You've always heard that you should take precautions when spending time in the summer sun. Those with tattoos have even more of a reason to slather on the SPF. Tattoos may be permanent, but they're just as susceptible to the sun's rays as your un-inked skin.
Skin cancer remains a danger to those who put themselves in harm's rays – ultraviolet rays from the sun that is. But on top of that, tattoos fading, blurring and other types of damage are primary risks for sunbathers who insist on unprotected soaks.
Putting the burn on tattoos
You may think that your tattoo is invincible once it's inked onto your skin, but the truth is, there are dangers you need to be aware of – and direct sunlight is one of the major ones. While your top layer of skin protects your tattoo from the elements, UV rays still have a significant effect on your skin, and that can have repercussions for your tattoo as well.
Art museums don't expose their priceless masterpieces to direct sunlight, and tattooed individuals should take a hint from this and avoid doing so with their body art. According to Save Your Tattoo, the sun presents a host of dangers to inked skin. Not only does it affect the ink directly, increasing the rate at which the color fades, but it can impact your skin in ways that are far from ideal for tattoos. UV radiation from the sun's rays dry out skin, causing it to wrinkle, tan and even spot. Dangers can come from places other than the sun, too – chlorine from swimming pools and salt from the ocean can also have similar damaging effects on your skin if you're not careful.
Damaged skin can affect how tattoos are displayed and viewed, but more serious skin damage can actually threaten the integrity of the tattoo itself. You know that sunburns can cause skin to flake and peel. In rare cases of severe sunburn where deeper layers of skin are burned and affected, this can permanently damage the tattoo itself.
Before you vow to never leave your house in the daylight again, you may take comfort in knowing that while sun and the elements can pose as a danger to your tattoo, there are many things you can do to keep your ink – and your skin – safe from harm. Dry skin is major factor in tattoo damage, so keeping your skin moisturized is a good step you can take to protect yourself from bad tattoos. Especially if you've spent time in the sun and your skin has dried more than usual as a result, you'll want to be extra careful about staving off flaking and peeling.
According to Medill Reports, the primary threat to your tattoo is your own immune system. Since tattoos are essentially a type of infection, your immune system is constantly attempting to break up the ink. While there's no real danger here, over time tiny bits of ink being broken down can cause your tattoo to fade. In the case of sunburn or skin damage, peeling and flaking skin is a similar immune response aimed at healing damage. This means that when your skin is damaged, your immune response is kicked into overdrive, and your tattoo could potentially be at even greater risk.
With this in mind, prevention is the best way to keep your tattoo sharp and clear. By far the most effective means of keeping your skin safe from the sun is liberal application of high-SPF sunblock. Long sleeves can help, but Save Your Tattoo reminded that out of sight doesn't necessarily mean out of danger, as UV rays can often penetrate thinner clothing to reach the skin beneath.
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