Though tattoos are generally safe, there are some serious side effects to consider before getting inked. Eczema is a group of skin diseases that lead to itchy rashes 1. Since tattoos use needles and other foreign objects on and in the skin, they can lead to eczema flare-ups in people with the condition 1. Though eczema is not life-threatening, it is annoying, painful and can trigger other, more serious, allergic reactions 1.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is the medical name for a group of diseases that cause itchy rashes to appear on a person’s skin 1. Eczema is generally an inherited condition, and, often, people with asthma and hay fever are more susceptible to eczema 1. The exact cause of eczema is unknown, but “flare-ups” occur when the body’s immune system responds extremely to foreign triggers 1.
Can Tattoos Cause an Eczema Flare-Up?
Unfortunately, tattoos may be one of the foreign triggers that can cause a flare-up in eczema sufferers 1. Because tattoos involve injecting ink directly into the body, people with eczema can often get an itchy rash at the site of the tattoo 1. Though many people who get tattoos end up with a slight inflammation at the tattoo site, eczema sufferers can receive added itchiness and even pain 1. However, bad reactions to tattoos are rare, even in people with eczema and other skin conditions 1.
Other Tattoo Risks
Tattoos may cause other bodily problems besides simple eczema flare-ups 1. It is critically important that people get tattoos from reputable shops that use sterilized instruments. Dirty tools can pass a host of diseases, some deadly, into the bloodstream. HIV and Hepatitis B and C are three of the most serious illnesses that can be contracted via tattoos. Additionally, it is possible to get bacterial skin infections from tattoos. Though contracting these illnesses and infections is a rare possibility, they are serious and people should consider the possible consequences before getting inked.
Unfortunately, permanent tattoos are not the only type of tattoo that can lead to eczema 1. The American Academy of Dermatology released a warning that black henna tattoos can lead to eczema and other skin irritations 1. Specifically, black henna tattoos made with the chemical paraphenylenediamine (PPD) can cause serious allergic reactions and eczema 1. Many parents believe henna tattoos are completely safe for their children, but they must ensure that their kids use only PPD-free henna tattoos. Since eczema is caused on the outside of the skin, topical tattoos can have some of the same detrimental effects as permanent tattoos 1.
If someone with eczema wishes to get a tattoo, it is best to start with a patch test 1. A tattoo artist injects a tiny amount of ink into the area of the desired tattoo. After a few days, a doctor should check the area to determine if it is infected or inflamed. If it is clear, then the person is most likely not allergic to the tattoo ink. However, a clear patch test is not a guarantee that the patient will not have a reaction to the tattoo.
- Rich Legg/iStock/Getty Images