Vitiligo and Tattooing

Vitiligo and Tattooing

Nikki Butler

Nikki Butler

Vitiligo and Tattooing

I often receive queries about vitiligo and tattooing.  It’s not a straightforward condition and therefore the answer to whether those with vitiligo can be tattooed isn’t a simple yes or no.

Vitiligo is thought to be an autoimmune condition. It is a long term condition and those that have it experience white patches that appear on the skin, caused by a lack of melanin.  If you have white patches appearing on your skin, then please see your GP for further advice – as other conditions can cause a loss of melanin in the skin too.  The NHS have further information on vitiligo, click on the link for more information

Skin Camouflaging

The most important thing to be aware of is that the trauma of tattooing can cause vitiligo to spread.

Despite being a Medical Tattooist, I am not a fan of skin camouflaging pigments FULL STOP.  The reason for this is that it is near on impossible to get an exact colour match for the skin – mainly because if you look closely, your skin is made up of many different tones.  Whilst skin camouflage may look good initially, it’s unlikely to stay that way for long – for a number of reasons;

  1. Pigments look different once they are healed and in the skin.
  2. Pigments are designed to fade out over time, leaving behind the base colour (usually a yellow/peach/warm brown based tone).
  3. The tattooed area doesn’t change colour when you tan – so if the area you want to have tattooed is an area that is exposed to the sun, you need to consider that it is likely to fade out, whilst the rest of your skin is tanned. This can make the area tattooed stand out even more.
  4. You will need frequent colour boosts (typically 1-3 years, depending on lifestyle, skin type and other client specific factors). A build up of pigment over years may cause discolouration or require removal sessions. ]

And that is just considering skin camouflaging in general, not just for vitiligo!

Vitiligo and Tattooing

If you have vitiligo and you’re considering ANY form of tattooing, you need to bear in mind that the trauma from the treatment MAY cause your vitiligo to spread – and not just on the area treated, it can trigger further patches to develop in other areas of the body.

I would not recommend skin camouflaging for vitiligo.  This treatment can ‘chase’ the patches, causing them to spread wider after treatment. You could then end up with a lighter halo effect around the areas treated as the areas continue to get larger.

Semi Permanent Makeup – the risk here is that the trauma may cause further patches to develop, either around the area treated or on other areas of the body. So if you’ve had your eyebrows tattooed, you MAY have new areas develop around the eyebrows, or again, on other areas of your body.

Decorative Tattoo  – Whilst a decorative tattoo will permanently cover the area of skin it’s tattooed on to, again, it MAY trigger further patches to develop on the body.

As a sensible guideline within the industry, tattooing should only be carried out on those with vitiligo after a period of 7 years with no active patches or new patches.  Even so, you will still need to take in to account that this is not a guarantee that your condition is stable.  There will always be a risk involved with this.

So my advice is to speak with your Consultant or Medical Practitioner, together with your Tattooist prior to having any treatment carried out. You can then go on to make a fully informed decision about whether any form of tattooing is right for you.

If you have any questions about vitiligo and tattooing then please get in touch.





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