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Can I Get A Tattoo If I Have Psoriasis?

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: July 2016.

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition, in which inflammation inside the body causes symptoms called plaques to develop on the skin. Plaques are areas of raised, red, scaly skin that can occur anywhere in the body.

People with psoriasis often wonder if it is safe for them to get a tattoo. Tattooing involves injecting ink into the skin using a needle. The process of tattooing involves causing trauma to the skin; for people without psoriasis or other skin conditions, the skin usually heals relatively quickly.

However, people with psoriasis will need to think carefully about getting a tattoo, because trauma to the skin is a common psoriasis trigger. A psoriasis trigger is something that causes a person’s psoriasis symptoms to flare-up and become worse1.

When trauma to the skin causes psoriasis symptoms, the condition is called the Koebner phenomenon. It happens in around one-quarter of people with psoriasis, and the new plaques can develop in areas of skin that were not tattooed or that have never had plaques before. People usually develop new plaques between 10-20 days after the skin injury, but they can take up to two years to develop2. The Koebner phenomenon can also cause a person to develop psoriasis for the first time4. It is more common among people who developed psoriasis at a young age, and can affect people with mild, moderate, or severe disease3. 

If you have psoriasis, or if other people in your family have psoriasis, and are considering getting a tattoo, then it is very important to talk with your healthcare provider about the potential risks and to learn about how getting a tattoo might affect your condition3.

What are some other risks to consider when getting a tattoo?

If you decide to get a tattoo, it is extremely important to check the credentials of the tattoo studio and the tattoo practitioner. The first thing you should do is ask about the tattoo studio’s procedures for hygiene, sterilization, and other safety practices. If you are tattooed with a needle that is not been cleaned properly, then you can develop very serious infections that can affect your immune system and make your psoriasis worse. Tattoo needles can also insert bacteria or viruses that are present on the surface layer of your skin, which can also cause infections. Serious infections that are possible include hepatitis B, hepatitis C, herpes, and HIV1.

Some people with psoriasis who get a tattoo find that the tattoo becomes discolored in areas where the skin is affected by symptoms3. Some states, such as Louisiana, have laws that prohibit giving tattoos to people who have psoriasis symptoms in the area where the tattoo will be.

Tattoos can also cause other types of skin reactions2. Some people develop large scars called keloids or have swelling, scaling, or sores that form on the tattooed skin. The safety of the ink used in tattoos have not all been tested for safety and may not have been designed for tattooing purposes.

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