Tattoos and skin barrier function: Measurements of TEWL, stratum corneum conductance and capacitance, pH, and filaggrin

Line Brok Nørreslet, Jørgen Serup, Sanja Kezic, Kristiane Aasen Engebretsen, Jacob P Thyssen, Tove Agner, Maja-Lisa Clausen


BACKGROUND: Initially after tattooing, the skin barrier function is broken. However, the long-term impact of clinically healed tattoos on this has never been studied. The aim was to investigate the long-term effect on the skin barrier function in normal tattoos and examples of tattoos with chronic inflammatory complication.

METHODS: Participants were recruited from the "Tattoo clinic" of the Dermatological Department on Bispebjerg Hospital in Denmark, where patients with complicated tattoo reactions are treated. Transepidermal water loss (TEWL), conductance, capacitance, and pH were measured in tattooed skin with regional control measurements in normal non-tattooed skin. Natural moisturizing factor (NMF) was measured in collected tape strips.

RESULTS: Twenty six individuals with 28 tattoos were included, that is, 23 normal tattoos without any pathologic reaction and 5 tattoos with chronic inflammatory complications. No significant differences were found in tattooed versus non-tattooed skin with respect to TEWL (median values 6.6 vs 7.2 g/m2 /h), conductance (76 vs 78 a.u.), pH (5.94 vs 5.79), and NMF (0.58 vs 0.59 mmol/g protein). Capacitance (64 vs 57 a.u.) was higher in tattooed skin compared to non-tattooed skin (P = 0.006). Similar results were found in tattoos with inflammatory reactions.

CONCLUSION: Overall, skin tattoos do not affect the long-term skin barrier function markedly. The skin capacitance was, however, affected in tattooed skin areas compared to non-tattooed skin areas.


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Electric Capacitance
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Epidermis/chemistry
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins/analysis
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Permeability
  • Skin Physiological Phenomena
  • Tattooing/adverse effects
  • Water Loss, Insensible
  • Young Adult


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