People with type 1 diabetes can get tattoos. However, doctors may advise waiting until they can reliably control their blood sugar levels. They may also wish to avoid tattoos on certain areas of the body.

Almost 1.6 million of people in the U.S. have type 1 diabetes, a condition in which the body does not produce insulin, a hormone the body needs to move blood sugar into the cells.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) points out that people with type 1 diabetes may be more prone to skin infections, which means they should take extra precautions to avoid anything that may incur an infection, including piercings or tattoos.

Anyone with type 1 diabetes who wants to get a tattoo should pay extra attention to aftercare and be especially vigilant in checking for signs of infection.

In this article, we explore how people with type 1 diabetes can get tattoos safely. We also look at any special precautions a person with type 1 diabetes should consider before getting a tattoo.

a woman with a type 1 diabetes medic alert tattoo reading at a deskShare on Pinterest
Illustrated by Jason Hoffman

According to the ADA, when people properly manage their type 1 diabetes, they can maintain a high quality of life with few limitations.

If a person with type 1 diabetes wants a tattoo, they should follow the standard safety practices for everyone choosing a tattooist but also be aware of disease-specific risks.

The National Conference of State Legislatures notes that different states have different laws regarding tattoos. However, most states do not allow tattoos on people under the age of 18 years.

As well as checking that the tattoo shop has all of the necessary licensing, a person should ensure the following:

  • All needles, inks, gloves, swabs, and bandages are new, and needles and inks are single-use only.
  • The floors and workstations are spotless, demonstrating good hygiene practices.
  • The ink a tattooist uses is safe. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigates adverse reactions to different tattoo pigments, it points out that historically, local jurisdictions regulate tattooing.
  • The person getting a tattoo is not allergic to the tattoo ink, although the FDA admits that this is rare.

In addition to the general safety precautions outlined above, a person should always tell their tattoo artist about their type 1 diabetes status. In addition, they should also be mindful of the following:

Blood sugar levels

An individual should ensure that they have their blood sugar under control before getting a tattoo. Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, can prolong healing times and increase the risk of infection.

Healthcare professionals and tattooists advise people with type 1 diabetes to follow any aftercare instructions carefully.

Tattoo placement

Anyone getting a tattoo should think about the placement of the tattoo on their body. This is especially true for people with type 1 diabetes.

People should avoid any places they use for insulin injections, such as the abdomen or thighs.

A person should also be cautious about placing tattoos on their buttocks, shins, ankles, or feet, as these locations are prone to poor circulation. The ADA points out that about half of all people with type 1 diabetes experience nerve damage, or neuropathy. It advises paying particular attention to the feet, checking them every day.


It is important to be aware of scarring. Some people with tattoos develop oversized, raised, keloid scars at the tattoo site.


The ADA also explains that people with type 1 diabetes need to be vigilant about skin infections, particularly bacterial and fungal infections.

It is vital to keep the tattooed area scrupulously clean and follow the tattooist’s aftercare instructions.

According to a report by the Statista Research Department, more than a quarter of people in the U.S. have at least one tattoo.

An article in the World Journal of Psychiatry states that most people get tattoos as a form of self-expression, highlighting a link between the meaning of the body art and self-identity.

It is important to consider the size and overall design of the tattoo and how long it will take to complete. A person should test their blood sugar levels regularly during long tattoo sessions and be aware that they may rise during inking.

Choosing the design for a tattoo is personal. However, it is a good idea to talk to the artist about the design and explain any significance it may have, whatever the style.

Some people with type 1 diabetes choose to use their tattoo as a medical alert, giving information about their diabetic status. This can be as simple as inking the words “type 1” or incorporating the words into a more complicated design.

If an individual intends to use a tattoo as a medical alert, they should make sure that it is on an area of the body that is easy to find. For example, it could go on the lower arm or wrist, where medical staff would typically check for medical alert bracelets.

In an emergency, the person may not be able to speak, so the information needs to be clearly visible to emergency medical staff.

People with type 1 diabetes can get tattoos, provided their blood sugar levels remain under control throughout the process.

They should avoid getting tattoos on their feet, ankles, shins, or buttocks, as these places may have poor circulation. They should also avoid their regular insulin injection sites.

As well as following the standard safety precautions, people with type 1 diabetes need to watch carefully for any signs of infection, as their wounds typically take longer to heal.

Regulations governing tattoo parlors in the U.S. vary from state to state, so it is important to check the local rules.