Self-reported tattoo reactions in a cohort of 448 French tattooists

Int J Dermatol. 2016 Jul;55(7):764-8. doi: 10.1111/ijd.13030. Epub 2015 Oct 24.


Background: Self-reported complaints in people having tattoos, including swelling, itch, and photosensitivity, are frequent. Tattooists are usually heavily tattooed with multiple extended colored tattoos and constitute a specific population of interest.

Objectives: To assess the prevalence of cutaneous complications on tattoos among a cohort of French tattooists.

Methods: An observational self-reported internet survey was performed among the tattooists of the French Tattoo Union in November 2013 to report on complaints about their tattoos.

Results: Of the 448 respondents, 42.6% reported a "tattoo reaction" on a least one of their previous tattoos: transient itch (45.7%), wax-and-waning swelling (57%), and swelling after sun exposure (23%). A tattoo "allergy" on one color of the tattoo was found in 8%. Permanent itch, swelling, and cutaneous infection were rare. No skin cancer on tattoos was reported. The binary regression analysis revealed that the area of the tattooed body surface was the main driver of the risk of developing a tattoo reaction, mainly transient or permanent swelling triggered by sun exposure or not. The tattoo reaction, transient itch, and swelling on tattoos seemed to be associated with the sun protection habits of the tattooed individuals.

Conclusion: Professional tattooists have a high prevalence of minor complaints (transient itch and swelling) and photosensitivity on their tattoos such as in the general tattooed population.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Color
  • Edema / epidemiology*
  • Edema / etiology
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photosensitivity Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Photosensitivity Disorders / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Pruritus / epidemiology*
  • Pruritus / etiology
  • Self Report
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tattooing / adverse effects*
  • Young Adult