A Delicate Canvas: Tattoos & Your Skin
Your skin is a lot of things — it’s an organ, a barrier, a reflection of your lineage, a hint at your hygiene habits, and for about 30% of Americans, it’s a canvas. While at times socially controversial, the existence of tattoos on humans is believed to date back about 5,000 years. Since then, the function, art, and tools of tattooing have come a long way, but the central component remains the same: your skin as the canvas.
There’s a lot to consider when deciding whether to get a tattoo, but one thing that tends to be overlooked is how your skin will react to your new ink. Of course, the act of tattooing causes trauma to the skin, so the affected area will go through the natural healing process. You can expect tenderness and swelling, and maybe even a clear liquid secretion during the first few days. Itching, flaking, and scabs are also normal signs of a healing tattoo. But for some people, it doesn’t go according to expectations. Below are some potential skin reactions to look out for if you’re thinking about getting a tattoo.
- Infection: There are a lot of reasons a healing tattoo might become infected, including the use of tattoo tools that aren’t properly sterilized, ink diluted with a foreign liquid such as tap water, or poor after-care by the person receiving the tattoo. Regardless of the cause, an infected tattoo should be taken seriously and treated immediately by your dermatologist to avoid further complications. Talk to your doctor if you experience pain and redness that intensifies rather than subsides, pus or open sores in the tattoo, or flu-like symptoms such as fever or chills.
- Allergic reactions: Some people find out they are allergic to a certain ink or color of ink during the tattoo healing process. Occasionally, someone will develop a sun allergy in the tattooed area that occurs every time that skin is exposed to the sun. In both cases, the reaction usually appears as a rash of itchy, red bumps, but could also develop blisters. An initial allergic reaction to ink should subside over a couple of weeks, but if it intensifies and is accompanied by symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath, or tightness in your chest, seek medical attention immediately. If you have a sun allergy, prevent reactions by keeping your tattoo covered or applying sunscreen before exposing it to the sun.
- Skin disease: Even if you’ve never exhibited symptoms before, getting a tattoo can trigger flare-ups of certain skin diseases, especially if you’re genetically predisposed to psoriasis. The trauma of tattooing can bring previously latent conditions to the surface, including psoriasis, eczema, vitiligo, and sarcoidosis.
Getting a tattoo can be a big decision! Educate yourself on what to expect for normal tattoo healing and pay attention to how your skin reacts. If you have concerns about how your new ink is healing, call our caring Derick Dermatology professionals in Arlington Heights, Barrington, Bartlett, Buffalo Grove, Crystal Lake, Elgin, Libertyville, Lindenhurst, McHenry, Park Ridge, Naperville and Oak Brook!
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Derick Dermatology is a leading authority in medical, surgical and cosmetic dermatological services with 12 stunning Chicagoland dermatology locations. Our dedicated dermatologists offer exceptional dermatological services for both adult and pediatric patients. Please complete our online form or call our main number at (847) 381-8899 to schedule a consultation.