Dermatographic Artwork

When I posted the “LUST” scar, it was commented that it looked a lot like dermagraphism, a relatively common skin condition (affecting as many as one in twenty people) in which even minor contact causes inflammation. Anyway, I saw today on Neatorama a reference to artist Ariana Page Russell, who uses her dermagraphism to create art — these are temporary of course, but I like some of the designs a lot and they’d translate really nicely into permanent designs as well. There are a few more pictures after the break and of course, check out Ariana’s page for more.




87 thoughts on “Dermatographic Artwork

  1. hey, i learned something today, im one in 20 people that have this skin condition, haha i aways hought i just had sensitive skin

  2. Does this skin condition prevent those affected from getting tattooed? I think the etch-a-sketch quality is really neat and can allow for limitless design possibilities being temporary. You never run out of room!

  3. I am a tattoo artist, have dermagraphism. I have never had a problem getting tattooed myself, or tattooing anyone else with it. I never new why my skin reacted this way but it was never a problem, so I never tried to figure it out. It was actually a client who had it too who finally told me what it was.

  4. Fascinating. The designs are very attractive and this is a unique way to turn a minor affliction into a source of pleasure. We old farts salute.

  5. thats cool, i wish my skin did that! its like temp scarification with nno limit to the designs! you can try it out before you get anything permanent!

    i’m jelouse 🙂

  6. I had no idea that it was such a common condition or that it even had a name. I have it and have been experimenting with designs since i was little.
    The writing on the legs is absolutely beautiful! Gives me ideas for a scarification project…

  7. wow I’m with you #5. had no idea there was a name for being this way. just thought I had this irritating problem that made it hard to make out with anyone without the whole world knowing 😉 lol

  8. I have this skin condition as well… good to know that it doesn’t interfere with getting tattoos. I’ve always wondered about that.

  9. this is really interesting, but its not permenant if I understand correctly? its essentially swelling of the skin from an allergic reaction of a sort by the skin coming into contact. and thus you are able to “draw” on it?
    thats really cool…my bodies so lame lol

  10. Ha! I think this is the first skin problem that I wished I had! It’s really very pretty what’s she’s done with it, but I can imagine that it would get annoying rather quickly.

  11. I agree with #11, I wish my skin did that! Having rough sex would be pretty obvious the next day though. God should curse every person who cheats in a relationship with this disorder.

  12. Wow, I think the writing is absolutely gorgeous. I’m not a fan of traditional scarification due to the change in pigments, but this I find absolutely stunning.

  13. Is it distasteful to comment that I wish I had a condition such as this. I would love to be able to play with my skin like that 🙂

    Looks wonderful 🙂

  14. Wow, I love the writing on the legs the most. I’ll definitely have to check out her page. It really ties into something that I’ve been looking for, as in a way to decorate/modify someone’s body in a detailed but impermanent way, like the idea of the sand mandalas that monks create. I want a way to emphasize the transience of my flesh, but I haven’t found one yet that suits my desires. This would be perfect. Ah well.

  15. I also got that skin condition. If I scratch my skin it appears as scars 5 minutes later and dissapears about 30 mins after. quite neat, exept the fact that some ppl get totaly freaked out if i accidently scratch my face.

  16. Holy shit… me my mates and my parents have been drawing on me like this since i was like 8, the doctors never had an idea what it was :D, It hasn’t stopped me getting scarification tho 🙂

  17. I think that’s beautiful.
    Wonderful way to use what could be seen as a defect, and turn it into something brilliant!

  18. It’s really beautiful! At first I thought it was a very neat scarification, and thought ‘I want that too!’ 😛 I especially love the writing 🙂

  19. This used to happen to me when I was younger, but it doesn’t any more. I used to draw pictures on myself too 😛

  20. lol #23, it doesnt actually last that long, you cant see it the next day, however yes it is really obvious after rough sex. But hey, makes for one hell of an awesome handprint welt when he smacks your ass 😉

  21. Haha. To #23. Im really glad it doesnt last that long after sex cos otherwise it would write off the next day. People used to have great fun drawing on my in lessons and reading the writting by hand afterwards, a bit like brail. Im another person who had no idea it had a name..

