Your feelings haven’t faded, your ink shouldn’t either; caring for tattooed skin


Your ink defines you – represents you – shares your feelings with the world. Your feelings haven’t faded - keep your ink from fading. More and more patients are asking dermatologists for skin care tips that will keep a tattoo or permanent makeup looking its best. We have some ways for you to keep your ink looking its best.

Tattoos take time to heal; complete recovery takes approximately two weeks.

To care for tattoos:

Cover the tattoo with a sterile bandage.
  • Remove the bandage after 24 hours to expose it to air. The tattoo leaves a wound that scabs and falls off within a week or so.
Clean the tattoo with mild soap and water, and apply a mild alcohol-free lotion to combat dryness.
  • Do this after the bandage comes off.
Avoid soaking the tattoo in water while it is healing.
  • Showers are fine.
The tattoo artist may recommend spreading antibiotic cream on the tattoo while it heals, although sometimes this can cause an allergic reaction. If the tattoo gets red, oozes pus or becomes increasingly tender, see a dermatologist right away.
Apply sunscreen every day before going outdoors. The ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun fades some tattoo inks. To protect your skin and your tattoo, apply a sunscreen that offers:

  • Broad-spectrum protection, which means that the sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays.
  • SPF 30 or higher.
  • Water resistance.
For best results, you should apply sunblock.

If you have permanent makeup on your lips, protect it with lip balm that protects you from UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF 30 or higher. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat can add extra protection for permanent eyeliner & brows.

Pay attention to rashes and sunburn-like reactions in tattooed skin.

Newly tattooed skin can be very sensitive; be aware of any feelings similar to that of a scraped elbow or knee. If you see your tattoo changing in any way immediately make an appointment to see a dermatologist.

UV light from the sun or a tanning bed can make the skin feel even more uncomfortable. Some people develop an intense sunburn-like reaction on their tattooed skin. This is most common when a tattoo contains yellow or red ink, but other colors can cause a reaction. If this happens, you will need to protect your skin by covering it with clothing before going outdoors.

Stay out of tanning beds and away from sunlamps.

These increase your risk for skin cancer. In some people, the UV light reacts with the tattoo ink, causing a painful skin reaction. The UV light also can cause inks in tattoos to fade.
If you have a skin reaction or see your tattooed skin changing in any way, immediately make an appointment to see a dermatologist.

It is not common, but sometimes skin can have a bad reaction to the ink in a tattoo. This can happen immediately after getting a tattoo or even years later. A change also could be a sign of skin disease; skin cancer can develop in tattooed skin, just like non-tattooed skin. A dermatologist can diagnose what's happening and treat it.

If you no longer want a tattoo, talk with a dermatologist.

Though there are many tattoo removal kits available online, the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that it does not regulate these products. Some kits contain acid, which has caused permanent skin injuries.

Dermatologists often remove tattoos with special lasers called Q-switched lasers. These lasers can break up tattoo ink into small particles that the body can eliminate. It takes many treatment sessions to remove a tattoo. Some tattoos cannot be completely removed. Talk with a dermatologist, you can find out what options are available for removing your unwanted tattoo. The best way to deal with an unwanted tattoo is to consult an experienced Tattooer regarding the possibility of revision or correction.

Other ways a dermatologist can help:

A dermatologist not only treats skin problems that develop in tattooed skin, but can also be an excellent source of information for anyone considering a tattoo. For instance, your dermatologist can tell you whether you have an increased risk for a complication such as scarring or developing a skin disease such as psoriasis. Injuring the skin by tattooing can trigger psoriasis in people who carry psoriasis genes.

If you're pregnant, wait to get a tattoo.

Unlike foods and medicines, tattoo inks are not regulated. Tattoo ink could pose a risk for a developing baby.

Get a tattoo on skin that is free of moles.

There is no evidence that a tattoo increases a person's risk for getting skin cancer. A tattoo, however, can make it more difficult to see the earliest signs of skin cancer. Melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, may begin in a mole. This deadly skin cancer has a high cure rate only when caught early and treated.

Protect your ink & the skin underneath and you will realize . . . beautiful skin is within reach

Article by
Las Vegas Dermatologist