Summer is on the way, which means days spent at the beach, BBQs in the garden, and pool parties. Chances are, you'll be spending more time in the sun, however, inked folks should take extra precautions to protect tattoos with sunscreen. It goes without saying that everyone should wear sunscreen, whether you are tattooed or not, because nobody wants damaged skin or, worse, skin cancer. But for tattooed people, protecting their skin should be of the utmost importance.
Matthew Marcus of Three Kings Tattoo spoke to fellow Bustler Lindsey Rose Black, about the importance of wearing sunscreen on tattoos. Marcus explained that when you go without sunscreen, your tattoos will fade quicker, so you can only imagine what damage you could be doing to your ink when you burn your tattoo. Marcus told Black, "You shed skin from your body every day but exposure to strong sunlight will only break them down faster. When you burn and peel you are basically speeding this breakdown process up." So if you burn your tattoo, you're basically shedding skin layers faster, which could likely result in your ink fading quicker. This is certainly not good news if you've put plenty of time, effort, and money into your dream tattoo.
Charlotte Dunn, a friend of mine who was trained as a tattoo artist for two years, shined some light on what happens when tattoos get sunburnt. Dunn said, “Sunlight is obviously attracted to and absorbed by dark colors, so on dark areas of my tattoos they burn a lot easier. As all my tattoos are color, the only parts that it happens to is the outline and they become raised and sore.” In terms of burns caused by heated items (like straighteners, ovens, or irons) or fire, Dunn said, “If you burn through your tattoo the scar will just take that part of the tattoo away usually... then once the scar is fully healed — completely white, no pink — you can just re-tattoo it.”
Reality TV star, model, and tattoo artist Megan Massacre, collaborated with Fox News Magazine to share her tattoo aftercare tips. Massacre said, "Avoid the sun! Getting a sunburn on your tattoo can cause some serious problems. Think of your tattoo as like a bad sunburn; you wouldn’t want to get more sun on it. If you're going to be in the sun for an extended period of time, wear loose cotton clothing over the tattoo."
Blogger and tattoo fan, The Tattoo Tourist, is a self-proclaimed "tattoo enthusiast, collector and occasional expert." She has undergone a double mastectomy and now has beautiful tattoos covering her mastectomy scars. On the topic of tattoo sunburn, The Tattoo Tourist echoed Ms. Massacre's sentiment. She said, "Heavy tanning and repeated sun exposure hammer tattoos causing them to fade, feather, thicken and basically look like crap over time."
It's not just the sun's rays that can wreak havoc on your ink, tanning beds can be just as damaging. In an article explaining how to protect tattoos from the sun, the Skin Artists Team said, "Indoor tanners are just as damaging as the sun, if not more so. The ultraviolet rays are much more concentrated and people tend to over-expose themselves in tanning beds, not realizing their own limits. Burning the skin damages a tattoo even more than slowly tanning." So don't go thinking that your tatt will be safe under a sun bed, because unless it's protected, it most definitely won't be!
On an equally important aside, according to Jennifer J. Brown, PhD, you must tell your doctor about all of your tattoos before an MRI scan. Writing for Everyday Health, Brown said, "During MRI, skin or eye irritation — even first degree burns — can result when dyes in tattoos, even from tattooed eyeliner, heat up. Covering them isn't likely to help, and if skin irritation or burning happens, the MRI must be stopped at once to avoid a burn."
The moral of the story? Always protect your skin with sunscreen, especially if you have tattoos. Because a tattoo that's faded before it's time is a sorry sight indeed.