In the hot sun, people with tattoos need extra protection from UV rays so their skin does not burn or camouflage skin cancer. The sun can cause tattoos to fade and, worse yet, the colors can be a hindrance to screening for cancer. Here are some tips from the American Academy of Dermatology on how to care for tattooed skin:
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.
Protect your tattoo from the sun. Ultraviolet (UV) light can fade some tattoo inks. When you are 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 30 minutes before you go outside and reapply at least every 1-2 hours.
Keep new tattoos out of direct sunlight. The first 14 days after getting a tattoo is the healing stage when tattoos are very vulnerable to outside elements. Direct sunlight can burn the delicate skin and cause fading. While the tattoo is healing, cover it with a bandage or clothing while in the sun. Do your very best not to expose your new tattoo to direct sunlight for up to 1 month after getting it, and especially during the first 14 days.
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.
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 is happening and treat it.
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.
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