“As a permanent and often pricey form of body art, tattoos are an investment,” said board-certified dermatologist Bruce E. Katz, MD, FAAD, who maintains a private practice in New York City, New York. “In order to protect that investment, it’s important to take steps to keep tattooed skin healthy and vibrant.”
To keep your tattoo looking its best, Dr. Katz recommends the following tips:
1. If your tattooed skin feels dry, apply a water-based lotion or cream to the tattoo. Petroleum-based products, such as petroleum jelly, can cause the ink to fade.
2. Protect your tattoo from the sun: Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can fade some tattoo inks and increase your risk for getting skin cancer. When you’re in the sun, protect your tattooed skin by applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more. Apply the sunscreen 15 minutes before you go outside and reapply at least every two hours.
3. Stay out of tanning beds and away from sunlamps. These devices may also fade the ink in tattoos and increase your risk of skin cancer. In some people, the UV light may also react with the tattoo ink, causing a painful skin reaction.
4. See a board-certified dermatologist if you have a skin reaction or if your tattooed skin is changing in any way. Your skin may have a bad reaction to the ink in a tattoo. This can happen immediately after getting a tattoo or years later. A change could also be a sign of skin disease. A dermatologist can diagnose what’s happening and treat it.
5. When considering a new tattoo, consider getting it on skin that is free of moles. A tattoo can make it more difficult to see the earliest signs of skin cancer. When caught early, skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is highly treatable.
“If you have questions about tattoos or if you no longer want a tattoo, speak with your dermatologist,” said Dr. Katz. “Although many tattoo removal kits are available online, these products are not regulated by the FDA and have led to permanent skin injuries. A dermatologist can provide you with safe options for removing an unwanted tattoo.”
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