When our calendars fill up with sunny warm days, we start to spend a lot more time outdoors. Sun and laser treatments do not match, so it becomes really important to apply sunscreen on your treated tattoo.
Sun and Tattoos – What are the impacts?
Most of you know that tattoos will fade over time and many of you with tattoos choose to apply sunscreen to your body art to prevent it from fading. Professional tattoo artists generally recommend keeping your tattoo covered up for the first three months and once healed advise sunscreen application before going outdoors. Not all colours are created equal, the lighter the ink, the quicker the fade, the sun slowly draining the life out of that special piece. Black ink will generally take the longest to fade.
When you expose your tattoos to extended periods of sunlight, it causes cells in your body called langerhans cells to break apart. As a result, these cells are forced to move deeper into the dermis resulting in minor inflammatory reactions. This forces the body to produce immune gobbling cells to combat this reaction creating a breakdown of the tattoo ink, resulting in changes to the original shape of the tattoo.
Sun and Laser Treatment Don’t Mix
If you are undergoing laser tattoo removal, sunscreen application becomes very important as laser tattoo removal and sun exposure can effect skin pigmentation. Too much sun can lead to sunburn and laser treatments cannot be performed on sunburned skin. Also darker skin can decrease the effectiveness of the laser on the ink. Laser is attracted to melanin, the substance that gives our skin and hair colour. The more melanin someone has, or the darker the persons skin is, the more the laser will be attracted to the skin colour rather than the tattoo ink. This is not to say that tattoo removal is impossible on darker skin tones, we have performed many successful removals on darker skin, however we have to use less power thereby taking a little longer. Hypopigmentation is the concern with darker skin so “go slow”is the motto. It is therefore in your best interest to maintain your skin’s natural colour at least in the area to be treated and sun protection is key. Interestingly, if hypopigmentation does occur, normal sun exposure over time can restore the skin to its natural glory.
Protect Your Tattoo With a Quality Sunscreen
Whether you have a tattoo you adore or are in the process of tattoo removal, there are quite a few sunscreens out there that are labelled as special tattoo sunscreens. Don’t fall victim to marketing as any sunscreen will work just fine, however, we strongly recommend a physical barrier sunscreen not a chemical one.
Choosing a bottle to throw in you beach bag can be pretty overwhelming. According to some estimates from the United States, the sunscreen market is a $1.3 billion industry, and while the product can be extremely important, some sunscreens do a much better job than others and in fact, some sunscreens do more harm than good.
Physical sunscreens are ideal for skin that is healing from trauma or from cosmetic procedures including laser treatment. Physical sunscreens create a barrier on the skin that physically blocks the sun’s rays from being absorbed into the skin, reflecting the UV light. The primary ingredient in physical sunscreens is zinc oxide. The sunscreens we prefer are Natural Instincts, SurfMud, WotNot and Soleo as they don’t leave a thick chalky layer like other formulations that contain zinc oxide.
Chemical sunscreens are unfortunately the majority of sunscreens seen in supermarket aisles. They are very effective but should be avoided on skin that is healing, particular post tattoo removal or any laser treatments. They can irritate the skin by absorbing UV light, adding heat to already sensitive skin, impeding the healing process. Excessive use of chemical sunscreen on any part of the body, not just tattoos, runs the risk of exposure of toxic chemicals.
Harmful Chemicals and Preservatives
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a guide in 2016 containing information about the good, the bad and the ugly sunscreens. Not only do many sunscreens contain harmful chemicals like oxybenzone and methylisothiazaolineone, many contain retinyl palmitate, a form of Vitamin A linked to skin damage. According to EWG, Neutrogena is the biggest culprit for toxicity and false advertising.
The United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention found in studies that ninety-seven percent of users were contaminated with the toxic ingredient known as Oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is part of a class of aromatic ketones that is used in many hair sprays, cosmetics, sunscreens and even nail polishes. It is also used in plastics to absorb ultraviolet light. It has been found to act as a hormone disruptor (endocrine disruptor) and an allergen. Oxybenzone acts like oestrogen in the body and can alter sperm production in males. You can read a research paper here. Cancer, birth defects, infertility, endometriosis and developmental disorders, have been linked to oxybenzone. Some research has also found it present in mothers’ breast milk.
Retinyl palmitate is a form of vitamin A used in sunscreens and has been found to accelerate cancer in high doses applied to the skin. EWG states that the evidence is not definitive, it however is troubling. It may speed the development of skin tumours and lesions when applied to the skin in the presence of sunlight.
Vitamin A, or Retinol, is also used in many skin products that promise to slow the signs of aging, however its controversy as an ingredient in sunscreen is due to its effects when exposed to sunlight.
Sunblock your tattoos but don’t always sunblock your body
The very important item to consider with sun exposure is Vitamin D absorption. Sunlight contains two forms of radiant energy, ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB). UVA contributes to premature aging and skin damage, UVB provides the energy that is required to make Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin produced by the human body, absent from all natural foods except fish and egg yolks. Even when it is obtained from food, the body must transform it before it can do any good and the way it does this is by sunlight. Sunlights ultraviolet energy converts its precursor, a chemical in your skin, to Vitamin D3 via the liver and then your kidneys.
It is an essential vitamin for normal cholesterol and hormone function in the body. Interestingly, many people in Australia have Vitamin D deficiencies, one reason is for this is our excessive coverage from sunlight, a mantra that has been drilled into us since childhood. We have also moved from the farm to the office as years have gone by. Vitamin D’s best known role is intestinal absorption of calcium, without it, the body can only absorb 10-15% of dietary calcium. It would therefore be fair to summize, that if you have gastrointestinal problems, your calcium absorption is likely to be compromised. Kidney and liver disease would also compromise calcium absorption. In addition, certain medications reduce the available amount of vitamin D. The general rule of thumb to obtain enough vitamin D is to expose 80% of your body for at least 20 minutes of the day.
Do’s For Sunscreen
1.Choose the time of day to be exposed to the sun remembering that the midday sun is the harshest
2.Use SPF 30
3.Apply sunscreen that contains zinc oxide for maximum protection
4.Always apply sunscreen to a tattoo that is being lasered, whether it is for removal or modification.
Don’ts for Sunscreen
- Do not use any sunscreen that contains Vitamin A or Retinyl Palmitate. While Vitamin A is good for your skin, recent studies have shown that applying it to your skin and then exposing your skin to direct sunlight may be bad for you.
- Do not use any sunscreen that contains Oxybenzone. Some studies suggest that this compound may trigger allergic reactions and imitate oestrogen in the body. To learn more, visit our blog Toxic Chemicals in skin care.
Sun and Skin Protocol For Tattoo Removal
Avoid exposure to the sun for at least 2 weeks before your laser treatment and for a further two weeks after treatment. For normal outdoor activities apply an effective physical base sunscreen of a least SPF 30 on the tattoo. Do not apply an artificial tan solution for at least 2 weeks before or 2 weeks after laser treatment.
Finally, you should research the active ingredients in the sunscreen and make sure they are something you are comfortable putting on your skin. There are many natural and mineral based sunscreens available. The American site EWG might not be helpful here in Australia, however it will contain some sunscreens that are familiar to us.
EMBRACE THE SUN BUT ALSO RESPECT ITS POWER
Renude Laser is a premier laser tattoo removal clinic that has implemented the latest advances in science to treat the skin for successful tattoo removal as well as safely and effectively heal the skin following tattoo removal. We care what goes on your skin as well as through your skin.
Relove the skin you’re in…