Immune system-related skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema or hives, may increase the risk of complications or exacerbation of symptoms after getting a tattoo. Some potential concerns include the risk of triggering an immune response or inflammation in the tattooed area, the possibility of developing a new skin reaction or flare-up, and difficulties in monitoring the skin condition in the tattooed area. Additionally, certain medications used to manage immune system-related skin conditions may interact with the tattooing process or affect the healing process.
“Tattooing involves puncturing the epidermis about 100 times per second with needles and depositing ink 1.5 to 2 millimeters below the surface of the skin, deep into the dermis,” the FDA guidance states. “Contaminated tattoo ink can cause infections and serious injuries. Because these inks are injected, pathogens or other harmful substances in these inks can travel from the injection site through the blood and lymphatic systems to other parts of the body.”
Commonly reported symptoms of tattoo ink-associated infections include injection-site rashes and other lesions, including blisters and granulomas, some of which have resulted in permanent scarring. Tattoo-associated microbiological infections can also include impetigo, erysipelas, cellulitis, and systemic infections that can cause life-threatening complications such as endocarditis, septic shock, and multi-organ failure. Indications of an infection can be difficult to recognize, as other conditions (e.g., allergic reactions or other sources of inflammation) may initially have similar signs and symptoms, leading to misdiagnosis and ineffective treatments.
- Grant, C.A., P.C. Twigg, R. Baker, et al., “Tattoo ink Nanoparticles in Skin Tissue and Fibroblasts.” Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology, 6: 1183-1191 (2015).
- Laumann, A. Chapter 101. “Body Art.” Goldsmith, L.A., S.I. Katz, B.A. Gilchrest, et al. (Eds.), Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine, 8e. McGraw Hill (2012).
- Klugl, I., K.A. Hiller, M. Landthaler, et al., “Incidence of Health Problems Associated With Tattooed Skin: A Nation-Wide Survey in German-Speaking Countries.” Dermatology, 221: 43-50 (2010).
- Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. Baltimore, MD. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Online Electronic Medical Library. 2016.