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Got ink? How to best care for tattooed skin

"My body is my journal, and my tattoos are my story." – actor Johnny Depp
According to 2013 data from Pew Research Center, about 14% of Americans of all ages have at least one tattoo, and annual U.S. spending on tattoos in 2013 was over $1.6 billion. Who better than dermatologists can provide top guidance on how to best care for those investments in tattooed skin? After all, you want to keep the ink looking its best for as long as possible.

If you already have your tattoo, here are some tips from the American Academy of Dermatology:

  • See a dermatologist if something looks or feels wrong: Whether your tattoo is brand new or years old, if your skin in that area is changing in any way, consult with a board-certified dermatologist as soon as possible. Your skin may be having a bad reaction to the ink, and this can even happen years later. A dermatologist can quickly diagnose what's happening and recommend treatment.
  • Block it from the sun's rays: Because ultraviolet light (UV) can fade some inks (and in some cases, cause a painful skin reaction!), protect your art by applying at least an SPF 30 broad-spectrum, water resistant sunscreen. Always apply it 15 minutes before going outside, allowing the skin to absorb it, and re-apply every 2 hours.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps: Not only do these practices increase the chance of the ink color fading or having a bad reaction, they also increase your risk for skin cancer. Avoid, avoid, avoid!
  • Use the RIGHT moisturizer: Sometimes, tattooed skin can become dry – but did you know that the type of moisturizer you use can negatively affect your ink? If dry skin occurs on the tattoo area, apply a water-based lotion or cream to the tattoo; petroleum-based products can cause the ink to fade.
  • Get a professional to remove unwanted ink: If you no longer want a tattoo, consult with a dermatologist to find out your best options. Avoid self-removal kits that can be purchased online, as they are not regulated by the U.S. FDA and many contain acid that can permanently injure your skin. Yikes!

If you are considering a new tattoo:

  • Tattoo on an area free of moles: A tattoo covering moles can make it more difficult to see the earliest signs of skin cancer. When caught early, skin cancer (including melanoma which is the deadliest form), can be treated usually with a very good prognosis.
  • Exercise caution with skin issue history: Patients should be cautious about getting tattoos if they have current or a prior history of skin diseases. Certain skin disorders like psoriasis, lichen planus, vitiligo and sarcoidosis, just to name a few, can spread or erupt on tattooed skin sites.

The biggest thing to remember is to see a dermatologist if your tattooed skin is changing in any way. If you'd like to consult with a board-certified dermatologist online on your schedule, you can start a visit right now with