Can You Get A Tattoo While On Blood Thinners?

Written by: Pete
Updated:

You may be taking blood thinners due to a prescription, for your personal heart health, or maybe because you have a specific pain you want to deal with at the moment. But is it safe to take blood thinners and then get a tattoo? Blood thinners and tattoos don’t mix, and we’ll tell you why.

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Health Risks Due to Blood Loss

Blood thinners such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen, or even alcohol could truly complicate the process of getting a tattoo. While some bleeding can be expected during a session, blood thinners could increase this amount due to blood thinning medication decreasing the blood’s ability to clot.

This risk is increased if you are in a lengthy session where your tattoo is taking up hours of your day. One strategy that artists use in order to assist the healing of a tattoo is to take ten minute breaks to divide up three to four hour blocks of work. This allows the wound to begin to clot and also allows it to rest to prepare for the next round.

When you are taking a blood thinner, the tattooed region cannot recover properly, and may, in fact, experience continued bleeding during the session. While the blood loss will never be so extensive that you lose consciousness and need medical intervention, it definitely presents an issue to the process of tattoo.

Lack of Tattoo Visibility

The other issue that comes from profusely bleeding during your session is that the blood could complicate the vision of your artist. The increased bleeding could either pool and disturb the work your artist is doing, could require excessive wiping which could rub away the stencil, or could make it difficult to see the ink that’s already been deposited in your dermis and may cause the artist to overwork the skin.

Poor Blood Clotting Capabilities

The healing of your tattoo begins the moment your artist does their final wipe of the region and wraps it. At this stage, your extremely vulnerable wound is beginning to bring white blood cells to the region that experienced the trauma and it begins its role as wound protector.

Unfortunately, with blood thinners, your white blood cells, called macrophage, cannot do this effectively. These are the cells that oversee the repair process and if they are thinned out, they cannot do the job. The easiest way to imagine them is as a bunch of soldiers rushing onto the field to fight, but the blood thinning medication causes them to scatter in a multitude of directions.

It’s for this reason that blood thinners should also be avoided for around 24 hours after you’ve gotten a tattoo.

Higher Risk of Infection

Those white blood cells, or macrophage, are not only responsible for protecting and repairing the wound but also for fighting off infection. If they are not “all present” to do their job due to blood thinners, your tattoo becomes more susceptible to infection. The longer it stays open, unclotted, and vulnerable, the greater chance of bacteria concerns down the line.

More Expensive Tattooing Sessions

While the majority of the reasons against blood thinners have been health related, because an increase in bleeding can complicate your session and make it more difficult for your artist, this, in turn, makes your session longer than intended. A longer session means a more expensive tattooing experience. Some artists may even decide that they can no longer work with your skin at the moment and will ask you to return and rebook for another session.

Getting Turned Away

Many responsible and professional shops will ask you if you’ve taken blood thinners in the last 24 hours. Unfortunately, if your answer is yes, the shop or the artist has the right to turn you away from service.

What Should You Do If You Want to Get a Tattoo But Take Thinners?

If you are taking blood thinners due to medical reasons and are legally prescribed the medication, your artist may ask for a note from your doctor confirming that this medication will not exacerbate the tattooing process and will not result in complications as the tattoo heals.

Unfortunately, it is ultimately up to your artist and what they feel most comfortable working with, so if they feel uncomfortable with working on your skin due to the medication you take, you may have to look elsewhere to get the piece you want.

Are OTC Drugs Considered Blood Thinners?

OTC drugs are common, non-prescription drugs used to fight body aches and headaches. Unfortunately, these over-the-counter medications are also blood thinners and should be avoided before and after your tattoo session. Here are some of the most common brands of OTC medications:

  • Midol
  • Aleve
  • Advil
  • Motrin
  • Alka-Seltzer

Our Final Thoughts

With the risks that blood thinners present to both the tattooing session as well as your healing process, it’s better to avoid them before and after you get inked. If you take prescription blood thinners for a medical reason, speak to your doctor about what complications you need to be aware of, and be sure to prepare a doctor’s note to present to your tattoo artist, giving you the go-ahead.

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