Tattoos and Keratosis pilaris

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Saturday May 10th, 2008 @ 10:52 PM

Filed under: Tattoos

Hi there!

I have a question that I’m struggling with for quite some time now and I thought maybe you guys will know something about it…. (Sorry if my English is a bit weak…)

I have a skin disorder called “Keratosis Pilaris”, well actually about 50% of the population have it but don’t know it.

Here’s a short Wikipedia explanation to it:

And another site dedicated to it, and there’s an image on the homepage that clarifies what this means better than words:

Anyways, I never got a good answer about tattooing my KP infested upper arms. The thing is, tattoo artists don’t know too much about dermatology and are afraid to make medical statements, obviously, and skin doctors (dermatologists) don’t know anything about tattoos, or just tell me “don’t tattoo yourself”.

So here’s my questions:

Can I tatto over it?

Will the tattoo quality be good as on healthy skin?

Is there anything special I need to do before tattooing my arms?


If you have answers for me I would be sooo grateful (-:

Have a nice day

The short answer is “yes”. An ex of mine has keratosis so I was able to see firsthand that it’s entirely possible. Depending on the severity of your KP, it could be easier/harder. Will it look like a tattoo on healthy skin? No. But it can still look quite good.

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20 Responses to “Tattoos and Keratosis pilaris”

  1. I have had this since high school and never knew what it was until now and had the same questions about tattooing and such. Thank you so much for finally putting my mind at ease! Good luck on the tattooing of it.

    Lyse on May 12th, 2008 at 12:40 pm
  2. Any medical condition involving excess keratin production would not prohibit one from getting a tattoo. Keratinocytes, the cells that produce keratin, are located at the bottom of the epidermis. Tattoo ink is placed in the dermis - beneath the epidermis, where the hyperactive keratinocytes are located. Since tattoo needles need to penetrate the epidermis to reach the dermis, potential problems with tattooing are due to areas of thicker skin with varying depths. Assuming all of the ink appropriately reaches the dermis, the excess keratin in the epidermis may distort how the tattoo appears.

    S on May 14th, 2008 at 4:44 pm
  3. would the same apply to psoriasis?

    Star on May 16th, 2008 at 2:41 am
  4. No - psoriasis is totally different disease. Although people with psoriasis can get tattooed (and many have no problems), there is a potential that the tattooing process will trigger or worsen the psoriasis.

    While the exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, it differs from keratosis pilaris in that there is a greater inflammatory component and the dermis may also be effected. Additionally, it is believed that psoriasis is the result of an immune reaction. When tattoo pigments are placed in the skin, an immune response ensues. This, in addition to the trauma from the needle punctures, causes inflammation.

    People who get patches of psoriasis when they cut themselves (known as the Koebner phenomenon) are more likely to have problems with a tattoo. However, if you are on an immunosuppressant, this response would be blunted.

    Getting a tattoo is an environmental factor that may be a potential trigger of psoriasis (among stress, alcohol consumption, and smoking). All of these factors, along with the genetic component, vary from person-to-person and from day-to-day. Ultimately, it’s a crap shoot and there is no way to predict what will happen. Even if you had no problems with one tattoo, there is still a chance that your next would cause problems.

    S on May 16th, 2008 at 4:37 am
  5. I have a similar question, I tried posting it, but wordpress isn’t working for me for some reason. Then, this was posted, and i thought i’d take advantage of commenting a follow up question.
    Any way here’s my question…
    I want to get my second tattoo on my foot. the problem is, i have extremely dry callused and flakey skin. the sides and bottoms are one big callus and the top is all flakey, my tattoo will cover the top and part of the sides. how will the condition of my feet effect the tattoo? also, i exfoliate with grainy creams and gels, and file my feet with one of those metal callus remover thingies (ped egg), how will this effect it? what should i do to prep myself before the tattoo, and what should i do during the healing?
    thanks for the help. (and sorry to gross people out!)

    ps, anyone else having problems logging in??? its not recognizing my password, and when i try to reset it, it gives me an error message

    Bev on May 22nd, 2008 at 6:18 pm
    A picture of a tattoo on skin with this condition.

    Sin on June 5th, 2008 at 9:31 am
  7. I’ve had psoriasis for nearly 10 years now and have a fair few tattoos, when I’m healing my tattoos I use dovobet on them, this is a topical cream which I use on my plaques. I always take precaution to not be tattooed on an area that has or has had psoriatic scales. As the person above pointed out, trauma to the skin can trigger psoriasis (to the point where whenever I cut my legs shaving I can end up with it on the wound).

    I am on immunosuppressants, which tends to slow down the healing time, but when I use my dovobet the tattoos heal fine without scaling.

    I only have one tattoo that has been disfigured by my psoriasis. I had a bad flare up after having it done and there is now psoriasis where the tattoo is, when I have times when I’m less ’scaly’, I notice that the colour has come out and I think this may be to do with the constant shedding, although I’m not sure

    Alexia on July 16th, 2008 at 2:45 pm
  8. thank you so much! i’ve been wanting to get a sleeve done for two years now, but have been worried about the condition.
    does anyone else have examples of tattoos with this condition? that would be great.

    Mel on December 21st, 2008 at 2:53 am
  9. my brother and I both have kp and tattoos and the tattoo will not make it worse and the kp will not affect the tattoo. The tattoo actually makes it harder to see the kp, and it looks and feels just fine. it’s no problem, get your tattoo without worry!

    maggy on April 12th, 2009 at 10:26 pm
  10. I have fairly severe (bumpy and red) KP on my whole left upper arm and started my sleeve from the wrist up. A month ago I was going in to get my upper arm done and asked the artist first about how KP affects tattooing. He promised to ask around but thought it should be ok.

