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Tattoos and Psoriasis: Are They Safe?

Posted on February 18, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D.
Article written by
Bethany J. Sanstrum, Ph.D.

For many people with psoriasis, deciding whether to get a tattoo can be difficult and confusing. Members of MyPsoriasisTeam wonder if getting a tattoo is safe and if it can exacerbate their psoriasis. One member asked, “What is your experience with getting a tattoo? Has your psoriasis stopped you from doing so?”

Can Tattoos Cause Psoriasis?

Psoriasis can be caused or triggered by a skin injury or skin lesions. Skin trauma such as sunburns or cuts can also be a culprit. A new tattoo may even lead to a first-time psoriasis reaction in people who may be at risk for developing the condition, even if it is not their first tattoo. This is because psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that may not present itself until a new skin issue occurs.

The process of an injury leading to skin lesion development is known as the Koebner phenomenon (also called an isomorphic response). This condition was first described in people with newly diagnosed psoriasis. An inflammatory skin disease can begin after an event that causes traumatic injury to the dermis or skin cells. For example, it can be triggered by a tattoo needle or the immune system’s response to the tattoo ink.

Can Tattoos Make Psoriasis Worse?

Any injury or damage to the skin can result in progression or worsening of psoriasis symptoms. In one case study, the participant experienced a progression from scalp psoriasis to generalized psoriatic lesions after getting a tattoo. This resulted in increased scaly patches over both tattooed and nontattooed skin regions.

Some MyPsoriasisTeam members have had similar experiences of tattoos worsening their symptoms: “I had a tattoo to celebrate surviving my bone marrow transplant (not my first tattoo), but it has caused me to have a severe psoriasis flare-up all over my body.”

Another member wrote, “I shared something a few weeks ago stating my fear of my tattoo being attacked by psoriasis — well, it happened. I’m having such a hard time keeping it controlled.”

Other MyPsoriasisTeam members have gotten tattoos with no issues. “I have two tattoos and luckily have not had any problems,” a member commented.

“I got one over a year ago, and I thankfully haven’t experienced psoriasis in the area of my tattoo,” another tattooed member wrote.

When Is the Best Time To Get a Tattoo?

People with psoriasis should not go to a tattoo parlor when they are experiencing psoriasis symptoms, even if the flare-ups are not where they want to place their body art. The immune system is already reacting to psoriasis flares, and a new tattoo may worsen the problem.

Some states have laws that will prohibit tattoo artists from taking a client with active skin lesions, skin infections, or allergic reactions on the skin. “I went for a tattoo recently and had to leave because I had a few spots of psoriasis on my arm,” a MyPsoriasisTeam member reported.

Getting a Tattoo Safely

People with psoriasis who choose to get a tattoo should consider tattooing a region of their body that is not typically affected by psoriasis. This option can be difficult for many people who have psoriasis, as plaque psoriasis can occur anywhere on the body. The tattooing process may lead to a future flare-up in the location of the new tattoo.

Choose a tattoo parlor that is clean and sanitized frequently. All equipment and surfaces must be sterilized. This step helps to prevent skin infections such as hepatitis B that can worsen psoriasis plaques. Make sure you talk with the tattoo artist about their processes. For example, verify that they are following all appropriate procedures including wearing gloves and using fresh needles.

People with psoriasis should also seek proper counseling from a medical provider before getting a tattoo.

Tattoo Skin Care for People With Psoriasis

All tattoo parlors should provide detailed instructions for caring for a fresh tattoo. Follow all aftercare instructions carefully. These skin care precautions usually include bandage changes and topical ointments. If psoriasis symptoms worsen or an infection occurs, seek medical advice from your dermatologist.

Connect With Others

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis. More than 88,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis.

Have you ever had a flare-up after getting a tattoo? Or were you able to get a tattoo without noticing any symptoms? Do you have tips that could help other people living with psoriasis who are considering getting a tattoo? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D. is a dermatologist at the Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Bethany J. Sanstrum, Ph.D. holds a doctorate in cell and molecular biology with a specialization in neuroscience from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Learn more about her here.

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