Nights out, BBQs in, holidays away… sometimes the summer makes you want to add that extra sparkle to your skin. (And if you prefer to embrace your natural tone - that’s okay too!) Looking after your skin and protecting your body art might mean you turn to the faux glow. But can you wear fake tan when getting a tattoo?
We asked Sarah of @big.bird.tattoo, a UK artist based in Huddersfield, for a few pointers on what to do if you already fake tan or are planning to when having a tattoo.
Can you tattoo over fake tan?
"Fake tanning and tattoos don't work well together," Sarah makes clear. "If you are keen on fake tanning or spray tanning please avoid the area of the tattoo before your appointment, as the skin needs to be clean and clear for the appointment to take place.
"If in doubt, ask your artist on what is best for them to work with. In short, having a lighter patch of skin around the tattoo is a small sacrifice to pay for a life time tattoo."
Types of tan to avoid before your tattoo
Usually done at a salon by a beauty therapist, spray tans contain the active ingredient DHA (dihydroxyacetone). This chemical reacts with the top layer of your skin and causes the skin cell's proteins and amino acids to darken in the 24 hours after application.
Tan fanatics will have to forgo the glow in the weeks leading up to their tattoo sitting, as pigments in fake tan can interfere with the design. In addition, it’s often a good idea to exfoliate ahead of your tattoo - the opposite advice to caring for a spray tan.
Another sunless tanning product is gradual tan, which is usually mixed with moisturiser and built over a few days. Many fairer skin tones opt for this type of fake tan because, as the name suggests, you can gradually darken your skin tone with more control. No one wants a Ross from Friends moment! Although this is a weaker form of fake tan, it will still leave your skin with a coating of fake tan which is better left on the shelf until your new tattoo has healed.
Sunbathing ahead of a sitting isn’t a wise idea either - as you might find that a lot of tattooers will refuse to tattoo you if you get sunburnt. Tattooing over sunburn would not only be very sore, but there's a huge chance of impaired healing. Your skin would already be trying to heal from the sun damage, so it's best to let it heal up before even attempting to tattoo it. So is it worth the risk from those rays? Even if your skin goes a gorgeous golden tone, tanning by the sun really is a form of sun damage after all.
In the same way that the sun has harmful UV rays, sunbeds do too. It’s possible to burn from sunbeds so these are best avoided before your appointment. It’s also worth noting that sunbathing and tanning beds can fade tattoos, especially coloured ink. If you do enjoy using tanning salons, it’s advised to wait at least 8 weeks after your tattoo has fully healed.
You might also find our Vibrancy Serum a great addition to your bathroom cabinet - it contains gentle Amino Acids that brighten and exfoliate dull looking tattoos. In addition, Liftonin-Xpert™ intensifies tattoo ink, and Inca Inchi Oil nourishes and hydrates the skin.
How to prep your skin before a tattoo
Like many artists, Sarah would suggest to clean the fake tan around the area before tattooing."If you have fake tanned before your tattoo appointment, I always ask you to remove the tan as much as possible in the area where the tattoo will be located," she explains.
"During the appointment the skin will be cleaned before the stencil is applied, but having the area clean of fake or spray tan helps this process."
Steering away from sunless tanning products - and the sun itself - is your best bet before a sitting. Embrace your natural complexion and prep your skin with a good exfoliator and moisturiser. We’re biased but we’re super proud of our formulations, which have some great reviews from our customers.
"I have been using this product for a few weeks now and I absolutely love it. I wanted something that would moisturise and care for my new tattoo and this was exactly what I was looking for. I use it once a day along with the exfoliator and I couldn’t be more happy with the results. My tattoo looks healthy and as bright as the day I had it done." - Lisa
Stories & Ink Daily Moisturiser
Exfoliating Body Wash
"Wash with this daily. It smells amazing and leaves my skin feeling clean and smooth. A small amount goes a long way and helps keep my tattoos looking great when used with the daily moisturiser" - Andrew
Stories & Ink Exfoliating Body Wash
Can I wear fake tan after a tattoo
It’s best to avoid fake tanning for a few weeks after having a new tattoo, as you need to let it heal. Sarah’s top tips are to:
- Avoid fake tanning over healing tattoos
- Allow 2/3 weeks for tattoo to heal before applying any fake tan or having a spray tan
- The chemicals can cause reactions to the skin and healing tattoo, leading to touch ups being needed or worse case scenario infection in the tattoo
- After 3 weeks fake tanning can be done
How to fake tan around a new tattoo
When your tattoo has healed and you’re keen to get your bronze on, a sunless tan is the best way to protect your skin. You can apply fake tan according to the product instructions, while ensuring the tattoo itself is well moisturised.
Remember, coloured ink might change with the tanning pigments, so fake tan is likely to be more of a success with blackwork body art. As with most fake tanning products, well hydrated skin takes on the tan better.
- How to Keep Your Tattoos Bright
- Tattoo Moisturiser: The Secret to Fresher Ink
- A Tattoo Artist Explais What to Wear While Getting Inked
For more top tattoo tips, aftercare advice and artist highlights, check out the Stories & Ink Journal.