Monthly Archives: November 2009

Dear Tattooist: What’s the best way to keep a tattoo fresh?

DeadRobot asked:

Dear Tattoisty

Sort of a remix on Urspo’s question:

I’ve heard from a few people that suns rays will deplete the colour of a tattoo. while one artist told me that chlorine from a pool will do it.

What’s the best way to keep a tattoo fresh?

Keep it in Tupperware. That way you can lock in the freshness.


I have been looking for scientific articles about this rather than just answering with conjecture, but all I have been able to find are a few articles here and there. All I have to present to you is what I have witnessed first-hand, been taught through my apprenticeship, learned about skin in biology classes, or corroborated from various sources on the Internet. Writing this post made me realize how much more I need to sit down with a dermatologist to learn more about the skin and how it heals.

First, some images so you can see where the tattoo ink is placed (or should be) in the skin.

Skin layers Skin layers

(For a brief overview of the layers of the skin, I recommend a reading of the Wikipedia article on Skin layers.)

See the area in the image that says “Battered Area”? The “Battered” part is important to remember. The skin is just that: Battered. Tenderized. Damaged.

The first 3 months of the tattoos life are the most important. It takes 2 to 4 weeks for the epidermis to shed and be replaced. The epidermal-dermal junction (aka the “basement membrane”) is reforming around 1 month, and is fully reformed around 2 to 3 months. The dermis is still repairing itself from the damage caused by the battering during the tattoo process and can take 6 months or more to fully heal.

(For a brief overview of the healing process of the skin, I recommend a casual reading of the Wikipedia article on wound healing.)

I said all that to say this: it takes a long time for your skin to heal after getting a tattoo!

Chlorine (and several other chemicals) could, in theory, affect the color of a tattoo that is still fresh and in the healing processes. But it should not fade a fully healed tattoo. As I said before, I have no hard science to back these statements up with. (Just Google “tattoo chlorine” and you will see most of the same “blah, blah, blah” information repeated over and over, but with no scientific backing.) For my clients, I recommend staying out of bodies of water for at least 4 weeks. Submersion in bodies of water can expose your new tattoo to elements that are harmful to the healing process: salt water (dries the skin and can lead to heavy scab formation), bacteria (risk on infection), various chemicals, etc.

By far the biggest risk to the freshness/brightness/life of any tattoo is UV radiation (direct sunlight, tanning lamps, etc.). Not exposing the tattoo to UV radiation will keep the tattoo “bright”. UV radiation penetrates the skin and this will cause the pigments in the dermis to break down over time.

Also, some tattoo inks are susceptible to UV radiation exposure—usually the magenta group of purples and violets, some yellows, and also many white pigments. These colors tend to change and mutate over time.

Since human bodies need some sunlight for some vitamin production, covering a fully healed tattoo with sunblock and following the duration-to-reapply instructions on said sunblock will help protect the tattoo.

There are other conditions that can affect the “freshness” of your tattoo as well:

Poor application of the tattoo by the tattooist. If the ink is inserted at the correct depth it will last much longer than a tattoo with ink that has been inserted too shallow (ink will “bleed out” through the still-healing basement membrane) or too deep (ink will be absorbed faster by the lymphatic system).

Poor quality ink affects the life of your tattoo. Not all tattoo inks are made with quality materials. In fact, tattoo ink is a highly unregulated market. “(B)ecause of other public health priorities and a previous lack of evidence of safety concerns, FDA traditionally has not exercised its regulatory authority over tattoo inks or the pigments used in them”. You should also know that “the FDA has not approved any tattoo pigments for injection into the skin. This applies to all tattoo pigments, including those used for ultraviolet (UV) and glow-in-the-dark tattoos. Many pigments used in tattoo inks are industrial-grade colors suitable for printers’ ink or automobile paint.”

(See the FDA product information regarding Tattoos & Permanent Makeup and “Think Before You Ink: Are Tattoos Safe?”)

