Prof. Luca Valgimigli
The tattoo is a form of communication, a form of art in which one’s skin is used as a painter’s canvas, a way to express oneself and talk about oneself, as are clothing and body care.
This form of visual art has seen its popularity grow exponentially over the past 20 years, raising important questions; among these one in particular: how should tattooed skin be treated?
Certainly, our skin is not a canvas, as it is alive and is constantly changing. In doing so, it inevitably interacts with the pigments it hosts, with two important consequences.
The first is that pigments could cause inflammatory or allergic interactions; the second is that the pigments could diffuse, be altered or gradually removed, ruining the “painting”.
What skin reactions can occur after a tattoo and what to do?
In a popular article, the AAD (American Academy of Dermatology) identifies several possible skin reactions that could occur following a tattoo.
Among these, the skin infection, which could occur immediately after getting tattooed or in a short time, is the most predictable, but also the easiest to manage.
It can normally be avoided by an experienced tattoo artist, with appropriate hygiene precautions and responsible behavior by the tattooed. If something goes wrong, however, it is advisable to contact a doctor.
An allergic reaction to pigment components may be more subtle and show up even after years. In the most severe cases it requires medical intervention, but in milder cases the problem can be transitory and can be treated with particularly delicate soothing-protective products such as lino-dÉrmA designed for newborns’ dermatitis, if you want to use a natural remedy without resorting to the classic cortisone ointment.
Photo-sensitization or “sun allergy” is another of the possible negative interactions, due to the fact that the pigments, although not in themselves toxic or irritating to the skin, absorb sunlight and can act as energy-transfer agents against the skin, causing erythema. It is always advisable to expose ourselves to the sun while protecting the tattooed areas with a very high protection in the first periods after the tattoo, possibly with a very delicate, photo-stable and allergen-free sunscreen such as Crema Solare SPF50+.
However, even when the tattoo is well “integrated” into our skin, it is always advisable to expose yourself to the sun with good protection such as Crema Solare SPF30 and renew the application several times in case of prolonged exposure.
In some rare cases the tattoo could trigger inflammatory or autoimmune skin diseases such as psoriasis, vitiligo, lichen planus or others, acting as a trigger for a latent disorder, even without this being the real consequence of the pigments used in the tattoo.
Finally, rarely, some pigments could cause “skin burns” when undergoing medical diagnostic methods such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for their interaction with the strong magnetic and electromagnetic fields to which one is subjected.
How could the tattoo get damaged? What things should be avoided if you have a tattoo?
The first advice indicated by the AAD is to avoid cosmetic products based on petrolatum on tattooed skin! If you need another good reason to avoid petrolatum, here it is: they cause the pigment to spread into the skin, discoloration of the tattoo and the appearance of “smudges” of the design.
The second good tip is to always protect the tattoo from the sun. In addition to the problem of photo-sensitization, which concerns our skin, the pigments of the tattoo may undergo photo-degradation, i.e. be chemically damaged by the action of UV radiation, discolouring or changing color. So, excessive exposure to the sun can cause obvious damage to the tattoo, which will be irreversible.
Finally, it is very important to avoid dehydration and dryness of the skin. Our skin continuously loses water in the form of vapor, even if this process is slowed down by the protective hydrolipidic film.
Frequent cleansing, which is a correct hygienic necessity, impoverishes the hydrolipidic film, increasing dehydration. In addition to choosing delicate cleansers that respect the hydrolipidic film such as Shampoo & Doccia, it is always important to keep the skin hydrated by applying suitable products.
This applies to both men and women, and becomes indispensable in the case of tattooed skin. Poor hydration leads to peeling (even if not apparent) and loss of pigment, with the consequence that the tattoo will gradually fade or get discolored.
How to keep tattooed skin in perfect health while protecting the tattoo?
As we have seen, it is important to always keep the skin hydrated with delicate products that respect the physiology of the skin.
It is also important to avoid petrolatum and the products that contain them: contrary to what many mistakenly think, they can ruin the tattoo and cause it to fade. It is advisable to moisturize the skin with a natural lotion that soothes any irritation, protects the skin and maintains its elasticity.
BeC recommends two formulations that contain all these requirements and are ideal for the health of the tattooed skin: SE’, an entirely natural body cream very rich in antioxidants that also has a toning action on microcirculation and BodyBi an extremely delicate and light-touch organic lotion, to meet the needs of different skin types.
Let’s not forget to protect our tattoo from the sun: it is advisable to apply Crema Solare SPF30 every time we expose ourselves to the sun, possibly applying it 15 minutes ahead of exposure to give the skin time to fully absorb it.