Ichthyosis+Tattoos= Works for Me!

Hello again! So… Tattoos! Everyone has their own viewpoint as far as tattoos go and my parents raised me to never get a tattoo, but I have always had the desire to have tattoos. When I was younger (let’s be honest, sometimes even now), I would draw on myself to see what a certain tattoo design would look like on my body. I was always afraid that getting a tattoo would be impossible with my Ichthyosis. In fact, I think half the reasons my parents discouraged it was because they feared that it would be too painful for me or that I would get an infection. Both were very valid concerns because my skin is definitely more sensitive than the average person’s and many people with Ichthyosis get infections rather easily. Everyone is definitely different though. There are many of us in the Ichthyosis community who have tattoos and did just fine through the process of actually getting the tattoo as well as healing from it, while there may be others who wouldn’t consider it. For those of you who are curious though and/or are considering getting a tattoo (especially if you have Ichthyosis, specifically Lamellar/ARCI type), I hope this post provides you with the insight you desire. Feel free to ask my any questions! Once I am done writing about my experiences, I will make a list of the things you should do when considering a tattoo, or looking for an artist that would be ideal for someone with Lamellar Ichthyosis, or a similar type of skin condition.

Ever since I was 12 I had been planning my first tattoo. My family and I went to Maui and during this trip, we got to snorkel with sea turtles. This was the most memorable part of the trip because I remember how calmly and majestically these beautiful, giant creatures swam alongside of us. Their energy was just so relaxing. I looked into what sea turtles symbolize and generally they symbolize longevity, wisdom, but for me, the meaning behind my plan to get a sea turtle tattooed on me was more personal. It not only represents my desire to live as long as possible and to be wiser, but it represents a time in my life when things were more symbol and serves as a reminder to slow down and to breathe. I look at this tattoo now, years after I got it and I remember to be like my favorite sea creature.

So… I got my first tattoo when I was 19. The first time I went in to get the outline done, I had no idea what I was getting into. I knew it would hurt, but didn’t know what kind of pain it was or if it was anything I could handle. This particular artist was new and pressed down too hard with the needle so the experience was unfortunately an unpleasant one, but I am glad I had it because it was a learning experience. He did well at placing the sea turtle perfectly on my lower back off to the right side though and the size was done well, but the details were mediocre. Two years later I was on the Big Island of Hawaii and decided I wanted to get my sea turtle tattoo redone. It just needed more personality. I did a web search of the best tattoo shops on the island and came across K-Town Tattoo in Kona. My boyfriend Wes and I walked in and were struck by how brightly colored and clean the shop was- a good sign! I booked an appointment with Josh- an artist who specialized in cover-ups. That Friday I went in and had my whole sea turtle re-done- the outline, the shading, the waves, all of it. Unlike the first artist, Josh made sure I was comfortable and talked me through it. He was also light-handed in how he used the tattoo gun- something very important that I would remember later on for my subsequent tattoos.

This past summer (Summer of 2015) I returned to K-Town Tattoo and Josh to get the starfish added to my sea turtle and to touch up the colors. As expected, Josh was still gentle and as kind as ever. I would definitely go back there to get work done next time I am in Hawaii.

Let me tell you a secret- as happy as I am with my sea turtle tattoo and the placing of it, I originally had wanted to get it done on my upper back but I didn’t because my parents didn’t approve. But… Now that I am older and now that they have chilled out about my tattoos (well at least my Mom has haha), I mustered the courage to go and finally get a tattoo on my upper back. I have always felt a connection with some of Fleetwood Mac’s song lyrics (well, Stevie Nicks’ lyrics). I love the songs “Rhiannon”, “Gypsy”, “Landslide”, “Seven Wonders”, and “Sara” to name a few. I have also always been a believer in Astrology. So for this piece I got a Libra symbol filled in with light teal with the lyrics from “Rhiannon”- “Dreams Unwind, Love’s a State of Mind.” Love’s a state of mind… Those words just resonate with me in a deeper part of my soul. Love is not just a feeling or a cutesy word that people toss around, Love is a state of mind, a state of being rather, that so many wise people have such great ideas about. Love is a positive force in the universe that heals and that encourages growth and for it to be a state of mind, in my opinion, is a huge piece of what it means to be truly self-actualized and at peace. So I went in to the Blue Lake Tattoo Expo carrying my previous tattooing experiences with me and knowing the kind of artist I wanted. I found a wonderful lady named Jamy from Arizona who, like Josh, had a light hand and a lovely tattooing style who sketched out the idea and tattooed it on me 2 days later. I am planning to get my next piece done by her next year.

As far as healing goes… As many of you in the Ichthyosis community know, those of us with the condition heal relatively fast. I think it has to do with how fast our skin cells regenerate and the sheer volume of their growth. My first tattoo healed within a week and my second one is currently in the process of healing. To keep it moisturized I used creamy Vaseline, A & D ointment, and Ohana Organic Tattoo Butter. I also rinsed and gently washed it with unscented anti bacterial soap. The ink, thankfully, did not leak out any more than it would on someone with “normal” skin because I didn’t pick at the scab.

My tips for anyone would Ichthyosis or a dry skin condition planning to get a tattoo are as follows:

  1. Find a tattoo artist who is light-handed (you find out by just asking them) and educate them about your condition. Let them know that it is not a health risk and that it is not contagious. Everyone I’ve met in the tattoo world is very laid back and accepting, so don’t be too nervous. If they react negatively, well, that’s their loss. Move on to someone better.
  2. Get a tattoo in an area that is generally easy to clear up or that is on the clearer side. For example, my back is a better place for a tattoo than say, my foot (although you could get one on your foot if the skin is more clear).
  3. Breathe through the tattooing process. It will hurt, but it is worth it if you really want this beautiful piece of artwork etched into your skin.
  4. Some artists will try to put a bandage on you using tape (you would only need to leave it on for 2 hours)- if the tape won’t stick to your skin, don’t worry about it. Just keep the area of your tattoo clean and moisturized with the above-mentioned products or Aquaphor.
  5. No matter how badly your new ink itches (and it will itch)- DON’T SCRATCH IT!!!!
  6. Enjoy! 🙂

Again, this was my experience and everyone’s will be different. Please feel free to ask my any questions.


One thought on “Ichthyosis+Tattoos= Works for Me!

  1. Great article! I have CIE & warned my experienced artist that I have thicker skin than normal people. He realized that when he saw the ink wasn’t staying. He said he had to go over each area 3 times in order to get the ink to set! He was worried he was hurting me, but it wasn’t too bad. People with ich CAN get tattoos! I can’t wait for my next one!


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