New, well-done tattoos look vibrant, crisp and aesthetically pleasing. But, if you expose them to the sun too soon, you may end up ruining their visual appeal. Contrary to popular opinion, even hidden tattoos are susceptible to sun damage.
While all new tattoos require protection from the sun, those with lighter color designs are more vulnerable. Some common effects of sun exposure, particularly during the first few months, include color spreading, scarring and fading.
Fortunately, protecting your tattoo from sun damage is not such a difficult thing to do. Here are some tips for protecting your tattoos, both old and new, from the sun.
If you love spending time outdoors, then sunscreen is one of the best tools you can use to protect your tattoos. Besides protecting your tattoos, applying sunscreen will help prevent other forms of skin damage such as sun spots, skin cancer and premature wrinkles.
Your mantra regarding sunscreen should be “any sunscreen is better than no sunscreen.” While applying the sunscreen you normally would without a tattoo should suffice, we recommend a 30-50 SPF sunscreen, preferably with natural ingredients.
The most crucial factor when selecting a sunblock is to ensure it is broad-spectrum. These types of sunscreen will protect your skin against UVA rays that penetrate deeper into the skin, as compared to UVB rays. For best results, apply sunblock over your tattoo every two hours.
While we cannot downplay the importance of applying sunscreen, if you find reapplying sunscreen every few hours too cumbersome, then your second-best alternative is physically covering your tattoo. As a bare minimum, ensure you do not expose your tattoo to sunlight at least one month after getting it.
The first two weeks are particularly crucial since exposure to direct sunlight during this period can burn your skin, permanently fade your tattoo’s colors and leave you with a scar. Protecting your tattoo from direct sunlight does not imply staying indoors entirely. Instead, put on at least one layer of clothing when you step outside. Light clothing on hot days should suffice, as long as you keep your tattoo wholly covered.
Dermatologists agree that moisturizing frequently and drinking enough water is essential for skin protection. Keeping your skin hydrated improved its ability to protect itself from sun damage while maintaining its natural moisture barrier.
Hydration, however, does not necessarily imply more showers, especially the hot variety. It is best if you avoid long, hot showers since they can dry your skin by stripping it of its natural oils. Instead, opt for short showers with lukewarm or cold water.
If you regularly expose your skin to the sun, check it for any signs of damage. Besides spot-checking for new moles or freckles, check your tattoo regularly for any signs of damage to its design. Noticing sun damage before it gets any worse will maintain the appeal of your tattoo in the long run.
It is best to consult an experienced dermatologist such as Dr. Andrés Sárraga of Storch Plastic Surgery following the onset of sun damage. If left unchecked, sun damage could do more than just ruining your tattoo.
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