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How to Care for Your Tattoo Long Term

August 24, 2018

Caring for your tattoo doesn't end after the initial period of healing and aftercare. If you want your tattoo to last a lifetime, you’ll have to learn some long-term tattoo secrets. Proper practices can keep your tattoo looking new and fresh for years, and knowing what to avoid can minimize fading and blurring.

“Tattoos have become very much a part of our culture today,” says Dr. Roopal Bhatt, a board-certified dermatologist with U.S. Dermatology Partners Four Points in Austin, Texas. In fact, a 2017 study by Statista found that 40 percent of adults in the U.S. have at least one piece of body art, and 25% of the survey respondents sported more than one tattoo. An additional 19% of survey participants, which included adults between the ages of 18 and 69, said they were considering getting one. 

“One thing that people may sometimes overlook is the need to learn proper care for your tattoos. There are certain things you can do to keep it brighter and looking good over time,” Dr. Bhatt says.

Five Top Tips for Tattoos

When it comes to the long-term care of your tattoo, here are some of the best practices to adopt:

No. 1: Remember to Give It Lots of Water

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is important to keeping your body healthy, but it’s essential to keeping your skin looking good — and that means keeping your body art’s canvas well moisturized.

“You can tell when someone isn’t drinking enough water; their skin is dry and dull and can appear more wrinkled,” Dr. Bhatt says. “When you have a tattoo on that same skin, it immediately emphasizes that dehydration. Drinking at least eight glasses of water every day keeps your skin and your tattoo looking younger and healthier.”

No. 2: Protect It With Sunscreen

Sunscreen is essential for healthy skin, but when it comes to your tattoo, it serves an equally important secondary purpose: keeping your ink from fading in the sun.

Tattoos should remain covered and protected for about the first three months, but after that it’s fine to let them out for some fresh air and sunshine. However, the more exposure to sun your tattoo receives, the faster it will fade. Lighter inks will fade faster than darker inks, so while black, dark blue and purple hues may not fade as quickly, they’re still being compromised by the sun’s rays.

You can use the same sunscreen as you use for your normal sun protection routine, and be sure that you use it all over. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen containing zinc that has a rating of at least SPF 30. Then, get diligent about applying it to your tattoo and any exposed skin every time you go outside.

No. 3: Beware of What You Wear

If you’re going to be outside, sun-protective clothing is another way to keep your tattoo protected for the long run. Even if the tattoo is under your clothing, if the clothes are loosely knit — like linen or a loose-weave cotton — the sun’s rays can still penetrate the cloth and result in fading.

Look for sun-protective clothing with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 30 or more and you’ll be protecting both your skin and your tattoo from harmful UV rays.

Finally, avoid scratchy fabrics, like wool, which can actually cause damage to the tattoo’s design.

No. 4: Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize

Again, what’s good for the rest of your skin is particularly good for a tattoo. Dry skin can make a tattoo look blurred or faded. Keeping your skin moisturized is your best bet for a fresh look.

While you can buy lotions that are marketed as tattoo lotions, you don’t need to spend the extra money. Avoid lotions with additives and fragrances, which can dry out your skin.

“The important thing is to buy a moisturizer that is right for your age and skin type,” Dr. Bhatt says. “Read the ingredient label closely, so you know that you’re getting something that won’t irritate your skin. Whatever type of moisturizer you would normally use on your skin should work well; just remember to apply it every day.”

No. 5: Watch Your Weight

Significant changes in your body weight will change not just the look of your body, but the appearance of your tattoo as well. Whether it’s due to pregnancy, dramatic weight gains or losses, or part of the natural aging process, a tattoo’s appearance will change with weight fluctuations. The slower the weight change, the less it will affect the tattoo, so if you do gain or lose weight, try to make that change gradually.

Taking Your Tat Undercover

No matter how much you love your tattoo, there might be some cases when you need to cover it up. It might be a job interview (or a job itself), or a family gathering or a wedding. Whatever the reason, knowing how to cover up your tattoo is part of knowing how to take care of it for the long haul.

Although darker ink is harder to cover up, it’s not impossible. Some tattoos will take more work (and more makeup) to conceal, and how successful your cover-up is will depend both on the size and the location of the tattoo.

Start with a concealer to neutralize the colors, and give yourself time to even out the colors. (For lighter colored inks, a concealer may be all you need.)

Next, apply corrective or camouflage makeup. These are types of makeup that are designed specifically to cover things like skin discoloration and scars, so they’re more effective in covering tattoos than a standard over-the-counter makeup. Apply as needed and make sure it’s blended to give your skin an even tone.

As a finishing touch, you might want to use a setting powder that will help the makeup last longer.

Learning to care for your tattoo will help it look better longer, and the added bonus is that what’s good for your skin art is good for the rest of your skin, too. Contact U.S. Dermatology Partners to learn more about how to take great care of your skin.

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Topics: Skin Health, skin care routine, USDP National, tattoos

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