Can You Get a Tattoo With Psoriasis?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 5, 2020
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

More people have tattoos today than ever before. Even those who don’t currently have any ink often have desires for getting one or more in the future. However, many different medical conditions can affect the way your skin responds to a new tattoo. One of these contentious skin problems is psoriasis. 

Having psoriasis doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get a tattoo. However, the condition can make the tattooing process more complicated, and it can even affect how your tattoo looks after the procedure. In this guide, we’ll walk you through everything you should know before mixing tattoos and psoriasis.


What Is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin condition that is thought to arise from problems with the immune system. When you have psoriasis, your body produces too many skin cells in some regions of your body, leading to red or scaly patches of skin that can be itchy or tender. Psoriasis is not contagious, and the disease is mostly harmless. 

Many people live with psoriasis without treatment. However, in advanced cases where psoriasis covers most of the body or the psoriasis plaques frequently crack and bleed, the condition can be more bothersome (and, in the case of open wounds, dangerous to your health). 

Unfortunately, though, psoriasis can also affect how your body reacts to tattoos. You can’t tattoo over an area of the skin that’s affected by psoriasis, and interestingly enough, psoriasis can also begin to flare in a previously unaffected area if you receive a tattoo there. We’ll talk about this in more depth in the sections below.

Psoriasis and Tattoos: Considerations and Questions to Ask

You should consider several things before committing to getting a tattoo, even if you don’t have psoriasis or a similar condition. After all, the decision to get a tattoo is a large one, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly or rushed. 

Firstly, you’ll have to check whether your area allows you to get a tattoo if you have psoriasis. In some states, it’s actually illegal to tattoo a person with psoriasis or eczema. Even in places where it is legal, your prospective tattoo artist may refuse to tattoo you if they don’t feel comfortable.

Secondly, consider whether you have a clear area on your body that is ready to receive a tattoo. Even if you have a place in mind right now, if that area flares up between now and your tattoo appointment, you may have to reschedule. This can limit you to areas of your body that don’t usually flare.

Finally, you should ask your doctor whether they think it’s safe for you to get a tattoo. For example, many people living with psoriasis choose to take medications that suppress the immune system as a treatment for the condition. If you’re immunosuppressed, you may be more vulnerable to infections, making a tattoo a bad choice for you. 

These are not all of the things you need to consider before getting a tattoo with psoriasis. We’ll go over a few more of these considerations below. 

The Koebner Phenomenon

Interestingly (and discouragingly), people who have psoriasis can sometimes experience something called the Koebner phenomenon after receiving a tattoo. The Koebner phenomenon is a strange situation that results when a psoriasis flare occurs in an area of past skin trauma. Tattoos, due to their invasive nature, can cause the Koebner phenomenon. 

As a result, even if you get a tattoo in an area where you’ve never had a psoriasis flare-up, you might suddenly get a flare-up there eventually. One in four people with psoriasis will experience the Koebner phenomenon at some point in their lives. 

While any psoriasis patches resulting from this phenomenon can be treated the same way as typical psoriasis, the results can be disheartening. A psoriasis breakout on your new tattoo can obscure it, making it difficult to see the design, and it can cause it to heal much more slowly, too. 

The Koebner phenomenon can happen as soon as three days or as long as ten years after a tattoo, though the typical timeframe is less than two years. As you might have guessed, the phenomenon is not fully understood, just like psoriasis itself. 

If you’re not willing to deal with the possibility of the Koebner phenomenon happening, it’s best to skip the idea of getting a tattoo altogether. 

Consult Your Doctor

Your doctor will be able to instruct you further on whether getting a tattoo is the right thing for you to do, even before you start looking at tattoo parlors.

Even if you’re not on an immunosuppressant to curb the symptoms of psoriasis, it still may not be a good idea to get a tattoo. For example, if you’ve previously experienced outbreaks of psoriasis in areas of skin trauma, it’s far more likely that you’ll experience the Koebner phenomenon again. 

Similarly, if your skin is more sensitive than the average individual – a co-symptom that commonly affects people living with psoriasis – a tattoo might inflame your skin too much. In the worst cases, the dyes used in tattoo ink can even cause allergic reactions in the skin, which can, in extreme cases, be life-threatening. 

Your doctor or dermatologist is the person you should depend on most to help you consider all of these possibilities before moving forward. Additionally, your doctor will be able to help recommend healing remedies, special routines to follow, and other helpful aftercare resources if you do decide to go forward with your tattoo.

Precautions

One of the most important precautions you should take before getting a tattoo with psoriasis is talking to your doctor. However, besides the other things we’ve mentioned in this article so far, such as looking up local laws regarding tattooing people with psoriasis, there are still several other measures you should take before moving forward with your new body art. Some of these measures include:

  • Preparing for the healing process
  • Finding a licensed and reputable tattoo parlor
  • Setting yourself up for success

Preparing for the Healing Process

While any number of complications can make the tattoo healing process longer, especially common issues like infections, anyone with psoriasis should be ready to deal with a longer-than-normal healing process. This, of course, applies if you develop a flare-up in the area where you got your new tattoo, but it applies in other ways, too. 

For example, after receiving a new tattoo, you should be disinfecting and washing it at least twice per day for the first two weeks – once in the morning and once in the evening. Since those with psoriasis tend to have more sensitive skin, you should find a gentle disinfectant that won’t irritate or break out other areas of your skin before your first session. 

If you’re used to dealing with psoriasis plaques, it may be tempting to pick at or itch your new tattoo as it heals. However, you’ll need to commit to leaving it alone, as picking at your tattoo can slow down your healing or even lead to infection. Using a good tattoo healing lotion can help to prevent itching and irritation if this is something you’re likely to suffer with.

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.

Finding a Licensed Tattoo Parlor

The next best thing you can do for your health (and the continued health of your tattoo) is to find a reputable, hygienic, and accredited tattoo artist to work with. Stay away from street artists and “friends” who will tattoo you for cheap. Not only do these artists seldom follow safety rules, but your end result will be worse, too.

Instead, look for a tattoo shop with examples of past work that you can look at, and look for both good reviews and complaints about the business. It’s also a good idea to visit the company and take a look at their tattoo work in action if you can. That way, you can pick out any unhygienic practices before you even sit in the tattoo chair and avoid that shop if necessary. 

Set Yourself Up for Success

If you have psoriasis, the chances are that you already live with it every day and know how to work around it. As such, you should do the same thing before getting your new tattoo done, as well. Set yourself up for success by doing things like changing your sheets often, moisturizing your dry skin regularly, and avoiding situations and allergens that give you flare-ups.

By proactively managing your psoriasis symptoms, you may reduce the chance that your tattoo could cause the Koebner phenomenon or any other flare-up. 

Conclusion

While there are many things you should address before getting a tattoo if you have psoriasis, the risks are relatively few and far between. Besides more flare-ups, your risks with psoriasis are about the same as the average person. However, don’t take your psoriasis symptoms lightly, either; it’s always invaluable to talk to your doctor or dermatologist before making a tattoo appointment.

As long as you take the time to enact a few precautions, you should be able to get just about any tattoo you could dream of, even with psoriasis. When it comes to tattoos and psoriasis, the name of the game is preparation and prevention: as long as you proactively manage your psoriasis flares and symptoms, you’re giving yourself the best chance of success.