  22. Beautiful! I’m especially thrilled by the writing on her leg! I imagine it can be quite fun, for example you can experiment and try out designs to see how would they look before getting a permanent scarification. I wonder if this type of skin (because it is so sensitive) scars more heavily after a scarification?

  23. I’m one of the many who had no idea it was so common, or even had a name. Yay, there’s other people who can do it too!

    #5 said they just thought they had sensitive skin. Does anyone else have really sensitive skin who has this condition? Mine reacts to so much stuff, and I get hives and welts from stress (or no reason at all.) Just wondering if there’s a connection.

  24. 47, i know the feeling. i have this sensitive skin deal and stress causes my arms to itch. i also cant be in the sun too long or i get itchy, i don’t burn i just get itchy for about an hour afterwards.

    props to the fellow skin conditions on this board lol, and now i’m glad to know i’m not the only person who has this! perhaps i’ll make this skin project my next shoot for class, could be fun.

  25. Definitely very nice, though I have to admit I was a bit disappointed to read the explanation, for I first remained glued to the picture for a while, believing it was scarificating.

  26. I have a milder form of this: the marks don’t become as intense, but just stay red and very slightly raised for about 15 minutes, even if I’ve only scratched an itch. My problem is that, probably because of dermagraphism, my skin swells A LOT when getting pierced or tattooed, and have never been able to sit for longer than 3 hours at a time or finish a whole piece in one go. I’ve always had to do it in at least three separate sessions of outline, shading, and color, and it’s murder to go back over an area that’s already been tattooed during that session. So I certainly can be tattooed, but it’s not as easy as it may be for some. I do worry that the pain/swelling could prevent me from doing a suspension later on, but I’m still going to try it.

  27. I also have Dermagraphism, it can be a pain especially when you will randomly swell up and become itchy for no reason!! But I can create pretty things in my skin that will last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour.

  28. they are fun to touch. metal knitting needles work best for me. yayyy fellow dermographists.

  29. Yea it can get annoying when iam working up a sweat, and i cant stop itching my head and face, people ask why i have been crying 😛

  30. my dermatographic isn’t as intense anymore, to bad i didn’t thin about this back in the day :’(.
    feels good to get furhter confirmation that i still can get tattos though

  31. My skin used to do that when I was in secondary school (that’s high school to North Americans). I’m convinced it was psychosomatic in my case because I was a really nervous and anxious kid – it’s since cleared up.

  32. When I was young my skin would do that. Not anymore though. Seeing these beautiful pictures definitely makes me just the tiniest bit jealous.

  33. does anybody have any word about how variant scaring methods take to skin of those who have dermagraphism?

  34. Ive had dermographism for years and have always wondered about how it might effect getting a tattoo – so its nice to be reassured that it should be fine!
    sadly, i appear to have mainly grown out of the dermographism 🙁 it was frustrating when i accidentally itched myself but it was also a fun party trick!

  35. The writing on the legs is absolutely gorgeous… I actually wish I had this, haha! It’s gorgeous.

  36. I love it when you learn things about yourself from modblog. I also had it when I was young. I never even knew it wasn’t normal. At some point I stopped noticing it, so I stopped playing with it. Probably around puberty? When I read this I had to check, and now my skin just turns red really easily, no raised mark. 🙁 I feel like I’d appreciate it now that I know it’s special.

    at #44 my skin has always healed scars very easily. Since it’s a histamine reaction, I think it’s pretty independent of how the body would scar.

  37. hmmm that’s strange #52, but I dont think your tattoo/piercing swelling problem is actually related. I have the condition strong and got through my 9 hour tattoo session and play piercing session of over 70 needles just fine.

  38. absolutely gorgeous!

    i seem to have this condition, but i dont raise quite that much when scratched…i always just thought it was sensitive skin too! i can honestly say im proud of it after seeing these photos 😀

  39. I think it’s funny, how everyone here loves and is jealous of this condition, pretty much.. and on neatorama, the general consensus is mildly grossed/freaked out.

  40. I’m in love (and jealous!). I’d love it if I could get a scarification piece like the text on her thighs, with it being so even in size and colour.

