Big Thank You to my beautiful guests: Katie (@katiejonzen), Amy (@tsw_avt), Nina (@ninabeanuk), Noemie (@noemiekunkler), Nastassja (@nas_tass_ja), Sophie (@sophielongart) for their help and collaboration to make this article happen.
So, you want a tattoo, but you're worried it's not going to heal correctly and look awful due to your eczema or TSW? No worries, I've got you covered.
I chatted with Skin Warriors, who already got inked, and here is what they told me.
THE HIDDEN STORIES BEHIND THE TATTOOS
Or: Why Skin Warriors get the ink
The study carried by Marie Randle from Liverpool Hope University a few years ago has found that tattoos are not just fashion accessories but driven by a wide range of motivational factors that are significantly associated with self-esteem.
Knowing that skin conditions destroy self-confidence and hurt our self-worth makes sense, but I felt there must be another reason why Skin Warriors get the tattoo. To find it out, I decided to ask them directly, and their answers blew me away.
Katie has been suffering from eczema on/off since she was a baby. She got her first tattoo - a star on her wrist – when she was a teenager. Since then, she became the owner of few more tattoos. All of them have a deep meaning to her.
"We all have moments in our lives that impact us as people, and most of my tattoos represent the point of realization that brought me closer to who I am underneath it all. "– she says.
"Sometimes, there are things you can't put into words, but you can express them through art. Tattooing is like that for me,"- she adds.
Nina is a TSW Survivor. She wanted to get a tattoo for years, but she couldn't decide what to get. She was worried that whatever she would choose, she would dislike it a few years later. Eventually, she got her tattoo when her skin started recovering from TSW.
"I wanted to mark it with something meaningful. My first tattoo was two watercolour snowflakes. I have always loved the snow because my skin is happiest in the winter. Because of this, I married my (now) wife in the winter and our wedding was snowflake themed."
For Amy, a tattoo is an art and the ultimate message for self-expression. She also loves the way of how we all use and west them differently.
"The first tattoo I chose was on my foot. They were waves in easy blues, outlined in black with the words' restless with the ocean' written in cursive below. It's a lyric from one of my favorite songs (Wise by Hey Ocean). The song reminds me of home and from when I was 17-23 years young! Gorgeous memories!"
Noemie got her first two tattoos, ouroboros and the words "let life flow » in Croatian, as a reminder for herself.
"Each time I would look at them, I got back the experience, the wisdom and peace I am looking for."
The third tattoo, the Metatron's cube (see further in the post), is the expression of her belief in spirituality, sacred geometry to connect with people with the same beliefs and also as an aid to be more spiritual.
Nastassja is a happy owner of few tattoos too. Some got them because she loves tattoos in general, but, as she says, all her tattoos have an important meaning for her. The one on her leg says "body, mind, and soul."
"I learned a lot about the meaning of these three words the last few words. Also, through my skin condition."
The other tattoo – a symbol showing her skin to be part of her - she got on the last day she used topical steroids. It's a reminder that her skin makes her a whole person sensitive towards herself and her surroundings, which the plant mimosa symbolizes.
Then she got a baby monkey on her right ribs that meant her relationship with her partner.
Not all Eczema and TSW Warriors, though, get their tattoos to mark important dates, events, or as a reminder of certain feelings.
Sophie is an artist. A very talented artist who has lots of tattoos and a lot of eczema and TSW- as she says. For her, tattoos are a form of art (obviously). She gets inked because she loves it. The recent piece (which is unfinished) is peonies, flowers, and snakes along her chest and collarbone. She likes getting tattoos on her shoulders to take the focus away from them and because they make her feel confident.
SAFETY AND HEALTH FIRST
Or preparation is a key to success
Whether the tattoo is a form of art or a way to assert your personal style and values, one thing you need to remember, though, is that tattoo is still a medical procedure, and by opening the skin and placing the ink underneath, you make yourself vulnerable to scarring, infections, and allergies.
The reason why my guests can enjoy today their well-healed tattoos is that they strictly followed key rules.
- Location, location, location.
And by the location, I mean the place on your body where you decide to get a tattoo. Ideally, it would be best to opt for a place where you never or rarely get the flare. If you suffer from full body eczema or TSW, make sure to wait until your skin calms down and gets better.
Nina got all her tattoos after TSW when her skin was stronger and happier. She got her first ink on her upper thigh and then later extended it up onto her hip.
"I had it placed here so that I could cover it up most of the time unless I'm on holiday."
For Katie choosing the location had a deep meaning. She has a long history of depression and self-harm, and she decided to get the design she wrapped around where she used to hurt herself. She named it Armistice, meaning the end of violence toward yourself.
"It was 1.5 years before going through TSW, although I was probably demonstrating symptoms of topical steroids addiction before I even knew about TSW. At the time I got this tattoo, my skin was doing ok, just small patches of eczema."
Noemie has tattooed the words "Let life flow" in Croatian on her left wrist so that she can see them as often as possible. They remind her not to put energy in the wrong places and allow herself to relax when nothing goes the way she expected.
The Metatron's cube - she got on her right shoulder, and the place just popped into her head.
Amy also said that her skin was always perfectly healthy at the times of all her tattoos. She plans to make more tattoos, but she will wait "until her skin gets strong and happy (hopefully, soon!)."- she adds.
- Get to know your tattoo artist
Check who it is. Visit your tattoo professional a few times to talk and address your burning questions and pay attention to how you feel about this person. Check if he/she has all necessary licenses and certificates like IBMS (The International Board of Medicine and Surgery) that pledge the tattoo artist to abide by a Code of Ethics.
