The number one danger to a tattoo is the sun. A tattoo will naturally fade and the lines soften as the skin ages, but exposure to sun greatly speeds up the process. The ink of a tattoo is in the dermis, where melanin, the chemical that darkens your skin to protect you from sun damage is produced. This chemical actually causes damage to healthy skin cells as it does itís job, and this damage appears to extend to the ink molecules in the same skin layer.
The lighter and paler the colors of a tattoo, the more they are at risk. I have talked firsthand with people who lost white ink entirely after a single episode of sunburn. They describe noticing a total loss of the highlighting white after the red of the sunburn faded from the skin. Recoloring and retouching is possible, but sunburn the new ink again and youíll be back to square one again.
Wearing sunscreen of SPF 20 or higher is recommended for tattoos, and the best protection of all is to keep them covered by clothing during the peak tanning hours. A few long-sleeved t-shirts in light colors should be part of every tattooed personís summer wardrobe. For those who like water activities in summer, be sure to find a sunscreen that is both waterproof and sweatproof and remember to reapply according to the manufacturerís instructions after getting out of the water.
Some people want to protect their skin art but still indulge in tanning, and apply sunscreen to just their tattoos. Personally, I donít recommend this practice as it usually results in a painful and funny looking sunburn everywhere but on the tattoo itself. As tattooed skin is more pigmented than the untattooed skin, the sun absorption varies, and some people will notice their tattoos puff up a bit when they are out in the sun or become very hot. This is not a sign of any specific adverse reaction. but I usually take it as a sign to get out of the sun, cover up and cool off a bit.
One other summertime occurrence to watch out for is insect bites. Iíve heard rumors to the effect that mosquitoes donít bite tattooed skin as itís tougher, but could easily disprove such beliefs via my own experiences. Hey, they bite you where they bite you, ok? Sometimes itís on blank skin, and sometimes itís right in the middle of your favorite tat. ĎNuff said.
The danger with the insect bite comes in the itching and scratching following the bite. Scratching a mosquito bite can really break open the skin and cause the ink of a tattoo to ďheal outĒ when the skin repairs itself. Essentially, youíll have a flesh-colored spot where the ink either was absorbed or pushed out as the skin healed, leaving an error in the midst of the artwork. As with colors that burn out, this can be recolored, but itís easier to avoid the damage in the first place. Anti-itch ointments and creams can help reduce itching for those instances where you get bitten.