While everyone's different when it comes to how well they
care for their tattoos, if you have a lot of tattoos or have plans to add more to your collection, you'll definitely want to steer clear of developing any bad habits. You won't, for example, want to become too relaxed with the post-tattoo care process, possibly to the point you stop taking proper care of your skin. So consider this your friendly reminder to keep up your skincare game, just like you did with your very first tattoo.
"Taking your tattoo for granted is a big issue," Rose Marie Beauchemin-Verzella, founder of
Beau Institute, tells Bustle. "While tattoos are permanent, they can fade and change color over time. Not protecting a tattoo with sunscreen is a major issue and will cause fading," among other problems.
In the name of keeping your ink fresh for years to come, you'll want to apply sunscreen every day. But tattoo-related skincare mistakes can go beyond the cosmetic. It's not uncommon for some folks with lots of tattoos to drop the ball, and develop a few bad habits that can put them at
risk for infection or other health issues, especially as they get used to the process.
With your health and safety in mind, read on for a few mistakes to avoid making as you get more tattoos, according to experts.
Thinking You Don't Need Sun Protection
Don't make the mistake of thinking tattoos will protect you from the sun, even if it seems like your skin is "covered up" with all that ink.
"When you get a tattoo, small droplets of colored ink are placed into the top layers of the dermis of the skin,"
board-certified dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD, tells Bustle. "This dye is not UV protective." So even if it seems like that extra layer of ink may be preventing sun damage, that's unfortunately not true.
It'll still be important to protect your skin every day, especially if you want your
ink to stay looking fresh for years to come. "This includes [wearing] clothing with higher necklines and longer sleeves/legs, hats, sunglasses, and broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30+," Dr. Shainhouse says. "Don’t forget to reapply if you have been sweating excessively, swimming, or have toweled off."
Not Letting It Heal Properly
While some people are great at taking care of their tattoos, and learn how to be more diligent and careful with each new addition, others can become lax over time — and this often applies to
aftercare instructions from your tattoo artist.
But remember, staying on top of the healing process with your fifth tattoo is just as important as it was with your first.
"After a tattoo, it is important to take care of your skin," Heidi Prather, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at
Westlake Dermatology, tells Bustle. "A fresh tattoo should be kept clean, covered with healing ointment [...] and covered with a bandage for one to two weeks or until completely healed."
Going To Unsafe Tattoo Parlors
If you're going in for your first tattoo, you might be more strict with yourself when it comes to
choosing the best tattoo parlor, and making sure the location is clean and safe.
But try not to drop the ball for your second, third, or fourth tattoo. "Some tattooed people, particularly ones with multiple tattoos can become ‘addicted’ to getting tattoos and piercings and may become less careful about where/who does them," Dr. Shainhouse says. "This can put you at risk for skin infections, including
staphylococcus aureus and mycoplasma, as well as more serous infections like hepatitis and HIV."
Of course this isn't true for everyone. But if you're on a roll, don't forget to do your homework first. "Be sure to go to a clean tattoo parlor and check that your tattoo artist is licensed," Dr. Shainhouse says. "Check that gloves are worn, no needles are reused or double-dipped into the ink, and that all equipment is properly sterilized."
Forgetting To Go To The Dermatologist
Since tattoos are often colorful and made up of intricate designs, it can be tricky for dermatologists to spot the early
signs of skin cancer. So make sure you stay on top of your skin cancer screenings, especially if you have a lot of tattoos.
"As a dermatologist it can [...] be challenging to monitor changing moles and new lesions that are within inked skin," Dr. Shainhouse says. "I have actually had tattoo artists refer patients to me before they ink a new tattoo because they noticed an irregular or concerning lesion!"
While it's safe to get a tattoo, this potential problem is something to keep in mind going forward. As Dr. Prather says, "Continue to monitor all tattoos with a board-certified dermatologist for early detection and treatment of skin cancer."
Having Allergic Reactions
If you're feeling more adventurous as your tattoo collection grows, keep in mind that you can still have allergic reactions, especially if you're adding in different colored inks.
"Ink can carry with it a risk of immune-activation, or allergy," Dr. Prather says. "Red ink is the most immunogenic, or most likely to create an
adverse reaction in the skin." So this may be something worth considering when designing your tattoo.
"If you have an allergy to tattoo ink, it may result in a raised tattoo, pain, itching, or poor healing," Dr. Prather says. If you notice any reactions, let a doctor know.
One of the side effects of not wearing sunscreen, is ending up with blurred or faded tattoos down the road, Dr. Shainhouse says. And that's definitely not something you want happening to your beloved artwork.
prevent the ink from fading, wear sunscreen every day, and cover up your tattoos when spending a lot of time in the sun.
If you were super careful with your first tattoo, be sure to keep the trend going with
all your ink. And that means allowing your skin time to properly heal, and avoiding any situations that may introduce infection.
For instance, as Dr. Prather says, "it is important to avoid soaking in tubs, fresh water, or pools with any fresh wound, including a tattoo, which can introduce mycobacteria into the skin."
You may not be
new to the tattoo game, but it's still important to avoid making these mistakes, or developing any bad habits. Getting a tattoo should be a fun process, and not one that ends in skin damage or infection, so the more diligent you can be, the better.