QUESTION: Can I get a tattoo if I am on certain medications or have certain medication conditions?
ANSWER: Depends on the medication! You should always let your tattoo artist know which medications you are taking if you think there is a potential concern or are unsure. Below I provided certain medications and conditions you should let your artist know about.
The main topics I advise to be cautious on are:
- Acne medications
- Blood thinners
- Chronic skin conditions
- Immunocompromised Patients
Overall, can usually have a tattoo and be fine, but when it comes down to it be sure to check your risk vs benefits. A tattoo will last forever so there is no rush in getting one right away. Try waiting until your medication course is finished and fully out of your system then consider getting your tattoo.
- Examples include: Accutane, tetracycline medications (minocycline, doxycycline, etc.)
- Acne medication makes your skin extra sensitive. Skin sensitivities while receiving a tattoo can lead the tattoo process to feel more pain during the tattoo than normal. Also because the skin is more sensitive and reactive, the tattoo may lead to permanent scarring.
- Not only do some antibiotics cause skin sensitivity but if you are on an antibiotic your body is trying to fight some form of bacterial infection! Receiving a tattoo adds more work to the immune system delaying the healing process for your body.
- Your tattooist makes thousands of tiny puncture wounds on your skin so that ink can be inserted. And those tiny openings on your skin make for perfect entry points for germs, bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens. With getting a tattoo and being on certain medications like antibiotics; this can delay the healing process and also lead to potential risk for more infections to enter.
- While on blood thinners you are more likely to bleed during your tattoo process. Bleeding is completely normal but while on blood thinners your artist will have to wipe away the area much more frequently due to more bleeding than normal. This can effect the outcome of the tattoo as well as increase your risk of infection
- Your tattoo may also bleed longer after the tattoo is finished compared to someone not on a blood thinner. Minor bleeding after a tattoo is completely normal but just be sure to monitor the area.
- Consider asking your artist how long someone may normally bleed after receiving a tattoo (time may vary depending on your tattoo size) and monitor your area to see if you are still bleeding.
- If you had an organ transplant and/or on anti-rejection drugs
- Tattoos and piercings require a break in the skin and a tattoo introduces a foreign material into your body. Because of this, both carry a risk of infection. You will want to try to avoid this because the anti-rejection medications you take after your transplant already make your immune system weaker and less able to fight off infections.
- For immunocompromised patients
- examples include: heart disease, diabetes, etc.
- In most cases depending on your health tattoos are perfectly fine to get. Doctors and artists want to make sure you are in good health because if patients who have a chronic condition may take longer to heal or are at an increased chance of getting an infection.
Chronic Skin Conditions
- Examples include: psoriasis, vitiligo, pigmented lesions, etc.
- Patients should be aware if they get a tattoo near a chronic skin condition it may potentially cause a flare in their skin condition or even cause Kobner phenomenon. Kobner phenomenon is when the skin will flare up and inflamed due to trauma. Certain tattoo shops may decline giving a tattoo if the patient has active psoriasis or eczema.
- Tattoo shops are not supposed to apply tattoos directly on moles/pigmented skin. This is due to the risk the mole may be cancerous and should be monitored.
- If the area is cancerous, and and if a tattoo is covering the area, it makes it hard for a doctor or patient to observe the area and notice any changes or growth. If possible, avoid tattooing directly on moles or any skin pigmentation.
Just because you are on these medications or have certain medical conditions does not mean it’s impossible to get a tattoo. It is just not recommended due to risk of scarring, infection, skin sensitivity, or imprecise outcome of the tattoo! Be sure to let your tattoo artist know because certain places won’t allow tattoos to be done unless approved by your doctor.
How long until I finish taking a medication do I need to wait until I can get a tattoo?
You can always call your local pharmacy and ask us for a specific medication for the elimination rate! Each medication varies and has a different duration of elimination.
Can I get a tattoo while pregnant?
The main concern with getting a tattoo during pregnancy is the risk of contracting an infection, such as hepatitis B or HIV. We don’t want that reaching the baby! Although the risk is small, it is recommended that you wait to get a tattoo until after your baby is born.
Little information is available about the safety of skin dyes used for tattooing during pregnancy. It is possible that the chemicals in the dye may affect the development of the baby during the first 12 weeks. However, the risks are unknown, as are any effects on the baby during the remainder of the pregnancy.
Sanitation and tattoo care – What you should look for!
- Making sure you go to a clean/sterile tattoo shop
- Washington State Department of Health should be inspecting tattoo shops every 2 years to ensuring the shops are staying up to code. Make sure to check and see if your local shop has been inspected prior to going
- Depending on your state the statutes and regulations for tattoo shops varies. You can check your state on the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) website: https://www.ncsl.org/research/health/tattooing-and-body-piercing.aspx
- Tattoo care
- Tattoo healing can take up to 3 weeks
- After receiving a tattoo your artist should go over how to care for your new tattoo. Some main points:
- Clean the tattoo with antimicrobial unscented soap at least twice a day to prevent infection for a week
- Apply a thin layer of protectant coating to help prevent scabbing for a week (Aquaphor or unscented lotion)
- Avoid tight clothing
- Avoid direct sunlight or tanning beds
Tattoo artists should be following these guidelines:
- Registered practitioner (if your state registers tattoo artists)
- Always wear gloves during the procedure
- They have an autoclave (sterilizing unit to sterilize equipment)
- The floors and surfaces are all clean
- All the needles used are new, disposable, and made for single use only
- The dressings are sterile, packed, and unopened
- The dyes or ink used for the tattoo are also sterile packed and unopened
Prepared by Seema Badrbigi PharmD Candidate 2021