Protecting tattoo inks in the skin

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Tattoo inks always look amazing when they are first applied. Modern pigments deliver bright, engaging tattoos that really make the skin area or body part involved a canvas for a work of stunningly impressive art. The ink will fade, in time, unfortunately – and in some cases will fade more quickly than others. A routine of good practice for protecting tattoos is highly recommended if a tattoo subject is to get the most out of his or her skin art.
In part, it’s important to understand the way that the actual inks involved in tattooing work: that gives one a good grounding for developing a working procedure for protecting finished tattoos. Basically, tattoo inks are delivered into the subcutaneous dermis using a needle, which first punctures the epidermis (outer layers of skin) and then leaves droplets of coloured ink in the punctured area. The ink, which is composed of a pigment plus a carrier (the “carrier” is what allows the colour to become soluble and also what takes that colour into the skin), settles in the site of the puncture, staining the subcutaneous (under-skin) flesh in the desired shape and colour.

Tattoo inks are composed of hundreds of different types of pigments – almost all of which have a strong reaction to UV light. It’s the bane of every skin art fan’s life: you get tats done to show them off, but you can’t expose them to direct sunlight if you want them to stay bright. So how do you maintain a happy medium?
Well, for the most part it depends on what you want. Some tattoos (classic sailor’s tats, for example, the old scrolls with the names of parents or sweethearts in them) are designed more as mementoes than actual art – or, to put it another way, the intensity of colouration on a particular type of tattoo is not necessarily an issue. If sailors could expose their tattoo inks to the equatorial sun, then anyone with a sailor style tattoo can do the same. They’re certainly not harming the “purity” or authenticity of their tat by letting it fade a little in sunlight.
For other highly decorative tats the answer is not quite so laissez faire. The initial week after a bright tattoo has been finished is critical – the skin should be treated with after tat cream and sanitising solutions, and the tat should remain covered whenever possible. Don’t get it wet and don’t have it out near any strong light source. After a week, the tattoo inks should have settled and fixed themselves correctly. The tattoo can now be exposed to normal light – though again it should be protected against sunlight wherever possible. High factor sun screen or sun block is able to deflect the UV rays that can harm the tattoo, without damaging the tat itself.

As long as you are careful with a tattoo, and treat it with good common sense, it should retain most of its brightness for a long time. Tattoo inks these days are a lot more resilient in the colour department than they used to be – which is why modern tattoos are a lot more elaborate and colourful. Take advantage of the choice available – and treat the end result as advised.

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