How Much of Your Medical History Should Your Tattoo Artist Know?

It's important info to disclose.

A tattoo artist giving someone a tattoo
 Stevica Mrdja / EyeEm / Getty Images

If you're not disclosing your medical conditions to your tattoo artist prior to your session, what your tattoo artist doesn't know could seriously harm you. And, unfortunately, it wouldn't be the artist's fault. If you have a medical condition or are on any kind of prescription medication, it is crucial that you disclose it to your artist before any tattoo or piercing procedure.

Now, you're probably thinking it might not matter—plus, it's your personal information, why do they need to know? While we understand if you're not 100% comfortable disclosing medical information to your tattoo artist, you should know why it matters in the first place.

Keep scrolling to learn why it's necessary, what conditions and medications you need to mention, and what happens if they turn you away.

What to Mention

Affected conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • A Heart Condition
  • Diabetes
  • Hemophilia
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis
  • Severe Allergies
  • Epilepsy
  • Pregnant or Nursing
  • 6 Months or Less Postpartum or Post-Weaning

Prescription Medications to Disclose Before Getting a Tattoo

Acne Medications: You may not think of acne as being a major medical condition—it isn't. But if you’re taking Accutane, Minomycin (or any other Tetracycline-related medication), or any other prescription drug for acne, you do not want to get tattooed. Prescription drugs for acne can cause skin to be hyper-sensitive. Getting a tattoo can be disastrous and lead to severe pain and scarring.

Once you’re off the medication, wait six months to a year for it to be out of your system, and then it's safe for you to get inked.

Antibiotics: Disclose all antibiotics to your tattoo artist, and discuss whether or not it's safe to proceed. Anecdotally, some people have reported unusual skin reactions to tattoos when they were on antibiotics.

Blood Thinners: If you are taking any kind of medication to thin your blood, you'll want to inform your artist beforehand, and probably also consult your doctor. Depending on the reason you're taking the medication, it might not be wise to get tattooed, or it might just require shorter sessions.

Anti-Rejection Drugs: If you have had an organ transplant and/or are on anti-rejection medication, getting a tattoo might not be in your best interest. Consult with your doctor first to determine if your overall health is strong enough to withstand the stress of getting tattooed and if your medications may interfere with the healing process.

What if I Get Turned Away?

If you have a condition like these, it's understandable to worry that disclosing it to your artist might result in being refused service. Luckily, this isn't always the case. Even when a client is HIV-positive, or has hepatitis, an artist isn't necessarily going to turn them away. They might, but in most cases, artists recognize the risk that goes along with their job and that is why they practice Universal Precautions. Honesty, though, is always the best policy. The artist will appreciate knowing so they can be on their guard, and maybe take extra precautions if necessary.

What is Universal Precautions?

Universal Precautions is a set of precautionary steps defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) used to prevent the spread of disease. This practice includes employing preventative measures like wearing gloves and other protective gear and extends to avoiding contact with the client's body fluids.

If the medical condition is only a risk to you and not to the artist—such as a heart condition—you're just hurting yourself by not disclosing it. If the artist decides that they cannot, in good conscience, proceed with the tattoo or piercing, it's because they don't want you to get hurt. Remember, people don't turn down a paying client for no reason.

Also, although an artist has the right to refuse service to a potential client based on health reasons, you also have the right to take your business elsewhere if you feel the artist was in error or being unfair. Keep in mind, however, that there will always be someone out there willing to take your money regardless of your health. Don't go to someone you know uses unsafe practices because nobody safe will give you one. Ask yourself this: Is a tattoo or piercing really worth dying for? Probably not.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Kluger N. Contraindications for tattooingCurr Probl Dermatol. 2015;48:76-87. doi:10.1159/000369189

  2. Costa CS, Bagatin E, Martimbianco ALC, et al. Oral isotretinoin for acneCochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;11(11):CD009435. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009435.pub2

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Universal precautions for preventing transmission of bloodborne infections. Updated September 6, 2016.

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