Skin Writing or Dermatographism

Filed under: Arts |

DermatographismHave you ever scratch yourselves and find out that welts in horizontal or vertical lines, along with the direction of your scratches, appear on the surface of your skins? When you do, perhaps you are one of 4 to 5% of world population who suffers from skin writing, that is dermographism or dermatographism, or more specifically, dermatographic urticaria.

Skin Writing

Picture by Ariana Page Russell

What is dermatographism? It is a mild skin disease. Calm down, it is neither life threatening nor contagious. Dermatographism is caused by the weak membrane of the cells. In results, the mast cells, whenever are faced with stress or pressure, will break and release the substance called histamine. This is somehow similar to the allergic reaction (the release of histamine). These mast cells are the sources of histamine and this histamine will cause inflammation of local areas of your skin, resulting in the raising of the skin surfaces whenever you scratch, rub, or stroke them. As itchiness can appear after the welts, some people think that dermatographism results in itchiness –and scratching — whereas actually it all begins from the scratching or other forms of pressure to the skin themselves.

Dermatographism can be cured with antihistamine. A non-medication way is somehow to avoid hot baths or showers. The symptoms of the raised skin usually last in minutes, but in some cases, they can last in several days or weeks. Another cool fact is that it is told that there was an artist who got dermatographism and used his own skin as one of his art media. You may also fantasize by “drawing” or “writing” on your skin using some intentional scratches, no? Of course, only when you don’t mind and you’re sure that it will not result in any other further complications. Now, you judge that it can actually be referred as mild disease, and ow yeah, avoid tight outfits!

* Click image to enlarge *



Dermatographism or skin writing with tattoo color

Dermatographism urticaria

Dermatitis symptoms


Urticaria on the arm


Atopic Dermatitis

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10 Responses to Skin Writing or Dermatographism

  1. I have this!

    Sally Wonder
    February 15, 2012 at 4:31 am

  2. If you have a tattoo like that, would you give us your tattoo pictures? We would love to display them on this page. :)

    February 15, 2012 at 3:47 pm

  3. I honestly enjoying this ability to write on my skin :) but sometimes, it bothers me because its itchy… yet as you’ve said, its cool…!

    shiena roas
    September 19, 2012 at 8:40 am

  4. thank you for this great info :)

    shiena roas reyes goco
    September 19, 2012 at 8:41 am

  5. I got this last summer after getting heat exhaustion many days in a row. My cells became weakened by the heat, additionally my Dr. found a strep infection floating around in my blood which may have been a factor. luckily after treatment with steroids and antihistamines for 3 months it went away, but comes back occasionally.

    this was a very poorly written article. if you really want to know more about dermatographic hives search dermatographia or skin writing on wikipedia or google.

    September 20, 2012 at 3:42 am

  6. Hi Kristin,
    Thank you for your suggestion. we will try to edit this article in order to give better results.

    September 20, 2012 at 5:07 pm

  7. I am the artist you speak of in this article, and that image of writing on legs is mine. Please credit it to me, Ariana Page Russell. Also, I am a woman: “Another cool fact is that it is told that there was an artist who got dermatographism and used his own skin as one of his art media”

    I also wrote about how to manage the itchiness of dermatographia here:

    Thank you for making the changes I requested.

    Ariana Page Russell
    April 11, 2014 at 10:38 pm

  8. I have this dermagraphism urticaria, mine is a mild case, but was born with it. It is difficult when I scratch from an itch, and I get all red , blochy and look like hives and welts. Everyone always ask, what’s wrong, and “oh my god, what happened to you”.i don’t feel it. Except when I itch. And I am very sensitive to alot of soaps and lotions. Yes I can very easily breeze my skin with my finger nail and it will welt up.

    June 3, 2014 at 1:13 am

  9. Its just nice to know other people actually have this and not feel like I have this freak skin

    June 3, 2014 at 1:16 am

  10. The internet is truly a gift. I’ve had this for 45 years and any Dr or derm who’s noticed it, I scratch my arm or neck or where ever and it is instantly flame red against my very pale skin, and they think I am having an allergic reaction to something, when I’m not even there for that. Now really how dumb are they that NONE of them ever came across this in med-class, particularly in derm? So interesting to finally know what it is. And yeah it’s always been a treat, for my friends, to write on me like a piece of personal art/friend, and use me for tic tac toe in camp when we were paperless in the woods.

    June 3, 2014 at 5:04 am

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