Sun, Skin and a whole lotta tattoos.
It’s finally here! The sun! And by the looks of things it’s going to be here for a little while longer *hurray*. So, over the next few weeks I think now is a great time to talk about your skin, it’s care and what effect that has on your tattoos. Whether you have tattoos or not a good skin care routine including protection from the sun is greatly important, not just for you tattoos but for you as a whole. But why?
What’s everyone’s beef with the sun?
Let’s forget about the bad sun stuff for a moment and concentrate on the benefits. Humans are made to be in the sun; it regulates our sleep patterns (circadian rhythms if you fancy reading some more about that), impacts on depression and triggers the production of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for brain function, lowering blood pressure and promoting healthy bone formation. However, like all good things it should be in moderation. I’m sure we are all familiar with the sand dwelling sun creatures that resemble the crypt keeper covered in bovril but what exactly is that doing under the surface?
The skin already has a natural defence against the sun in the form of melanin. Prolonged exposure to the sun boosts melanin production thus your skin becomes darker. As the skin regenerates the melanocytes get closer to the surface and are shed therefore fading your tan. However, let us not forget that what you are actually getting along with your lovely summer glow is a radiation burn. Sunburn can occur in less than 15 minutes to unprotected skin and the effects such as redness maybe visible after as little as 30 mins; its full effects take around 2-6 hours with pain making an appearance around the 6-48hrs mark after the initial exposure. When your skin is exposed to UVB radiation it effects your skin at DNA level (there is a lot of chemistry involved so you can read all about it here if you are so inclined) triggering several defence mechanisms; peeling to clear away all the irreparable cells and an inflammation process which increases your sensitivity to heat; that is why having a shower after you have been in the sun can be unbearable….clever ey?
How does this effect tattoos?
Imagine that exposing your tattoo to the sun is a super slowed down version of laser tattoo removal. They work in very similar ways by concentrating a light onto your skin in order to break down the pigments in the dermis. Once the pigment has been broken down your body then absorbs it into the blood stream and disposes of it. This is essentially what is happening to your tattoos but over a longer period of time.
The sun will also alter the colour of your tattoo. The pigment is under 2 layers of skin which act as a transparent filter. As this filter becomes darker so will to your tattoo. Depending on how well you tan and the regularity of sun exposure this could spell a permanent discolouration of your tattoo. It’s worth noting that skin with very little melanin is always best for bright tattoos as this filtering effect is minimal if at all. It does mean that you burn easier though.
That’t not all folks; The sun also effects the healing process. The tattooing process creates a open wound so the normal protective barrier is now compromised. If the wound is then exposed to direct sunlight it will not only be incredibly sensitive but there is a potential risk that area will get burned. Therefore starting the inflammation process. if the skin blisters, cracks or peels this might take the new pigment with it (painful).
Post holiday tattoos.
The sensible option and one that is highly recommended is to wait until you have been on holiday and get your tattoo when you come back. However, you still have to be vigilant and look after yourself. If you are crispy and peeling when you arrive for your appointment be prepared to potentially be turned away. As part of the tattoo process your skin will have to be cleansed and wiped numerous times so, if sheets of skin are coming off with each wipe that will take the stencil with it making the tattoo impossible. Not to mention that it will be sore as hell! Tattoo machines create a small amount of heat so if you are already sensitive to temperature that will be exaggerated.
Moral of the story.
I don’t want this article to sound like I’m slating the sun. I’m really not. I just want to ensure you make an informed decision when getting tattooed why looking after your skin when sitting on the beach or in the beer garden is important. Tattoos cost a lot of money and time to ensure you get something perfect. Don’t let all that hard work from you and your artist be in vain.