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Can You Get a Tattoo If You Have Psoriasis?

Kawika Chann has been a writer for TatRing for more than 6 years and has dealt with psoriasis since age 33.

For many psoriasis sufferers—you know who you are out there—some tasks or errands that seem to be commonplace for others are events that cause some discomfort and, at times, embarrassment.

Things like getting a haircut or even showing up at the doctor's office for an appointment are gut-wrenching and anxiety-inducing events. You already have to put up with the stares from children that are so innocent and in wonder, but the adults that look at you with a measuring mind to see if you're in worse shape than they are: "Wow, I thought my psoriasis was bad . . . ".

Psoriasis in a Tattoo Shop: Can You Get a Tattoo?

Fast forward to a tattoo shop where there may not always be the friendliest or most sensitive people. The short answer to the question of whether you can get a tattoo if you have psoriasis is: It depends on the tattoo artist (and your doctor). However, it's not the tattoo artists themselves that may turn you away because of your skin affliction; it will probably be other patrons that don't know or understand anything about your skin condition.

The following topics will help you understand more about the world of psoriasis and tattoos, along with the artists that you will have to interact with.

  • What Causes Psoriasis
  • What Can Trigger a Psoriasis Outbreak
  • Dealing With Psoriasis
  • Why Tattoo Artists Might Refuse Psoriasis Sufferers
  • How Doctors Feel About Psoriasis and Tattoos
Psoriasis is not contagious.

Psoriasis is not contagious.

What Causes Psoriasis

Psoriasis is funny; it can suddenly appear, and as soon as it starts, it can disappear. This can occur and re-occur over and over throughout your lifetime.

Psoriasis is an auto-immune condition where the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy skin cells. It destroys skin cells while, at the same time, other skin cells try to rejuvenate; this happens quickly and repeats over and over until layers upon layers of dead skin start to push up to the surface. You could easily peel a dried skin layer right off without any effort, and the next day, peel off another.

Psoriasis is not contagious and cannot be passed from one person to another. Psoriasis is very common and is more common than you might think. It can develop as early as 15 years of age, and as late as 35—I developed my condition after shaving my head bald at age 33. My scalp was traumatized after using the razor over and over on a difficult to reach area of my skull. Within a few weeks, in that exact area, sprouted up the first signs of a psoriasis condition.

What Can Trigger a Psoriasis Outbreak

Triggers to PsoriasisPsoriasis OutbreakRemedy

Stress

By far the most blamed cause of psoriasis outbreaks

Yoga, meditation, relaxation, deep breathing techniques

Injury

Any minor wound, insect bite, razor scrape, etc.

Keep your wounds clean and covered to heal fast.

Medications

Beta blockers, malaria meds, etc.

Always ask your doctor about your present conditions and medications before prescribing new ones.

Dryness

Dry and cracky skin is a perfect breeding ground for an outbreak.

Drink a lot of liquids (we are never properly hydrated), and use a quality moisturizer.

Sun Exposure

Too much sun can actually cause an outbreak, and sunburns don't help.

The trick is to find the balance: 15 minutes of sunlight a day is good for RDA of vitamin D, work your exposure from there.

Illness

Viral, upper respiratory infections and strep throat can affect your immune system and cause an outbreak.

Wash your hands often, exercise, and keep your immune system strong.

Do You Have Psoriasis?

Psoriasis can strike during ages 15–35 years old.

Psoriasis can strike during ages 15–35 years old.

Dealing With Psoriasis

There are different types of psoriasis, and they even look a little different from each other. The most common denominator is that they all 'skin'—in other words, usually there is a lot of skin being pushed up to the surface. The other is that psoriasis patches are often red or white/silver.

Although psoriasis can disappear and reappear many times throughout a lifetime, there are always things that you can do to better control your condition. The first step is talking to your doctor and working with them towards a med-free outcome. This is not always possible, but it is the ultimate goal—medications that contain steroids are not in your body's best interest.

Combining Medication and Natural Approaches

Try alternating your meds with more natural approaches. Once you have lived with your condition, you will have a better understanding of your body, and you will know how your body reacts to certain meds and certain natural remedies. Include exercise and any form of meditation or relaxation to help you build up defenses against stress.

Talk to Your Doctor About New Developments

One last note: There are always developments and treatments for psoriasis. If you're like me, I got my meds that last for almost two years. During this time, I won't see my dermatologist because of cost, but I will when I need a new 'script'. When I do see them again, there may be new developments and treatments that they may want to try.

Be your own advocate for health and work with your doctor to find the best treatment for you. Always ask questions that you have formulated before your appointment, and always ask what kind of natural remedies have worked for some of the doctor's other patients.

Tattoo artists have pride in the work that they do, but psoriasis sufferers might be out of luck with some artists.

Tattoo artists have pride in the work that they do, but psoriasis sufferers might be out of luck with some artists.

Why a Tattoo Artist Might Refuse a Psoriasis Sufferer

Yes, you may be turned away from a tattoo artist because of your skin condition—but psoriasis breakouts aren't the only thing that artists are looking out for. Some shops refuse to do tattoos in any area of skin that might not be healthy, whether it's an open skin wound or an infected area of 'XYZ' skin disorder.

