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How Soon Can You Get a Fake Tan After You Get a Tattoo?

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Tattoo aftercare is essential if you want your tattoo lasting and looking its best. After all, a tattoo is a lifelong commitment! You want to make sure that in 20 years your tattoo looks as good as it does today.

Whether you’re a fan of self-tanners or tend to spend a lot of time outside, you are going to have to adjust your tanning routine to account for tattoos.

How Soon Can You Get a Fake Tan After You Get a Tattoo? In this article, we are going to answer that question as well as take a look at the science behind your skin as it relates to tattoos and fake tans, and tattoo aftercare.


The science behind…

Your Skin and Tattoos

Something that many people rarely consider or understand is what happens to your skin when you apply a fake tan, and how the process of embedding a permanent image into your skin actually works.

The more you understand your skin, the better informed you’ll be to be able to make the right choices to keep your skin healthy and glowing and your tattoo standing the test of time.


The Three Layers of Skin

Skin Diagram Source: Wikipedia
  • Epidermis – The epidermis forms a protective barrier against infections;
  • Dermis – The dermis contains the hair follicles, sweat glands and blood vessels;
  • Subcutaneous Layer – The subcutaneous layer attaches the dermis to the muscles and bones underneath.

When you get a tattoo, the needle penetrates through the epidermis to the dermis. Your body reacts to the ink by sending white blood cells to remove them, as it would with any foreign invader.

The tattooed areas will swell and turn red and eventually begin to scab over.

The ink particles are much larger than white blood cells. And while some of the smaller particles will be removed, the majority will sit in the skin forever.


Your Skin and Fake Tans

The active ingredient in all spray tans and most self-tanners like Beauty by Earth and Bondi Sands is dihydroxyacetone (DHA). Though there are some DHA-free self-tanners available, their active ingredient is erythrulose which works in the same way.

Both DHA and erythrulose work by creating a chemical reaction with dead cells on the skin’s surface layer, or the epidermis, to temporarily darken the skin and simulate a tan.

In fact, fake tans react with the cells on the outermost layer of the epidermis, known as the stratum corneum. This area is far from where tattoo ink resides.


Will Fake Tan Damage My Tattoo?

Using a fake tanning product after you get a tattoo, whether it be a spray tan or a self-tanner from a bottle, will not damage your tattoo as long as the tattoo has fully healed.

Because of how fake tans work by causing a reaction with only the epidermis (the surface layer) of the skin, it does not impact your tattoo, which lies in the dermis layer underneath.


How Soon Can You Get a Fake Tan After You Get a Tattoo?

Fake tans and tattoos can peacefully coexist, as long as you wait until your tattoo is fully healed before you start applying a fake tan.

The tattoo healing process can be different for different people. And it can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the size and complexity of the tattoo. You really need to carefully cover it, baby it, protect it from sunlight, and let it fully heal before hitting it with any tanning product.

Using a fake tan product before a tattoo is fully healed could lead to infections, and could increase the risk of a bad healing process.


Can I Fake Tan Before Getting a Tattoo?

It’s best to get your tattoo with clear, non-colored skin.

If you get a tattoo right after you’ve used a fake tanning product, the color may smudge or smear. This could complicate your tattoo artist’s ability to properly blend the color and tone of the ink.

Even if the fake tan color has fully set, your temporarily-darker skin will impact the brightness of the color of the tattoo ink. It will be nearly impossible for your tattoo artist to know what it’s going to look like on your natural skin.

You won’t know until a couple of weeks down the road what it looks like either. Once your tan fades you might find that your delicate watercolor pastel tattoo has turned bright neon because your tattoo artist couldn’t see what he/she was doing.


Tattoo aftercare

The best way to ensure that your tattoo comes out looking great for as long as possible is to follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare instructions religiously.

  • Do not get it wet
  • Do not expose to sunlight
  • Wait until your tattoo is fully healed before applying any fake tanning product
  • Use only  products on your tattoo specifically made for tattoo aftercare

Your tattoo artist may or may not recommend a specific line of aftercare products to use, so we’ve compiled a list of tattoo aftercare products that come recommended by tattoo artists themselves.


Take Away

A tattoo is a big investment — and it’s forever. A temporary tan is not worth risking infection and damage to a tattoo that you will live with for the rest of your life.

Be patient.

Wait at least a week to 10 days after the last time you applied a fake tan before getting a tattoo. As far as how soon after you get a tattoo can you get a fake tan – wait until your tattoo is completely healed before applying any type of fake tan.

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