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Tattoo AfterCare-Sun Exposure

Updated on January 27, 2009

New Tattoos And Sun Exposure

The sun gives off U.V (ultraviolet) radiation, and it's this uv which causes us to get a tan in the summer months when the uv is stronger. People all over the world flock to the open spaces when it gets warm and love to lie about enjoying the weather, but for a new tattoo, U.V is one of the biggest problems. Have you ever noticed how anything you leave in the sun for a while starts to fade? Well the same as true for a tattoo, and if it's a new tattoo, this effect is magnified greatly. After getting you new tattoo, your skin has been damaged, and it'll take up to three months for a new layer of protective skin to cover the area fully. After the first 2 weeks this process has already started, and it's often suggested that you wait at least this long before your tattoo sees prolonged sun exposure, and even then, it's recommended that you wear at least spf 30 sun tan lotion on the tattoo itself.


This may sound a bit extreme, but the sun can really fade a new tattoo, and until 2 weeks have passed, putting any sun tan lotion on the affected area can just irritate the skin further, as you'll be putting chemicals on a fresh wound. So, wait a couple of weeks, apply all the aftercare tips, then, try to limit prolonged sun exposure until the tattoo has fully healed (up to 3 months), and whenever you are out in the sun for a while, wear sun protection at around 30 spf on your tattoo. This will keep the image sharp and vibrant. There's no need to live in fear of the sun, it won't be the end of the world if your tattoo fades a little, and you can always get it touched up by your tattoo artist, but proper care and precautions are the best way to protect your new art, and are strongly recommended for new tattoos. For the sun and summer worshipers out there - try and time getting your new tattoo so that it has a few months to heal before the summer arrives, so that you don't have to worry about sun and water exposure too much.

Infected Tattoo
Infected Tattoo

Tattoo Scabs

During healing, some tattoos will form a protective layer of skin which will then peel away, and others will form a scab - it's completely normal, and depends on your type of skin, the way the tattoo artist's worked the skin, and your aftercare regime.


Don't Pick At It

During the healing process, your new tattoo may become very itchy, and scratching the area will be very tempting, but this can damage the tattoo as it may draw the fresh ink out of your skin. Slapping the itching area will cause a sting and the itch goes away. In some cases the scab that forms can become thicker and thicker as the days go by, and you may want to pick some of it off to see what's happening underneath, but this again will cause problems, so just leave it alone and wait. Thick scabs can sometimes be formed as people over-apply moisturiser or aftercare products to their healing tattoo. What seems to happen is that a small scab forms, and moisturiser is applied excessively - this turns the scab to mush, and then when it dries, it becomes larger and drier, so still more product is applied and the process repeats itself until the scab has grown very large. The best way to combat this is to apply the right amount of moisturiser from the beginning. Only a very thin layer is needed to moisturise the tattoo - any more can actually interfer with the healing process. So if your scab is turning to mush when you apply products - you're probably using too much. If a large scab has formed, try to be aware of it so that you don't accidentally pull it off your skin during the day, as it may degrade the image.



Scabs are formed from the dry blood and plasma which has leaked from the broken skin of the new tattoo. When cleaning a new tattoo, make sure to be gentle and try to clean all the blood around the wound to minimise the scabbing.


What if the scab comes off and my tattoo's blotchy?

If this does happen, and for any reason the ink comes out or appears blotchy, you can always go back to your local artist and get it touched up, usually for free, as artists are aware that the healing and aftercare process isn't a precise science, and provided you haven't abused your new tattoo, they'll usually be happy to re-ink it.

Tattoo Ink Scab on skin
Tattoo Ink Scab on skin

Tattoo Aftercare

Tattoo artists, and people with tattoos, vary widely in their preferred methods of caring for new tattoos. Some artists recommend keeping a new tattoo wrapped for the first twenty-four hours, while others suggest removing temporary bandaging after two hours or less. Many tattooists advise against allowing too much contact with hot tub or pool water, or soaking in a tub for the first two weeks. This is to prevent the tattoo ink from washing out or fading due to water and avoid infection from exposure to bacteria and chlorine.

General consensus for care advises against removing the scab that forms on a new tattoo, and avoiding sun exposure for extended periods; both of these can contribute to fading of the image. Furthermore, it is agreed that a new tattoo needs to be kept clean. Various products may be recommended for application to the skin, ranging from those intended for the treatment of cuts, burns and scrapes, to cocoa butter, lanolin, A&D or Aquaphor. Oil based ointments are almost always recommended to be used in very thin layers due to their inability to evaporate and therefore over-hydrate the already perforated skin. In recent years, specific commercial tattoo aftercare products have been developed for tattoo aftercare. Although opinions about these products vary, there is near total agreement that either alone or in addition to some other product, mild soap and warm water work well to keep a tattoo clean and free from infection.

Ultimately, the amount of ink that remains in the skin throughout the healing process determines, in large part, how robust the final tattoo will look. If a tattoo becomes infected (uncommon but possible if one neglects to properly clean their tattoo) or if the scab falls off too soon (e.g., if it absorbs too much water and sloughs off early or is picked or scraped off), then the ink will not be properly fixed in the skin and the final image will be negatively affected.

Tattoo removal is an option for a tattoo that's no longer wanted, however, this is not always an easy solution, and many people simply apply a coverup tattoo to the desired area.


New Tattoos and Water

It's always best to avoid soaking new tattoos in water - at least for the first two weeks, as the skin has been damaged and is much more likely to get infected or irritated by particles, either chemical or biological, in the water. Having a shower isn't generally considered harmful to a new tattoo, as long as you don't scrub the tattoo whilst in the shower. Be sure to clean it very carefully at first so you don't damage your skin. When it comes to swimming, chlorine can cause problems in the beginning so, even after the first two weeks, limit your exposure to chlorine-treated swimming pools. Some people suggest that it's best to wait for a long as three months before you can really stop worrying about getting your tattoo soaked. This is because it can take that long for a new protective layer of skin to form over your new tattoo, protecting it from chemicals and bacteria. Lots of people get tattoos in summer, or just before, but, in reality, this is probably the worst time to get a new tattoo, especially if you're a fan of the outdoors or swimming, as both water and sun exposure can harm your tattoo. If you're a fan of the summer, it's worth getting your new tattoo a few months before the sun and heat really get going to allow it to New Tattoo Healing Times fully.


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    • profile image

      perry junior 

      3 years ago

      what happens if my tatoo has already pealed and i swim with it ?...its 2weeks old

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I have the same problem now exactly what the picture shows. I had a tattoo last week and 2 days later it got infected and i was told to put anti bacterial ointment on it and take antibiotics. But its my 4th day now taking antibiotics and applying ointment but no improvement. The pain is excruciating and It actually looks much worse because its redder now. Please help.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Is this site still active?

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I value the post.Thanks Again. Awesome. cefkafebefdd

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I just got a new tattoo and I didn't know that your not suppose to expose it to sun so could I get it retouched witht the red

    • profile image

      Drew Lewis 

      9 years ago

      My tattoo is scabbing, and feels lumply im scared that under the scab the ink is going green and fading?

      Please help!

    • profile image

      is it that red? 

      9 years ago

      some redness is expected, are you running a fever? You can apply a topical ointment with antibiotics in it, if it gets worse, you will just need antibiotic. Don't be scared, the body fights bacteria everyday.

    • profile image


      9 years ago




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