The other reason for refusal may purely be professional pride and courtesy. If you know tattoo artists—at least those that are any good—they have reputations that they need to uphold. If they are not comfortable working a design that they are not familiar with, they will pass it on to an artist in the shop that is. Artists are very proud of showing their work, especially when it comes out well.

Psoriasis Can Affect the Appearance of a Tattoo

The problem with psoriasis is that, if it develops within the tattoo, it can cause the tattoo to fade, discolor, or even disappear from the skin of the individual. For an artist, this may be unacceptable. For some, they have to touch up the area; for others, the artist may feel that this is not possible. The option to fix tattoos that have contracted psoriasis is entirely up to the artist themselves. Those that won't take the risk of not being able to fix a tattoo will turn you away.

Tattoos and Your Skin

Doctors are split when it comes to tattoos and psoriasis patients.

Doctors are split when it comes to tattoos and psoriasis patients.

How Doctors Feel about Psoriasis and Tattoos

There seems to be a difference in how doctors look at tattoos and the people that want them. On the one hand, doctors understand that psoriasis can develop in an area of skin that has seen any kind of trauma. This means that if you skin your shin on a corner of furniture in your home, that particular wound could develop into psoriasis.

Does Psoriasis Develop in Tattooed Areas?

Since psoriasis develops with trauma to the skin, the initial and continuous needle prick would definitely qualify as trauma to an area where the tattoo is being done. With this said, wherever a tattoo is on your body, psoriasis can develop. Sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn't—there are no published studies in this area.

On the other hand, sometimes no new areas of psoriasis breakout occur regardless of the tattoo placement. There are doctors that leave the decision of getting a tattoo entirely up to the patient themselves, as long as the patient understands that there is a chance of psoriasis developing in the tattooed area.

My Opinion

In my personal opinion, there are doctors that are against tattoos and doctors that are lenient to the individual's decision.

  • The doctors that are against tattoos are primarily concerned with the possibility of further breakouts of psoriasis.
  • The doctors that are more 'pro-tattoo' are not necessarily denying that tattoos could cause a psoriasis breakout, but they believe that tattoos are very important for some people.
  • Still other doctors believe that if people want a tattoo, they will get it whether or not the doctor gives the okay.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Tell Me About Your Experience . . .

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on June 06, 2014:

Thanks for your comment G-sleeves - yes, I found it interesting as well when researching, especially the point of view from the artists themselves. As a rule, most of the artists that have been around know what psoriasis is and the effects that may or may not happen to their work. Some will, some won't it's really up to the artists. The one thing that I would do is tell the artist that you have psoriasis, he/she will let you know where they stand with it. The good artists will already have experience with psoriasis, but like I said in the article, some will be okay with it, others will refuse. Peace. Kawi.

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on June 05, 2014:

Hi Kawi. This is an interesting and informative article, both in its general comments (particularly about the triggering causes and possible remedies of a psoriasis outbreak) and the more specific issue of tattoos and psoriasis.

Although I'm not personally a sufferer, I did have a girlfriend who is, so I am sure any article like this which spreads the word and shares advice, must be welcomed. Voted up.

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on May 24, 2013:

Hi Bobski - a good support group is always good to have. More than that, an artist that is familiar with your condition would be awesome! Thanks for your comment. Peace. Kawi.

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on May 24, 2013:

Thanks turtledog for your comment - there are a lot of tattoo artists out there that are already very familiar with psoriasis, and for some of them, it just another blank canvas that they can creat on. It doesn't phase them one bit... then, there are others that for artistic purposes will decline. Peace. Kawi.

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on May 24, 2013:

Aloha Joe, as always thanks for your comment - just got back into the Northwest - it's cold here... anyhoos, I think it's more of a struggle for the artist than it is for the psoriasis sufferer - I guess as long as both sides know the facts, it's all good. Mahalo bruddah. Peace. Kawi.

Bobby from U.K on May 23, 2013:

I never really thought about getting a tattoo to cover up/disguise psoriasis. I don't have it myself but my partner does so I have at least some understanding of how it can effect you on a day to day basis. It's interesting to see how different doctors and artists react to the individual's skin condition but I guess it's just like anything else really. If you are determined to do something then you'll just need to find the right team of people to support you in your decision.

TurtleDog on May 22, 2013:

Great post on a unique and interesting topic. Funny I went to the Philly tattoo convention a few months back and never gave this issue a thought. Next time I go I'll have to keep it in mind. Thanks for the post. Voted up and awesome

Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on May 22, 2013:

Howzit, Kawi!

Yeah, brah, this one was really interesting because of the dilemma the tattoo artist might face as to whether or not he's prolonging or even contributing to the malady while aesthetically providing an artistic presentation. Thanks for sharing, Kawi! Aloha!

Joe

Kawika Chann (author) from Northwest, Hawaii, Anykine place on May 22, 2013:

Hi Hezekiah, thanks for your comment. The women pictured has guttate psoriasis - this particular psoriasis appears in little drops here and there of red or scaled silver with skin. Very similar looking, but upon closer inspection, there are differences between the two. Good to hear from you Hezekiah. Peace. Kawi.

Hezekiah from Japan on May 21, 2013:

Interesting, very easily confused with eczema which can have a similar appearance.