Someone with HS getting a tattoo of a question mark.

HS & Ink: How To Safely Get Tattooed When You Have HS

As someone who came from a long line of individuals with tattoos (my dad, all of my siblings, many of my aunts and uncles, cousins, you name it!), I was counting the days until I turned 18 and could get my first tattoo! When I was diagnosed with Hidradenitis Suppurativa at age 13, it was actually one of the first things I worried about - would I ever be able to get tattooed? Would a tattoo cause an HS flare-up in that area? Would a tattoo artist even want to work on me with a chronic skin condition?

Getting a tattoo with HS is possible!

Well, as I now have over 30 tattoos, I can safely say that YES, you can absolutely get tattooed with HS! It was all about finding the right artist, knowing the safety concerns, and educating myself on proper pre-care and after-care for my skin. I have color tattoos and solid black tattoos and all of them have healed wonderfully. You don’t have to limit yourself from decorating your body however you see fit, you just have to do it in a safe manner. I wanted to share the tips and tricks I’ve learned both from my dermatologist and my tattoo artists so that you can go forth and tattoo away!

Make sure your artist knows about your condition - including any medications you are taking!

Medications can affect how something will heal, scar, and even how much you will bleed during a tattoo. It is vitally important that your artist is aware of this long before the needle ever touches your skin as it can change the method they use to tattoo you! They might need to use a different set of needles, or they might recommend a specific color palette that will stay in sensitive skin a little easier.

Get a small test patch done to ensure there are no reactions

Many of us with HS also have incredibly sensitive skin, and some colors like reds or purples are known to cause allergic reactions in people that are sensitive. Some artists will offer a patch test. This is where they put a small series of dots or lines of the colors you want to use in a place that either isn’t going to be seen/ you don’t mind or in an area they are going to tattoo over once they do the actual piece. You let these test spots heal and make sure they do not cause any sort of reaction on your skin. I learned this the hard way - I am allergic to a particular brand of ink’s red tones and I ended up with rashes and raised scarring in the tattoo! If you have sensitive skin, ask your artist if they will do a patch test for you. I now know what brands of ink are safe for me and what colors I have to avoid.

Check with your dermatologist

According to the Atlanta Center for Dermatology, “Your dermatologist can tell you if your skin condition or medication increases your risk for possible side effects.” Your doctors know your specific case the best and can help you decide where and when could be the safest time for you to get tattooed. As I am often anemic, it is important for me to get bloodwork done to make sure it's safe for me to get tattooed. Make sure you check in with your medical team beforehand!

DO NOT get tattooed during a flare

If you have any flaring or infection, do NOT get a tattoo. Infection anywhere in the body can increase the risk of infection of the tattoo. Tattoos are open wounds that need to be healed very carefully, so do not get a tattoo if you’re in an active flare. It is also important to avoid any areas where you get breakouts or have scarring when choosing where to place your tattoo.

Ensure your skin is well hydrated before your appointment

Make sure that the month before your tattoo, you’re hydrating properly by drinking a good amount of water and using lotion on the area you’re getting the tattoo. However, on the day of the tattoo, make sure you do NOT lotion the area or use any heavy fragrances, and do make sure you shower using an unscented, gentle soap the morning of your appointment.

With that in mind, go forth and get tattooed to your heart’s content! Your body is a temple, and you get to choose how it decorate it to your liking. Let me know in the comments if you have any tattoos and what your experience was like getting tattooed with HS!

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