Development of sarcoidosis in cosmetic tattoos

Arch Dermatol. 2005 Jul;141(7):869-72. doi: 10.1001/archderm.141.7.869.


Background: The development of granulomatous lesions within tattoos is a well-recognized occurrence in individuals with sarcoidosis. The characteristic histopathological finding of sarcoidosis is the presence of noncaseating granulomas; however, similar histopathogical findings may be seen in foreign body granulomas. Several reports have challenged the assertion that the presence of foreign material within sarcoidal granulomas is incompatible with a diagnosis of sarcoidosis.

Observations: We describe a patient who had multiple linearly arranged papules along her eyebrows and the vermillion border of her upper lip. She had had cosmetic tattooing performed on these areas 3 year prior to presentation. Histopathologic examination revealed sarcoidal granulomas, polarizable foreign material, and pigment granules. Hilar adenopathy was noted on a chest radiograph. After 4 months of treatment with a midpotency topical steroid and doxycycline, she experienced complete clearance of her cutaneous lesions and normalization of chest x-ray film findings.

Conclusions: This case demonstrates a unique adverse result after cosmetic tattooing and highlights the concept that granulomatous histopathologic findings containing foreign material should not be an exclusionary criterion for the diagnosis of sarcoidosis. In this setting, further investigation for the presence of systemic disease is indicated.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Topical
  • Adult
  • Biopsy, Needle
  • Doxycycline / therapeutic use
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sarcoidosis / drug therapy*
  • Sarcoidosis / etiology*
  • Sarcoidosis / pathology
  • Skin Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Skin Diseases / etiology*
  • Skin Diseases / pathology
  • Steroids / therapeutic use
  • Tattooing / adverse effects*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Steroids
  • Doxycycline