Can You Get A Tattoo While On Antibiotics?

People get tattoos all the time – even under the influence of drugs, alcohol, and other substances. And for the most part, most of them end up accepting their decision (though it’s important to mention tattoo removal cases are on the rise). But what if you’re sick or at least fighting off an infection? Is it safe for you to get a tattoo while on antibiotics? That’s what we’ll answer in this article.

Why are you on antibiotics?

getting a tattoo while on antibiotics isn't such a good idea

Photo by Volodymyr Hryshchenko

You’re most likely on antibiotics because your doctor advised you to. If you’re suffering from a bacterial infection, then one of the first things they will recommend is for you to take antibiotics for several days (the length depends on the infection).

Antibiotics treat infections by killing bacteria – or at least slow down its growth. They don’t work as well against viruses though; this is why antibiotics are also known as antibacterials.

Can you get a tattoo while on antibiotics?

Well, technically, you can. But you shouldn’t. Why? Because your body’s already fighting off an infection. If you get a tattoo, you’ll just add more work for your immune system.

An overloaded immune system can slow down the tattoo healing process. What may only take a few weeks at most to fully heal can drag on for a few months!

Don’t be impatient. Your tattoo will live on your skin forever. If you rush it – even if you’re not feeling a hundred percent – then you can ruin your tattoo BEFORE you even get it!

So, here’s how tattoos work. Basically, your tattooist makes thousands of tiny puncture wounds on your skin so that ink can be inserted. And those tiny openings on your skin make for perfect entry points for germs, bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens.

E. Coli bacteria (Photo by Gerd Altmann)

Of course, the antibiotics you’re already taking will take care of bacteria. But what about the other pathogens it’s not effective against? Those will wreak havoc on your body!

Additionally, when your immune system’s already got such a heavy workload, it will most likely lead to your body rejecting the ink. This is because the antibiotics will try to neutralise the perceived threat – the tattoo ink.

When the ink’s rejected, it will cause your tattoo to look misshapen, distorted and blurred. And when this happens, you’ll move on to the next very much optional stage of the tattooing process – tattoo regret.

When you start feeling bad about how your tattoo looks, you’ll think of getting it removed. Unfortunately, tattoo removal isn’t as easy as scraping the ink off your skin. It’s a lengthy, painful, laser-assisted process that will cost you lots of time and money. Oh, and it’s also more painful than the tattooing process itself! That said, all these can be avoided if you wait until you’re done with the antibiotics.

With your immune system already working hard to contain your pre-existing infection, your health can seriously suffer. Do you want to compromise your health just to get some ink on your skin? I sure hope not.

Also, if you’re thinking of getting a scratcher (a non-licensed, amateur ‘tattooist’) to work on you while you’re on antibiotics, then you could be opening yourself up to a world of danger.

The same thing goes if you’re planning on getting a cute, hand poke tattoo done by your friend from the comfort of your living room couch. Why? Because getting tattooed in a non-sterile environment by an inexperienced person will likely lead to tattoo infections!

Can you get a tattoo while sick?

Just like with antibiotics, the answer is yes, but you really shouldn’t. The same reasons why not (see previous section) also applies in this case. When you’re sick, your body’s not well-conditioned for healing. Therefore, you should also postpone your tattoo appointment when you’re sick on the day of. Getting well instead of getting inked should be your top priority! 

What should you do instead?  

Move your tattoo appointment to a later date (Photo by Mockaroon)

Talk to your tattooist and reschedule to a later date. But what if your tattooist is booked for months?  Well, you’ve got a few choices at this point:

  • You can hire another tattooist with a less busy schedule; or
  • You can wait for the same tattooist; or
  • Just don’t get a tattoo.

Your tattoo can wait. And if it’s your first time getting inked, you should be thinking it through – now’s your chance to do so.  

Alternatively, if you’ve yet to start taking your antibiotics, then perhaps you can get a tattoo first then take an antibiotic later? Of course, you better consult with your doctor first before you plan your next move. You don’t want your infection to get worse just because you can’t wait to get inked!

Conclusion

Most, if not all, licensed tattooists would prefer to work on fully healthy clients. You are displaying their skill and craftsmanship on your body, after all. They’d want their art to look as good as it possibly can. Unfortunately, getting a tattoo while on antibiotics can compromise both your health and your new tattoo. Remember to think before you ink!

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