artist About Eczema?

  1. Check with your potential tattoo artist to make sure they are licensed and that they always use sterile or single-use needles.
  2. You can also ask if they have experience working on individuals prone to eczema and ask if they have recommendations if you get a flare-up underneath your new ink.
  3. Asking about ink for sensitive skin is an excellent idea, too. Some vegan inks are better suited for those with eczema because they lack toxic components like metal and artificial coloring. Tattoo ink for sensitive skin exists, so look into it, though you may have to check in advance if the tattoo parlor you plan to use does not have any in their shop.

In Summary

You can get inked if you have eczema, as long as it’s under control when you go in for your appointment. There are some additional risks if you’re prone to eczema, but you can talk to your dermatologist prior to your initial tattoo appointment. Ask the tattoo artist about ink for sensitive skin, and prep yourself for a healthy after-care routine.

It’s important to remember that the tattoo healing process, regardless of your skin, has some less-than-pleasant stages, so it’s smart to familiarize yourself with them before getting your new ink.

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