People with skin conditions may wonder if their lives could coexist with a tattoo. Skin conditions such as eczema require specific products such as lotions and creams in order to manage flare-ups and rashes. People may also wonder whether their condition may worsen the healing of a new tattoo or completely distort it. We dive into all your questions about getting tattoos when you suffer from eczema.
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Related: Psoriasis and Tattoos
Is It Safe To Use Eczema Cream On a Tattoo?
Most eczema cream that is recommended to patients who suffer from this skin condition are over-the-counter products that have no medical ingredients. They are products that are free from harsh chemicals and fragrances, which means they are specifically formulated for sensitive and healing skin in mind, helping soothe the irritated skin. That makes them ideal for a new, healing tattoo.
But some eczema creams may pose some hazards to a healing tattoo.
Many eczema creams are formulated with petroleum, and quite a few have a thick consistency that is meant to sit upon and hydrate the flared up epidermis. This can be dangerous for a new tattoo because the open wound needs to breathe in order to heal properly.
Thick products, such as Vaseline, or those specifically formulated with very severe eczema in mind, may prevent this from occurring. Products that contain steroids cannot be used on open wounds. Any of these can result in thick scabbing, bubbling and blistering of your tattoo, or more severe healing concerns.
In order to ensure your tattoo is healing properly, no moisturizer should be applied to your new tattoo in the first 72 hours. This is when your tattoo goes through a stage called weeping, where it pushes out any excess ink, blood, or plasma from your wound. You do not want to block this process. For more information, have a look at our article, When Should I Start Moisturizing My Tattoo?
When selecting a cream for your tattoo, you should keep in mind the following factors:
- A thin, easily absorbed consistency
- No scent, no added dyes, no harsh chemicals
- No medical components which may compromise the healing process (eg. UREA)
- Ensure they are in a tube format, not a “scopable jar” format, to prevent bacteria contamination
Have a look at our piece on the Best Tattoo Aftercare Products - Our Favorites Reviewed.
How To Care For a Tattoo When You Have Eczema
Care for a new tattoo when you suffer from eczema begins even before you sit in the artist’s chair for your session.
If you have eczema, it is important to disclose this to your artist, as they can take extra precaution and increase their care when tattooing your delicate skin. In addition, you should be preparing your skin for the weeks leading up to your session, which means ensuring it is well hydrated and avoiding scratching the area. You should also drink plenty of water prior to your session.
You should select an area that does not experience chronic flare-ups, as it could be very difficult or painful to tattoo an area that is experiencing atopic dermatitis. It is recommended that if your skin is flaring anywhere on your body, you should also wait to get tattooed as you could have an allergic reaction to the pigment, due to your immune sensitivity. Dermatologists consider flare-ups to be a complete organ issue, which means if it takes place on one part of your skin, your entire skin is experiencing the problem.
Dr. Zelig of the National Eczema Organization says you should not get a tattoo, if any of the following statements are also true:
- “If you are taking isotretinoin (Accutane), which may impair healing time;
- If you have a history of keloid formation, which could develop within the tattoo;
- If you have a history of skin lesions related to severe eczema, psoriasis, lichen planus, vitiligo and discoid lupus;
- If you have a bleeding disorder or if you’re receiving anticoagulation therapy;
- If you have not completed your hepatitis B immunization. ”
As a person with hyper-sensitive skin, you should be sure to be extra vigilant about aftercare.
Tattoo bandages should be removed within the first six hours of a new tattoo. Select a gentle, antibacterial cleanser to wash the area, and pat it dry with a clean towel, or paper towel. You should also apply an ointment to your new tattoo to prevent any potential flare-ups. We recommend our article How Do I Clean My New Tattoo? - An Ink Aftercare Guide.
Choose products that provide soothing relief to the area, but contain no harsh chemicals or medical ingredients. If you are used to oatmeal baths to relieve the pain of irritation, you cannot submerge your tattoo for at least three weeks; choose a moisturizing agent that has oatmeal ingredients, instead, such as Aveeno lotions.
You should monitor your new tattoo and be aware of a few factors.
Healing Will Take Longer
While some people suffering from eczema who have gotten tattoos have experienced no difference in healing than those who have no skin conditions, others noticed more issues especially regarding sensitivity, rashes, and redness and swelling around the tattooed area. These issues may extend your healing time.
In addition, some people with eczema noted that their dermis rejected the ink more than others, and they required frequent touch-ups.
You May Have Flare-ups
You may experience a flare-up of your skin condition due to a variety of factors:
- The skin trauma itself
- The ink used, or the pigments chosen (red and yellow have been shown to have more allergic reactions)
- A reaction to the bandage being used to wrap your tattoo
- A reaction to the aftercare products
- A contact allergy to metal (the needles, the ink used)
Be aware of your trigger and try to minimize the symptoms as a result of that trigger, whether that’s changing up your aftercare products, completing your piece in more sessions, or asking for a different bandage from your artist.
Choose Your Artist Carefully
You should discuss all skin conditions with your artist, and determine their skill level working with clients who have this issue. You should also ask about the ink being used and do your own research into the brand name. In addition, you should get your tattoo from a reputable, sterile, and trust-worthy location. Remember that cheap tattoos are not good, and good tattoos are not cheap.
It is not abnormal to ask your tattoo artist for a “patch test” of the ink, needle, and technique being used on your skin, in a hidden place that you can monitor for 48 hours.
Can Eczema Ruin a Tattoo?
Most people who have eczema and have tattoos report no issues. Even on old tattoos, eczema flare-ups will not alter or distort your design. This is because eczema is present on the epidermis, while ink is deposited and settled within the lower dermis.
You must still be conscious of scratching the skin over a tattoo, only because of the potential for scarring if it is severe. You should also be aware of the following:
- Eczema skin is more prone to complications such as allergies and infections.
- Flare-ups are almost always guaranteed, especially for a first tattoo that is paired with stress or adrenaline.
- You cannot use steroid creams on a healing tattoo; you must wait until a tattoo is fully healed to use prescription eczema creams again.
- The Eczema Foundation states, “Certain chronic dermatological diseases may gravitate to areas of the skin which have been subject to trauma, such as tattoos. Such diseases include psoriasis, lichen planus, cutaneous lupus, sarcoidosis, and vitiligo. ”
How Do I Get Rid of Eczema on My Tattoo?
The answer to this question varies on the age of your tattoo. For tattoos under three days old, you must simply wash and dry them as they go through their weeping stage; putting any product other than an ointment could disrupt this healing process.
For tattoos older than 72 hours, you can apply a cold compress to the area, moisturize it with a product that contains soothing ingredients, and pat or tap it to soothe any itch or irritation. In addition, a short shower with cool or lukewarm water may provide relief.
Remember that a tattoo cannot be submerged before three weeks, as this could disrupt your healing process or result in infections. After around three weeks or more of healing, you can return to taking colloidal oatmeal baths to help soothe your skin.
Remember that if your symptoms don’t seem to ease or if you’re ever overwhelmed on how to manage your new tattoo healing along with your eczema condition, you should speak to your dermatologist for professional advice.
Our Final Thoughts
Plenty of people with eczema have and can maintain beautiful tattoos. While your care process may be a bit more intense and your reactions to the trauma potentially more irritating, it is easily managed through soothing aftercare and closely monitoring your condition.
If you are ever in doubt about proceeding with a tattoo when you suffer from eczema, speak to a trusted tattoo professional or dermatologist who can provide you with helpful advice specific to your skin.