It's the tail end of Memorial Day weekend and even though the weather here in New York is dreary, everyone is gearing up for Summer. While showing off your new tattoo or even an old one is something most people want to do, it's important to remember the havoc the sun can play on your ink.
UV rays effect tattoos much in the same way laser removal does albeit slower. The UV rays coming from the sun even during cloudy weather break down the microscopic particles that make up your tattoo. Once broken down, the bodies natural response is to remove foreign material. Particles that are small enough for the bodies natural immune system to process are carried away and cause your tattoo to fade.
Imagine your skin like any barrier or shield. New ink is particularly susceptible to the damage of UV exposure since there is nothing protecting the ink particles from the direct influence of sunlight. Once your skin is fully healed, the damage still occurs but is mitigated by the barrier your skin provides.
You can use high quality sunblock to lessen the damage but during the initial healing period it is highly reccommended to keep your tattoo covered by clothing when in the sun.
Even swimming can be detrimental to the quality of a fresh tattoo. Aside from the potential hazards of entering water with an open wound, the refracted light in water allows your tattoo to be bombarded by the damaging light from multiple angles.
While fading can be dramatic if you are exposed to sunlight with a fresh tattoo, the main thing to remember is that this piece will be in your skin for a lifetime. You may not notice the fading now or even next year, but repeated and prolonged exposure to direct sunlight with zero protection will cause damage to occur quicker. This can be seen after a few years when comparing a tattoo that has been taken care of and a tattoo that has been exposed to the elements.
Summer is a great time to get a tattoo; Spirits are high and people aren't bundled beneath layers of jackets fending off the inevitable snowstorm, but it is important to remember to keep your latest artwork protected. Next Summer, feel free to show the piece off with an intelligent amount of sunblock. For now though, keep that tattoo covered!