Skin conditions can make tattoos complicated. Here are the important facts and risks to consider when deciding what’s best for you.
Most people don’t consider their health conditions prior to getting a tattoo, but if you have psoriasis (PsO), you may have more to consider than most. If you have PsO, you may still be able to get a tattoo, but it’s important to understand the risks that may come with it.
Safety considerations for getting tattoos with PsO include:
First and foremost, you can’t tattoo over an active plaque. The tricky part is that PsO plaques can occur in new places and anywhere on the body. So, it might be difficult to find the ideal spot for your forever artwork.
If you have had PsO for a long time, this may be easier for you to predict, especially if your PsO tends to be in limited areas, like your elbows and knees.
Since tattoo needles repeatedly puncture the skin, any new tattoo runs the risk of infection. This is called cellulitis, or an infection of the skin.
Signs of an infected tattoo include:
You can also contract a serious infection from inadequately or improperly sanitized tools and equipment used during the tattooing process. These serious infections may include:
Rarely, tattoo inks have been recalled for microorganism contamination, which can also cause an infection.
Infection prevention is done in two ways:
Be sure to discuss any plans to get a tattoo with your doctor, too.
I have two tattoos — one before my PsO diagnosis and one after my formal diagnosis while on an immunosuppressant treatment for PsO. The second one hurt significantly more than the first one, and it did get infected. I would like more tattoos, but I don’t think I can handle it again.
Kimber, 51 years old, diagnosed with PsO in 2015
The Koebner phenomenon is when skin lesions appear in places where you don’t usually experience them. Any skin trauma, such as a cut, sunburn, or bug bite, can trigger this. People with PsO are 25% more likely to experience this phenomenon.
Since tattoos cause small traumas through recurring needle punctures, this may happen with the tattoo process. It typically occurs 10–20 days after the injury or tattoo — but it can take as little as 3 days or as long as 2 years to appear.
This is something worth considering prior to getting a tattoo.
I got a tattoo 24 years after my official diagnosis. I did not have any problems with my tattoos. I have a very specific care routine that works for me. My tattoo artist is very clean and used appropriate sterile technique. I am already designing my next tattoo and really looking forward to it!
Melissa Withem-Voss, 49 years old, diagnosed with PsO in 1996
Some tattoo dyes and inks can cause an allergic reaction. Although this is not specific to people living with PsO, this is something to be aware of before making the decision to get a tattoo.
Certain areas are more prone to scarring than others. This includes the:
Since tattoos are permanent, the ink is left in the middle layer of your skin. A reputable tattoo artist will know how deep to go, but poor technique involving tattooing into deeper dermal layers can cause scarring.
Instead of a smooth finish, these areas may appear sunken or raised. The colors may also be distorted from this scarring.
More commonly, scarring is caused by poor aftercare. Be sure to follow the instructions provided by your tattoo artist for care to prevent this complication.
I’ve had tattoos after my diagnosis and I did not have any problems with scarring or flares.
Alice Lee, 43 years old, diagnosed with PsO in 1990
In the days and weeks after getting a tattoo:
Tips for caring for a tattoo long-term include:
I followed the instructions my tattoo artist gave me at the time. Now I just use a little moisturizer every day to keep the skin healthy. My tattoos didn’t cause any flares or new skin problems.
Debbie, 59 years old
You may be completely prepared to get your new tattoo, but your tattoo artist can refuse to perform the service.
Some parts of the United States have laws restricting tattoo artists from working on people with skin conditions, like PsO.
For example, tattoo artists in Oregon, Wisconsin, and Louisiana aren’t allowed to work on any area of the skin where there are skin lesions. Louisiana even has a clause that specifically mentions PsO. South Carolina has a specific clause prohibiting tattooing on the skin with any irregularity, such as a rash, sunburn, lesion, or pimple.
If you have PsO, be sure to discuss your plans for tattoos with your doctor first. They may have instructions or advice that is specific to your condition.
Even when making the best choice for the location of your new tattoo, there’s no guarantee that a new PsO lesion won’t appear there.
PsO and some treatments can raise your chances of infection.
Even though temporary tattoos, like henna, are less invasive than traditional tattoos, there is still a risk of skin trauma and infection.
For more personal accounts, the National Psoriasis Foundation has a page that shares stories of women with PsO who have tattoos. It includes details on how tattoos affected their condition and the decisions they made along the way.
Getting a tattoo is a big decision — and even more so if you have PsO. Knowing the risks can help you make the best decision for you.
Medically reviewed on October 19, 2023
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