    So he asked many of his highly experienced tattoo artist friends and also his relative who is a dermatologist. The answer was: extremely difficult to tattoo over bumpy skin, lines become irregular and fucked up easily, and the ink doesn’t stay as well as on normal skin. Many had tried tattooing over KP (it is a common skin type after all) with baaaad results.

    So I resorted to getting the design on the inside of my arm which is all smooth. A tiny portion of the tattoo went over some KP and boy did the blood GUSH out. The artist said he’d never seen anyone bleed so much from one tiny spot. And it was painful. I could not imagine getting tattooed over a large portion of KP.

    In my experience and what I’ve heard from many skilled artists I would not recommend tattooing over alot of KP skin. I hate leaving my upper arm and shoulder “bare” but I hope the KP will clear up some day so I can get tattooed there.

    Marylee on April 17th, 2009 at 12:44 pm
  11. It’s entirely possible to get a tattoo on skin that has Keratosis Pilaris, I have seen a guys tattoo gallery online that has a picture of a guy with KP and it also looks good.
    These guys working on this shop are great artists.

    In This gallery you can find the dry skin kp tattoo that looks just as good as any other tattoo without kp

    Bengan on July 26th, 2009 at 6:17 pm
  12. I have KP and asked an artist about how this condition would affect a potential half sleeve (upper arm). The artist basically refused to do the tattoo on my arm, saying the design would be too difficult for that area and the bumpy skin may distort the color and image. He suggested doing a backpiece instead. Now, my KP is almost not noticeable on my arms but does vary in severity… being worse with summer/winter weather and better in spring/fall. I plan on speaking to another tattoo artist about doing a simple black design as a half sleeve. I’ve seen it tattoos over KP done before, and I’m certain it is possible if you go to the right artist. Don’t let one person’s opinion dissuade you. My father and sister both have KP as well. My father has tattoos over the affected area.

    Staci on September 1st, 2009 at 12:53 pm
  13. I’m so glad there was a question about this! I have been avoiding getting the areas of my arms and legs tattooed because I was so worried that it would make everything look wonky… I’m still wanting to get it cleared up, but I’m just happy that I now know a little bit about this and saw a picture that helped me from worrying about any linework being sloppy looking.



    Shay on September 3rd, 2009 at 3:21 am
  14. I’ve had KP on my arms, and on my legs for my whole entire life. It was something that I had just gotten used to, and dealt with. In the summer the sun somewhat would dry it out, and it would look better. However, during the winter it just looks awful.

    I just received the Made from Earth “Pure Aloe Skin Treatment” in the mail 2 days ago, and using it first thing in the morning, and right before bed has already improved the condition, and made the bumps on my legs almost disappear. When i wanted to purchase this product I read reviews from people and how it worked for some. The point of the matter is, that this product does have the ability to work. My arms and legs, FEEL and LOOK smoother. Smooth skin is something I never thought I would be able to achieve in these places. Also, the bottle is a generous size I dont think I’ll be reordering for another two months. Well worth it.

    taylor on September 14th, 2009 at 10:57 pm
  15. Found this, tattoo looks pretty nice to me -

    Danny on October 7th, 2009 at 1:26 pm
  16. Hi guys! hope this could help.
    Last night,I did a Japanese piece on the upper arm of a client who has KP and my judgement is, yes It can be tattooed.. only harder. Due to the thickness of the skin and dryness, I have to moisturize well before applying the tattoo. It is harder than any other but it is still doable. so yeah! it is possible.

    PAT on March 7th, 2011 at 6:41 pm
  17. This really put my mind at ease. I am 17 at the moment but I plan of getting tattooed and I was worried that if I ever wanted something on my arms, that I wouldn’t be able to. I have “chicken skin” or Keratosis Pilaris Alba. It isn’t severe or red/inflammed but it still worried me.

    Sabrina on May 28th, 2011 at 11:00 pm
  18. HI. I myself am a Tattoo artist and I recently Tattooed my wife recently who does in fact have psoriasis. Usually outbreaks on the elbows and knees and small spotting everywhere else from time to time. I applied the tattoo successfully without any problems what so ever on flawless skin without discoloration or scaling. she decided to use Aquaphor and Webber to heal it. Once it was healed she started using Lubriderm to keep it hydrated. about a week later her skin covering the entire tattoo went really dry and started to flake all over again. The skin felt oddly leathery and very very dry and stuck out slightly from her skin. Nothing seems to keep it hydrated. it’s been a month now and the Psoriasis flareup still hasn’t gone away. it doesn’t look bad and when moisturized the tattoo still looks great but slightly faded. It’s driving her nuts cuz it’s so itchy. I’ve given her a tattoo before on her shoulder blade, no flareups, no discoloration, I have done my research on psoriasis and other skin diseases but psoriasis is really unpredictable and personally you might risk driving yourself mad. My wife must be insane cuz she’s always asking for more.

    Jessi on October 29th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
  19. At this moment I am ready to do my breakfast, afterward having my breakfast coming again to read additional news.

    Keratosis Pilaris treatment on February 20th, 2013 at 11:01 am
  20. Thank you so much for posting this! I have KP on my upper and and I have been terrified and embarrassed to ask a tattooist if I could ever get a sleeve. This has been so helpful! Thank you again!

    Sam on March 13th, 2013 at 8:30 pm

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