Whether your tattoo is brand-new or several years old, that area of the skin still needs lots of moisture. Stay away from products with petroleum and lanolin as ingredients: Petroleum is oil-based and can clog pores, while lanolin has been rumored to pull color from healing tattoos. Use lotions and creams with hydrating and nourishing ingredients, such as antioxidants (which protect from environmental damage), emollients, and humectants like hyaluronic acid and shea butter.
Avoid dead-skin build-up, which can lend a faded finish to tattoos, by exfoliating regularly. Contrary to popular belief, exfoliating the skin on your tattoo is not going to fade it. Tattoo ink is placed in the dermis, which is the second layer of skin and not accessible to human touch. We view tattoos through our epidermis, the outer layer of skin — meaning the top layer of skin acts like a “window,” if you will. The only thing that can actually fade your tattoos is the sun (more on that later). A glycolic-based body scrub will help your skin shed dead cells faster, which in turn helps your tattoo look brighter.
Now, for the golden rule of tattoos: Your tattoo should never see the light of day without being slathered in SPF. Unlike Edward Cullen, it won’t glitter in the sunlight — it will fade, fast, so keep your tattoo out of direct sunlight as much as possible. In fact, it’s such a huge concern that Coppertone even recently launched a sun line specifically for tattoos called Tattoo Guard. You can use regular sunscreen — just make sure it has broad-spectrum care. UVA rays are the aging ones, and those are the ones tattoos fear the most.
Unfortunately, even the best-executed and well-taken-care-of care tattoo is subject to spreading and fading. Like a natural brunette whose gone blonde, you’re probably going to need a touch-up eventually. Of course, this might be 20 years down the line if you’ve been avoiding the sun. Try to visit the original artist who administered your tattoo; if that’s not possible, find one you like and ask them for a refresher.
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Photographed by Greg Manis