Failing in the aftercare department. Once you leave the studio, the tattoo is ultimately your responsibility. If you pick at any scabbing, use steam rooms, submerge your tattoo, and/or expose it to UV radiation during the healing process your tattoo could prematurely fade. Follow the instructions your tattooist gives you for the healing of your tattoo!

Also, after the tattoo has fully healed, dry skin will cause the tattoo to look dull. To brighten the colors up, use lotion daily.

I hope this wasn’t information overload for you. And hopefully I actually answered your question.

Here’s a few articles on the Internet I submit for your perusal:
– eMedicine article on Tattoo Lasers which also has a good medical histology of the tattoo process;
– BME article on “Tattoo Ink – Where Does It All Go?”

If you have questions about tattoos: tattoos in general, about getting a tattoo, about giving a tattoo, or anything else related to tattoos, just add a comment to my November 6, 2009 post, or send me the question via e-mail from my contact page. I will then dedicate an entire post to answering your question.

Until next time...

Mike Huckabee Wants You To Sign The Anti-Gay “Manhattan Declaration”

Taken from Joe. My. God.:

Calling it a “historic document,” Mike Huckabee is asking his viewers to sign the anti-gay Manhattan Declaration, which calls on Christians to disobey laws that protect LGBT people from discrimination. The DeMoss Group is hosting the declaration online and has the complete list of right wingers, clergy, wingnuts, and hate group leaders that have signed.


I understand the concept of when the “law of man” conflicts with “God’s law” that Christians disregard or refuse to obey the law of the land. That’s how “they” got away with slavery, prohibiting interracial marriages, keeping women subservient and as property, etc., for so long.

It’s against the law (of man) to break the speed limit? Yet I wonder how many people do that on their way to church every Sunday?

And don’t even get me started on how “they” feel about divorce and the “Sanctity of Marriage” argument.

So much for removing the plank from one’s own eye first….

Following the “logic” Mr. Huckabee, et al., have stated here, how long before this “Declaration” will be amended eventually to state it is okay to kill people “God” disagrees with?


Until next time...

Einstein’s Tattoo

For some reason—a rather odd one—I find this picture inquisitively hysterical. So I thought I should share it.

lick to embiggen

I think this is an advertisement from the latest issue of “People” magazine. I didn’t really pay attention, as the Husbear brought it to my attention. It was a full page ad. Of just this.

I’m probably breaking all sorts of copyright stuffs, but it’s not like I haven’t done that before….

Until next time...

Dear Tattooist: Will it hurt when you poke me?

kyle asked:

dear tattooist.

a) will it hurt? i’m a complete pussy and don’t like pain.
b) what would your mom think – i mean, dirtying up your skin and all. don’t you know what leviticus says about it? scandalous.


I’ll be focusing on “a)” in this post.

Not to put to fine a point on it, but yes. However, “hurt” is relative. Sometimes after eating at P.F. Chang’s and then passing a 5 Couric crap hurts, right? (Google it…)

I posted on this a couple years ago, actually.

And like I said then, “Some people just lay there, while others moan and twitch and cry the whole time… just like sex!”

Most people say that getting a tattoo is just “irritating”. Some people actually fall asleep while getting a tattoo. (I’ve had two people fall asleep while being inked, and it kind of freaked me out both times.) Some people cry like they’re having bamboo spikes shoved under their fingernails. The point is: everyone is different. Only you know what your “normal” pain threshold is.

From the technical side, I am aware that there are some tattooists out there who believe in digging hard and deep. Which sucks. And hurts. And is totally unnecessary. (I’ve been tattooed by an artist before that believed in that methodology. I know better now!) Talk with your tattooist during the procedure and let he or she know how they are doing. ESPECIALLY if it hurts more than you think it should!

If you have questions about tattoos: tattoos in general, about getting a tattoo, about giving a tattoo, or anything else related to tattoos, just add a comment to my November 6, 2009 post, or send me the question via e-mail from my contact page. I will then dedicate an entire post to answering your question.

Until next time...