A few friends and clients have contacted me this week about sudden "tattoo allergies" in already healed and well established tattoos. These cases typically present as a rash and or acne in and around the tattoo. Its no coincidence that I get this question more and more as the weather warms up in the late spring, and that a whole lot of people have asked the question just this week!
This week summer heat has showed up full force for the first time, and air pollution levels in Montreal have been extra high as well.
Not A True "Allergy"
This is rarely a real allergy to the tattoo itself, but rather the fact that previously damaged skin is more prone to congestion. The area will be less efficient than normal skin at sweating and eliminating oils and waste. Inappropriate diet and toxin overload cause congestion throughout the body that peaks and becomes pathological in hotter weather. The body is working hard to adapt to the season, stay cool, reduce and purify stored body fat, and naturally cleanse itself, but the heat and waste can get stuck, especially where the skin has been damaged previously.
Some topical treatments may give you some relief but don't address the real underlying issue. Warm saltwater baths or soaks might help. Use sea salt and add enough salt to make the water about as salty as the ocean. You might finish up with an antiseptic essential oil such as pure lavender or tea tree.
I don't recommend any petroleum based skin care products (which increase congestion) or commercial acne treatment products (which may cause further irritation).
Seasonal Diet is the Real Key
The best solution and the most natural "treatment" is an appropriate seasonal diet. It's not just about the tattoo: with the right whole body approach, you'll feel better all around. Think of your angry tattoo as an alert for what's happening in your body and how you need to respond.
As the weather warms up in the spring we should be reducing carbs and increasing dietary fiber, eating more fresh fruit and vegetables, and more frequent meatless meals. Animal products and fats in the diet should be carefully controlled for quality. Choose organic or naturally raised animals whenever possible, and select oils that are non-GMO and cold pressed. (Extra virgin olive oil, coconut, grapeseed, avocado, and nut oils are some of the best.)
The hottest part of the summer is our natural detox period and the diet should be rich with water, aromatic herbs and spices (especially the green leafy ones), hot peppers (optionally), tea (instead of coffee), raw green foods, high quality fish and poultry, fresh fruits and vegetables, and raw seeds and nuts (healthy, non-congesting fats).
We should minimize or avoid white refined carbohydrates, dairy products (cheese, milk, yogurt), deep fried foods, heavily processed foods, low quality industrial oils (such as canola), fatty industrially farmed meats, refined sugars, coffee and alcohol.
Don't panic! You can still enjoy the summer. Choose the things you think it would be easiest to eliminate, and then you can relax about enjoying that BBQ you were invited to, or going out and having a few too many drinks. Balance the "good" choices against the "bad".The more of these things you can keep to a minimum, the better you'll feel!