Sometimes we cannot resist slipping into a tanning salon, especially during those winter months where we need a bit more vitamin D or a mood booster. But did you know that tanning beds can actually fade or prematurely age your tattoos? UV rays are not only dangerous to your health; they can also be your tattoo’s number one enemy.
Luckily, there are still ways for you to add some color to your skin that won’t compromise the art you carry.
Table of Contents (clickable)
The easiest way to understand how UV light affects a tattoo is to consider how laser tattoo removal destroys it. Laser tattoo removal uses an extremely high and concentrated version of UV wavelengths to attack, in light bursts, your tattoo. It’s like the light is basically punching apart your ink and sending the particles into your bloodstream so they can be absorbed and disappear. This is why after a laser tattoo removal session, people often feel as though they have a really extreme sunburn on the area.
UV light from sun exposure or tanning bed exposure does the same thing, but in a less concentrated format. The best analogy would be that the tanning bed is baking your tattoo, changing the intensity of the color, blurring the work, or fading it. Tanning beds, in comparison to external sun exposure, also use more concentrated UVs, making ten minutes in a bed comparable to three hours on the beach.
Along with prematurely aging the tattoo, tanning beds can affect the color of your tattoos, dissipating the brightness, turning bright reds into dull oranges.
Under no circumstances should a new tattoo ever be exposed to direct UV light, whether artificial or natural. Your skin, while still healing, is susceptible to severe sunburns, to advanced color fading, and to the introduction of bacteria that could be present in tanning salons.
Going to a tanning bed with a new tattoo that hasn’t had at least five or more weeks of healing means the UV rays are not only penetrating the epidermis but going into the dermis as well. This could also cause potential skin health risks, such as blistering, growths, or even skin cancer.
To be extra safe, it’s always best to wait five to six weeks after a new tattoo before subjecting it to direct UV exposure in a tanning bed. This time may be extended for larger or more detailed tattoos that take longer to heal.
You may feel tempted to risk it at around the three or four week mark, when your skin looks healed enough for sunscreen application. At this point, you are still sensitive and your white blood cells are continuing to reform skin cells, so you put yourself and your tattoo at risk. Burning your skin could lead to permanent scarring and deformed tattoos that cannot be corrected.
If you absolutely must use a tanning bed, you have two options to help prevent premature aging and fading of your tattoos.
There are healthy and safe alternatives to tanning beds that allow you to get some color and not put your ink at risk.
It is also always recommended that you continue the moisturizing aspect of your tattoo aftercare days, weeks, months, and even years down the road. This ensures the health and longevity of your piece. If your cream or lotion includes SPF, then you also have the added benefit of UV protection.
If you decide to use a tanning bed when you have tattoos, then you must be ready for the risks involved. These include premature aging of your tattoos, and the fading or blurring of the art you likely paid quite a bit to put on your body.
There are alternatives for getting a bronzed look that are far safer for you and your tattoos. Ultimately, the decision is yours to make, and you should take the necessary precautions to ensure the longevity of your ink.