Summertime can be a double-edged sword where tattoos are concerned. On the one hand, warm weather is time to show some skin and flaunt that beautiful artwork. At the same time, exposure to the sun can have disastrous results on the longevity of a tattoo, and recreational activities like swimming and camping that involve water, dirt (and germs), can wreak havoc on the healing process for a new tattoo.
As a professional tattoo artist you should already know the risks. The biggest hurdle you face when a client leaves your studio is that here’s no way to guarantee how they’re going to take care of their tattoo. The best you can do is to stress the importance of following aftercare directions to make sure new ink heals correctly and beyond that, keeping it out of the sun, or at least protecting it with sunscreen.
Above all, don’t tell them what they want to hear. Give them what your professional recommendation — your work is a reflection of you as an artist, and you want it to heal properly. If it heals poorly because the client went in the water or stayed out in the sun too long, it’s ultimately your reputation that’s at stake.
There is a big difference between getting a new tattoo damp (during a shower) and taking a dip in a lake or ocean, and especially hot tubs and swimming pools treated with chlorine and other chemicals. Most tattoos are bulletproof after two weeks, but during the initial healing process the body’s natural immune defenses around the wound are impaired, and this increases the risk of infection. If you want to use a scared straight tactic to keep your clients out of the water, tell them about the Texas man who got a calf tattoo five days before swimming in the Gulf of Mexico where vibrio vulnificus bacteria can be found in high levels during the summer months. He went into septic shock and died a few weeks later. True story – look it up.
Made in the Shade
Tattoos – especially fresh ones, can fade in a fairly short period of time from direct sunlight. Tattoo ink is transparent, much like watercolor paint, and even just getting a tan can reveal the new skin color underneath. It’s possible to actually change the hue of the pigment as well. Kevin Read, of Sacred Art Tattoo, in Waikiki, has seen the effects first-hand where “yellows appear brown and whites can look like scar tissue.”
The best way to limit sun exposure is to wear clothing that covers the tattoo. Beyond that, use an effective protectant, like H2Ocean SPF 45 Sea Life Sunscreen, which is specially formulated with tattoos in mind. Not only is it hypoallergenic, oil free and sweat resistant up to 50 minutes, but it’s formulated with Clear Zinc Oxide which mean you’re not putting a layer of film over the tattoo that will dilute the colors as you would with other creams and lotions.
Keep it Clean
D-Lize Pro is another protective aftercare product available from H2Ocean. The thin self-adhesive sheets provides a waterproof, anti-bacterial barrier that prevents contaminants from getting into the wound. Because the film is flexible and breathable, it’s a perfect compliment to outdoors fun.