Don't rush things. Ink is for life, so it's worth waiting and gets it done correctly.
Katie waited seven months to get her Mehndi design inked on her forearm by incredible, experience, and trusted artist Steve McKenzie. Now she is the owner of a truly unique piece of art that she can admire every day.
Nastasja talked to her tattoo artist before and told him about her TSW.
"My tattoo artist asked a lot about my condition and about how my skin reacted to my prior tattoos. He was always making sure he would not tattoo me on areas that were affected. He was very clear that he would only do it if I thought my skin would be ok with it. The one on my arm was tricky for him because my skin was responding differently to the needle. He still did a great job!
I know others don't even touch your skin when you are going through any condition. He is a friend of mine, and I am pretty sure this was a trust thing on both sides."
Nina went with an artist who had tattooed a member of her family and whose work she adored. She informed her tattoo artists about her condition beforehand and was pleased by the reaction as she was very understanding and eager to learn more.
- Get familiar with potential risks and how to avoid them.
If you have a chronic inflammatory skin disease or go through TSW, your skin is more vulnerable and susceptible to an allergic reaction to ink and band-aids, skin infections, and scarring. Your skin also may need more time to heal.
For that very reason, Noemie decided to get tattooed with vegan ink.
"I was a bit afraid of how my skin would react and thought vegan ink would be good enough. I got no side effects whatsoever, so that reassured me for the next two tattoos. I couldn't control the ink quality in Thailand but looked for a well-known tattoo artist to minimize the risk. Luckily I never had any skin or allergy reaction."
Katie has also requested vegan ink.
"It's a personal choice, but I'm not sure if that makes a difference in terms of atopic dermatitis. I did also let my artist know that I had a history of eczema, and he just ensured that the placement wasn't in/near an affected patch."
Sophie, to be on the safe side, explained her eczema / TSW to her tattooist.
"He was sensitive to my condition and also suggested aftercare to help both the tattoo and my skin heal faster."
Nastassja went one step further, and before she gor the tattoos, she made sure to keep the skin calm and happy as much as possible. She was extra careful with foods she is sensitive to and gets a lot of rest and sleep.
Remember: If you are worried about how your sensitive skin reacts to the ink, talk to your dermatologist and tattoo artist in advance and let them know about your fears. This will allow you all to take appropriate precautions to keep you safe and make sure everything goes well.
You can also ask the tattoo artist to make a patch test a few days before you plan to get the tattoo. It will pay off, and you will be much more relaxed on the big day. Also:
- Do your research and choose a professional tattoo parlour. Make sure your artist has the correct licensing for your state.
- Ask to see the equipment before you get your tattoo, and make sure everything is in sterile packaging.
- Contact your tattoo artist if you notice something suspicious about your tattoo after you get inked. But if the problem lasts more than a week, make an appointment with a dermatologist.
- Talk to your dermatologist before getting a tattoo if you have a skin condition like eczema, psoriasis, or TSW.
- Choose an area of skin that's free of moles. Covering them up with ink will make it harder to diagnose any changes or problems that may come up later.
- Always wash your hands with soap and water before touching your new tattoo or the bandage the artist will use to cover it. Leave that bandage in place for 24 hours.
- Please avoid scratching or picking at your tattoo while it heals since this can introduce bacteria into the skin.
Or can my tattoo exist with eczema/TSW
This Q, is the second most asked tattoo-related question by Skin Warriors.
And who can better answer it than Eczema and TSW Warrior, who have already lived the experience? Here is what my guests told me:
Noemie: "During early TSW, I started freaking out as big red patches were on my shoulder, and I thought the tattoo would fade or vanish. I know now that there are heavy metals in the inks (even tho they say they are free of) that make them permanent and stand out of the skin. The metals also prevent our cells from digesting the pigments. So even if the skin is thinner, damaged, inflamed, the pigments do not move. Only the upper skin layer shedded, and even tho the tattoos appeared dried and faded because I was not moisturizing for months, they are now as before TSW."
Katie:" TSW did affect my tattoos in that they don't look as vibrant because my skin is so flakey and dry. But overall, they haven't been too severely affected. Moisturising does help, however with a fresh tattoo, I recommend to rinse with cool water and mild soap, pat it dry, and leave it to heal on its own without moisturizer, avoiding the sun, swimming, sea for at least a couple of weeks.".
All my guests agreed that to enjoy your tattoo for the rest of your life, aftercare is essential.
So be sure to follow the tips suggested by Healthline:
Don't cover up your tattoo again after you take bandages off. Your tattoo artist will bandage your tattoo with surgical wrap, but don't cover it up again after you take this bandage off. This can slow down or interfere with the healing process.
Wash your hands with antibacterial soap and water before you touch your tattoo. This can help prevent bacteria from getting on the area while it's healing.
Cover your tattoo with clothing or sunscreen. Sun and UV rays are harmful to your tattoo healing process. Wear long sleeves, long pants, or other clothing made of breathable fabric; the FGC™ loungewear is the perfect solution (shameless promotion), and wear natural mineral-based tattoo sunscreen if your tattoo is going to be exposed to the sun.
Splash warm, sterile water on the tattoo and lightly wash it with gentle, natural soap without any fragrance or alcohol at least twice a day to keep it clean.
Don't pick your scabs. Scratching or messing with scabs can make it take longer for your tattoo to heal, result in pain or scarring, or even cause it to heal in a way that makes the tattoo look different than expected.
Don't immerse your tattoo in water for at least two weeks. Don't swim or take a bath, and try to avoid getting water on your tattoo in the shower.
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