Tattoos & HS
Last updated: April 2023
Historically, tattoos have been around for thousands of years. They tell a story and can tell you everything about a person. I have always admired the intricate ink designs. I come from a family and culture that celebrates tattoos. My siblings and I catch up by sharing new ink and my father has many that cover his whole body. As a teenager, I knew I would eventually get one (or more). How, or if, hidradenitis supparativa (HS) would affect my tattoos never crossed my mind. In hindsight, this could have gone badly. However, tattoos have been a big part of my healing process.
HS has prepared me to properly care for my tattoos
As of writing this article, I have 10 tattoos of all sizes on my arms, wrists, fingers, and on my ankle. These are areas I am HS free (so far) and my tattoos healed perfectly. It’s also worth noting I have very sensitive skin, often having rashes or hives. Yet, I do not have problems with my tattoos. I am careful to follow the aftercare procedures the artist gives and keep them clean like any wound. If anything, HS has prepared me to keep the area healthy, hydrated, and sterile.
I have never had an abscess, lump, or other HS symptoms near my tattoos. Over the years, I have been on many antibiotics, creams/ointments, biologics, and other medications. None of these medications have affected my tattoos or the healing process.
Society may be more open to tattoos than in the past but they are still stigmatized. Though, I often feel stigmatized because I have a chronic illness. Regardless, I feel society will judge us no matter what so I choose to do what is best for my health and happiness. And although tattoos have a bad reputation, I have found tattoos to be healing for my self image.
Tattoo pain is nothing compared to HS pain
I often feel betrayed by my body due to the flares, side effects, and scars of HS. I embrace tattoos because putting art on my skin helps me accept my body and celebrate the areas I am self-conscious of. For example, my arms are an area I am self-conscious about. With my tattoos, I now happily wear short sleeve shirts to show off the art inked on my skin. These tattoos are full of memories and meaning.
It has always been my humble opinion that the pain of a tattoo is nothing compared to my HS. The pain of HS is indescribable, and the scarring has made my self-esteem deteriorate over time. I did not choose the HS scars. However, I can choose what beautiful art and inspiring words I put on my body.
Additionally, tattoo artists are usually not judgmental. They have never shied away from me due to my scars and are amazing people with extraordinary talent. Tattoo artists are the most body positive people I have met. They have taught me a lot about accepting yourself and building confidence.
Reclaiming my body
Tattoos are a way to reclaim my body from chronic illness. I sometimes feel my bodily autonomy has been taken from me by this illness with the many doctors’ appointments and treatments. So, tattoos are a big part of my healing process. I feel better getting a tattoo than I do getting a medical exam by a doctor.
My self-confidence is never 100%, but I feel better about myself than I have in years. I am less self-conscious and look forward to every new tattoo I get. Not once have I regretted my tattoos, and I never will.
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