How to care for tattooed skin

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More and more patients are asking their dermatologists for skin care tips that will keep a tattoo looking its best. Here are some tips from dermatologists for keeping tattooed skin healthy and vibrant:

  1. If your tattooed skin feels dry, apply a water-based lotion or cream to the tattoo. Petroleum-based products, such as petroleum jelly, can cause the ink to fade.
  2. Protect your tattoo from the sun: Ultraviolet (UV) light can fade some tattoo inks. When you’re in the sun, protect your tattoo by applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more. Apply the sunscreen 15 minutes before you go outside and reapply at least every two hours.
  3. Stay out of tanning beds and away from sunlamps. These devices may also fade the ink in tattoos and can increase your risk of skin cancer. In some people, the UV light may also react with the tattoo ink, causing a painful skin reaction.
  4. See a board-certified dermatologist if you have a skin reaction or if your tattooed skin is changing in any way. Your skin may have a bad reaction to the ink in a tattoo. This can happen immediately after getting a tattoo or years later. A change could also be a sign of skin disease. A dermatologist can diagnose what’s happening and treat it.
  5. When considering a new tattoo, consider getting it on skin that is free of moles. A tattoo can make it more difficult to see the earliest signs of skin cancer. When caught early, skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is highly treatable.

If you no longer want a tattoo, talk with a dermatologist. Many tattoo removal kits are available online, but 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. By talking with a dermatologist, you can find out what options are available for removing your unwanted tattoo.

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