Summer mugginess is hitting Auckland, Michael Bublé is playing in malls, decorations are making their way to store fronts—I think it’s fair to say, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
This is a busy time of the year for everyone, so we wanted to provide a small post on all the things to remember and consider if you’re getting tattooed this summer.
First, Some Housekeeping…
Don’t be a no show </3
We understand that during these months, time flies by in a flurry of present buying and end-of-year BBQs. Therefore, whilst wading through all the Christmas madness, please take a moment to set some reminders for any tattoo appointments you have booked in! It can be easy to forget that appointment you booked in during the calmer months of winter, but a no show on the day leaves our artists with no work. (And no work = no money to buy their families presents 😢).
We’ll try and make your life easy by sending you reminder emails and texts about your appointment, so please check with us to ensure we have your details up to date! Of course, we understand if something does come up and you need to reschedule. If this happens, please let us know ASAP (and at least within 48 hours of your appointment) to give the artists’ a chance of filling that gap.
A cheeky little deposit?
Since this time does get so crazy, please don’t be alarmed if we ask from a deposit for you! A deposit secures your booking, and will come off the final price of your tattoo. But please remember that if you don’t show for your appointment (or give us that 48 hours warning), there is a chance you will lose your deposit. If you have previously rescheduled, we may need a larger deposit for securing your new appointment.
Bare with, bare with!
Please also remember that we too are very busy humans, navigating our way through Christmas family get-togethers and present planning, as well as our usual jobs! For the artists’, this means they are tattooing all day, drawing all night, and still trying to find time to see their loved ones (at least, on occasion). So, if we take a little while to get back to your emails, we are very sorry! We’re doing our best, thank you for being patient!
How to Prepare for Being Tattooed in Summer
When chatting about tattoo care, we often discuss aftercare, but how you treat your skin before getting tattooed is also just as important.
Beware of your biggest enemy: The Sun
It’s no news to us that the sun in NZ is harsh. We don’t have a lot of ozone down here,
so we get hit by a lot more of the sun’s UV—and when that UV hits our skin, it can cause a radiation burn (a.k.a., sunburn). However, even if you have been super sunsmart, and not sunburnt, being out in the sun still causes a certain amount of damage to the top layers of your skin. (Even if you’ve been wearing sunblock—because even though sunblock is great, and you should always wear it, it doesn’t protect you 100% from the sun’s UV).
Now, to understand why this can be bad for tattooing, we need to get a little science, and we need to talk about skin. The skin has a lot of layers, with a lot of specific names, but for now all you need to know about is the epidermis and the dermis.
When you are tattooed, the tattoo needle needs to go through the upper layer of your skin (the epidermis) to place it in the middle layer (the dermis). Now, when you are sunburnt, the epidermis (and sometimes the dermis) have been damaged, and cannot be tattooed. However, even if you have not been sunburnt, the sun can damage the epidermis—for example, a tan is actually evidence of genetic damage in cells of your epidermis. Prolonged UV exposure causes an increase in the thickness of the dead skin cell layer of your skin, and tattooing this could push those dead skin cells back in your body.
Simply put, your body doesn’t want dead things in it, and this can be the quickest way to an infection. Therefore, we recommend that you stay out of the sun two weeks prior to being tattooed. Furthermore, if your skin has been damaged by the sun, unfortunately we may not be able to tattoo you that day. We understand this can be disappointing, but we don’t want to put your health at risk. However, if you are concerned—come in and see us a few days before your appointment. We will let you know if we believe it is safe to continue, or if it is best to reschedule.
Your other enemy: The heat = dry skin
The other thing that can affect how well your skin is going to take being tattooed is quite simply how it reacts to this heat. For example, if your skin gets very dry or flaky, it may be a good idea to gently exfoliate the area one week before your tattoo appointment. (For a bonus, check out the easy make-at-home exfoliate recipe at the end of this post!).
Exfoliating will help clear the area of that dead skin, but you don’t want to do it too close to your tattoo (since you want your skin to be fresh, clear, and not irritated). (Note: If you are sunburnt, do not exfoliate! A sunburn is an injury, and we need to wait for that skin to heal and grow back before tattooing you—exfoliating that dead skin is going to harm your body’s ability to heal and could even expose that damaged skin to infection.)
Is this the best time to be tattooed?
Without wanting too sound harsh, it is also important to consider whether summer is the best time for you personally to be tattooed. Classic summer activities like beach days, camping, and music festivals, are not the friendliest environments to heal a new tattoo in, particularly in those first three weeks of being tattooed. Getting a tattoo at this time of year doesn’t mean you need to stay inside and not do anything all summer—but there are some things to consider. So, if you know you’re going to want to be outside, hiking or spa-pooling, all summer, it might be worth rescheduling your booking to the cooler months. If you’re on the fence, read on to make sure you know what you’re getting into! (And remember you can always check in with us as well <3)
How to Look After Your New Tattoo in Summer
Back to Basics
First and foremost, follow all of the usual aftercare guidelines. This means you want to avoid direct sunlight, exercise, fake tan, tight clothing, and (one more time for the those in the back) swimming.
Generally, we wear fewer clothes in summer, which means tattoos are at more risk of being exposed to dust, smoke, dirt, and sand (especially if traditionally healing, and not using second skin). All these things can irritate a tattoo, and can lead to infection.
Let’s talk about sweat
We sweat more in summer: It’s the way things are. But sweat can really affect your healing tattoo. Sweat is mostly water, with small amounts of minerals (e.g., salt), lactic acid, urea, and ammonia. As we sweat more in summer, there is an increased chance the sweat will interact with the bacteria on our skin to cause a rash, or induce an infection within the healing tattoo. If you’re healing with second skin, sweating underneath the bandage can create a breeding ground for such infections, or it can soak through the adhesive of the bandage (causing it to become ineffective). If you’re healing traditionally, more sweat can affect the scab that forms over the tattoo, irritating the area, which can prevent it healing properly, and/or (you guessed it) lead to an infection. There is also a risk of sweat pushing out the ink as it’s healing in your skin—leading to patchiness.
Now, we understand that sweating in summer is inevitable! But we would suggest limiting sweat-inducing activities until after your tattoo has healed, and take it easy during the first three weeks (then you can go back to running ultra-marathons and watching stressful thriller films).
Remember your biggest enemy?
The sun can also affect how your tattoo heals, and how it will look after it has healed. Although the top layers of skin heal after about three weeks, the bottom layers of skin will still be healing and regenerating. During this stage, the pigment sits higher in the skin, and as time goes on, new layers of skin are formed, and the tattoo “sinks” settles into the dermis (where it was placed). This can take up to 6 months for all the layers of skin to fully recover.
During this time, the pigment in the skin in more susceptible to the sun, which (in Adam’s words), is just a “giant, slow, laser removal system”. While the sun’s UV can cause a tattoo to fade, regardless of how old it is, during these first healing stages it is most at-risk. Lighter colours, such as whites and yellows, are also more likely to be impacted, but it’s important to keep all fresh ink out of the sunlight!
Sun can also change how your tattoo looks in two other ways. Firstly, since your tattoo lives in your dermis (under layers of skin), if those top layers of skin become tanned, it is essentially like putting a ‘tan’ filter on top of the tattoo. The extent of this change is affected by how dark your skin naturally tans, and your undertone. A typical example of this is that blues can look slightly greener if you are tanned, but then one your tan has faded, they will go back to blue.