  41. I’m a recently diagnosed dermatographic- they thought for YEARS I was just allergic to anything, as those poke tests always came back positive for me. Finally, it was when i welted up under an Ace bandage that one of the interns at the local teaching hospital suggested it. Of course, I don’t get to have nearly this much fun with it, as I’m on histamine blocking meds for the existing allergies.

    (also it is rather a pain in the ass when you scratch your neck or something and turn red and welty and everyone around you goes “OMG WHAT’S WRONG!” I uh…. itched?)

  42. Pretty. Nifty.
    Would be nice to have the ability to try out things before making them permanent.

    I’ve got something like this. Always wanted to be a little mutated. 🙂 When I’m in a warm room (77F or 25C and above, please) and trace anything pointy but dullish on my skin, the whole surrounding area “develops” red, and the lines look almost like a white-ink, blended into the skin tattoo. It attempts at raising, but this raising can only be felt with the fingertips, which generally helps to erase the thing, rubbing only makes it go away. Cool and cold conditions tend to damper the results. (Though when I feel chilly, {72F or 21 C or cooler} my skin does this whole “reverse Talaxian” thing, which is kind of cool.)

    /Phoenix, Arizona born and raised
    //Therefore, MAJOR WIMP when it comes to cold temps. If I ever visit Toronto I’ll be the weirdo in a heavy coat in a sea of shorts and sandals in the dead of summer.

  43. Looks like lots of us learned of others with this “condition”. I always thought I just had ridiculous skin.

  44. i love this show of art ans passion realy interesting way of self expression !!!!!(K);)

  45. Encyfish: Sounds like cholinergic urticaria to me. I have autoimmune chronic urticaria, so I can’t get away from it the way some other urticaria sufferers can. Dermatographism is related to urticaria.

  46. it’s different than sensitive skin, and don’t be jealous guys, i get lines like that from as much as resting my arm on a table seam, or having a pen brush my skin… it gets raised and red, then extremely itchy, and usually spreads from there. the red parts around the raised bits she’s made on her stomach probably itch like hell, and don’t always go away until i can get to some benadryl. 🙁

  47. I have this condition. mine only last for about half an hour, but it is sooooo annoying. i really want a tattoo and am just concernded wher or not it will affect it. trust me anyone who wants this condition, i suggest against it cos it is such a pain in the arse. when you scratch it starts itching,, and what do you fo when u have an itch… you scratch of course, and it just makes it worse. as ive gotten older ive learnt to ignore the itch, but when i was a kid, i didnt and it looked liked a has been attacked by a dog or something.

    its not cool in practial life only really useful as a party trick to amaze people

  48. I have dermographism too! its a pain in the ass,..yeah its cool to draw on yourself, but really the random itch attacks and huge welts suck. Its so uncomfortable feels tingly and stings and itches all over. I take benadryl and claritin but im looking to figure it out naturally.

    Also u can get piercings and tats….
    i have lots of both its a good idea to take a benadryl before u get any ink done tho just so its not as severe

    Its kind of embarrassing when i have a welt across my face and ppl are like OMG WHATS WRONG WITH YOU

    I DONT KNOW!!!


    i have been suffering from dermographism since i was born. its not all that cool
    when u have hives across ur back, face, arm, legs and people point to you and say OMG WTF?! or STOP SCRATCHING! (for starters…never.ever. say that to someone with this condition…why dont you go a day without letting anything touch ur skin?)
    it can be humiliating.
    the condition even hurts (rarely does it, but i know in my case, it does)
    once u scratch, ur also even more itchy

    so even tho these cool designs can be made.
    you do not want this and are pretty naive and insensitive for saying you do

  50. Ive had this condition for about a year now and can honestly say that it is the MOST annoying thing i’ve ever had to deal with. I have to take Benadryl almost every day to prevent itching and breakouts..its horrible!!!!! D:

  51. i have dermatographism to it started when i started high school which was around 9 years ago. ive had tattoos done and theyve turned out fine. they didnt swell up as much as i thought they would but my question is has anyone got this disorder and had their tongue peirced? i want mine done but obviously worried that my tongue will swell up too much!

  52. I just found out this condition had a name.. have had it for about 4 months now and I hate it! It’s itchy as hell, and if you scratch without thinking about it – it doesn’t turn out as pretty as above.. would gladly give it to someone who wants it.

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