Got eczema and wonder if you can get tattooed? Read our guide for everything you need to know about eczema, tattoos and how to deal with flare ups on inked skin.
Whatever tale you tell through your tattoos, it goes without saying that choosing the artist, style and placement are at the forefront of any body art decisions. But what about when your skin condition is an uncontrollable factor when getting inked?
Those who experience eczema know how unpredictable it can be. And so, how can you plan getting a new tattoo, along with potential flare ups and aftercare, when you have eczema?
We’ve delved into dermatology research, as well as spoken to an artist who both lives with and has tattooed clients with eczema, to give you the ultimate lowdown.
Can people with eczema get tattoos?
The short answer is - yes! The longer answer, according to skincare experts, is that it’s important to avoid getting tattoos during flare ups. Not only because your skin will be sore and inflamed, but your immune system won’t be working to its full potential during the healing process.
Tattoo artist Sam, based in Manchester @mas_tattoos_, has experienced both sides of this, living with eczema, as well as tattooing a number of people with the common skin condition.
"For years I’ve had eczema, it runs in the family. It’s occasionally between my fingers, around my neck and on my arms in winter, which can be overwhelming at times especially as a tattooed person. The urge to scratch has been replaced with regularly moisturising and tapping," Sam shares.
Image: Tattoo artist Sam of @mas_tattoos_
"It’s totally possible to get tattooed if you have eczema, however it mainly depends upon the severity of your condition. It’s advised that you consult your dermatologist to have a potential allergy test in relation to tattoo inks. There’s a variety of tattoo pigments out there with different ingredients. I use Dynamic Black Ink which is considered vegan and cruelty free."
Will getting a tattoo make my eczema worse?
If you find your skin is sensitive to particular bathing products, fragrances and creams, you might need to be wary about tattoo inks too.
After all, they can also contain allergens and irritants. It’s worth looking into hypoallergenic inks or even trying a skin test beforehand, as sometimes it can be certain inks or colours that cause a reaction.
“From personal experience, no. However I can’t speak on behalf of everyone,” explains Sam. “Obviously during the healing process the tattoo will be irritable just as it would if you didn’t have eczema.
Image: Tattoo by Sam of @mas_tattoos_
"But this is definitely a question for your dermatologist. The ink I personally use hasn’t caused any issues in the tattooing or healing process however I’d still suggest getting yourself an allergy test to preempt potential long-term effects.
“Flare ups are mostly uncontrollable, they can be determined by a change of skin care product, stress or external environments such as the weather. Better to wait till your skin settles down again to ensure the tattoo heals nicely.”
Can eczema affect tattoos?
When you get a tattoo, the design is created deep below the epidermis, the top layer of skin which is continually shedding and replacing itself. Eczema affects the epidermis. So theoretically, feeling the urge to itch shouldn’t affect your ink.
However if you’re planning a new tattoo, you should treat it with care regardless and consider aftercare developed for sensitive skin, to curb that impulse and give your skin the best chance of healing.
Can eczema ruin a tattoo?
If you already have a tattoo and start to experience eczema on the area, it’s best to treat it just like you would naked skin. With the right care and products, you should be able to make it through the flare up and reveal your tattoo beneath afterwards.
Some might even incorporate their eczema into tattoo designs, since it can be empowering to accept your skin as your identity. So you might even see inspiration for designs which use the speckled, reddish tones as part of the colour and shading.
How to treat eczema on a tattoo
If you experience eczema, you might be wondering if you can put eczema cream on your tattoo (or tattoos!). On the whole, your usual eczema treatment should be fine on an existing tattoo.
Certain products may prolong healing on new tattoos though, such as Vaseline, E45, Neosporin and CeraVe, as they contain skin barriers bacitracin, neomycin, and polymyxin, trapping moisture and preventing air exposure. On the other hand, common eczema creams such as Cetaphil are fine to use on a new tattoo.
Remember that newly tattooed skin is not a good time to experiment with new products, and it’s important to only use products you’re familiar with or you’ve skin tested beforehand.
Can tattoos cause eczema
Tattoos can’t directly cause eczema, but there is always a chance of a reaction to the ink if you have super sensitive skin. If you have eczema, it might be a good idea to reconsider your body art to a place in your body that doesn’t usually have flare ups.
Or, as skin conditions can be seasonal, perhaps you could also time your tattoo time with a time of year that doesn’t coincide with sorer skin months?
Can you tattoo over eczema scars?
"For the most part, tattooing scared tissue is totally possible and shouldn’t hold you back from having tattoos!", shares Sam.
"That being said, this depends on so many variables such as:
- The sensitivity of the skin, is the scar tissue numb to the touch or overly sensitive?
- The dexterity of the skin, is it raised? Firm to the touch? Does appear thin or too delicate to tattoo?
- The age of the scars, scared skin should ideally be fully healed for at least 1-2 years before getting it tattooed.
- The kind of tattoo design you’re after. For example, a thickly lined American Traditional style tattoo might be too traumatic to the skin. A more delicate fine-line kind of tattoo may be less intrusive."
"I have personally tattooed many clients with all kinds of scars, self-inflicted scars, cigarette burns, surgical scars… it’s a beautiful thing to do for someone that I don’t take for granted."