There's nothing quite like the excitement of getting a new tattoo. Even though the idea is that it's a permanent piece of body art, there's no denying that they will fade naturally over time. That said, here's some good news: Once you learn how to make your tattoo last longer, you can delay the process and keep that ink fresh.
When your tattoo is brand new, you've got to follow certain precautions to keep it clean so it heals properly (like avoiding water on the ink, skipping workouts for a while, and staying out of the sun). Aftercare lasts for a few weeks, but then it's all about incorporating certain skin-friendly habits into your personal care routine so you can enjoy your body art for as long as possible.
Celebrity esthetician and skin care expert Renée Rouleau (who's no stranger to tattoos herself) chats with Bustle about the three most important beauty practices to abide by for the sake of your ink. Generally, it's all about proper skin care and smart sun protection.
To prolong the vibrancy of your ink and ensure you can show it off for years to come, here are three expert-approved hacks to follow.
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1. Use Sun Protection
One of the most integral parts of preventing tattoo fade? Sun protection. "The sun's UV rays can be absorbed by tattoo pigment and cause the pigment particles to break down," says Dr. Adarsh Vijay Mudgil, M.D., a New York City-based dermatologist. Rouleau compares it to clothing: "If you have a sweatshirt that you left out in the sun — the same thing happens to color when it's on the skin," she says.
Of course, this calls for sunscreen. Rouleau recommends using an SPF 30 in order to protect your skin from damaging rays, but to be extra-safe, keep your tattoo covered whenever possible. Her tip? If you're outdoors often, wear dark colors or UVF-protective clothing.
2. Always Moisturize
Moisture is another key component of tattoo care. According to Rouleau, your skin gets a little crusty right after getting inked, which causes "micro breaks" in your skin. "Moisturizing helps protect and repair the damaged skin barrier that's inherent in getting a tattoo placed," says Mudgil.
Rouleau recommends reaching for a highly emollient lotion so you can prolong the lifespan of your ink — just avoid lotions with fragrance, as it can cause irritation for some people. For your best bet, Mudgil says to moisturize twice a day.
3. Exfoliate Regularly
Exfoliation is another important factor in keeping your tattoo bright and fresh. "Dead skin cells are opaque in color, and opaque means they're not see-through," Rouleau tells Bustle. "They're going to give a dullish look because dead skin cells cover up a little bit [of your tattoo]."
To take care of that buildup, she says you should be using a chemical exfoliant — like a blend of alpha-hydroxy acids — to keep dullness at bay. Opt for a chemical-based exfoliant over a physical one as scrubs can be more harsh, says Rouleau, and "take off anything in its path."
Brenner, M. (2009). The Protective Role of Melanin Against UV Damage in Human Skin. Photocem Photobiol. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2671032/
Rosso, J.D. (2016). Understanding the Epidermal Barrier in Healthy and Compromised Skin: Clinically Relevant Information for the Dermatology Practitioner. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5608132/