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Tanning and Tattoos. Why Sun Exposure Can Affect Your Laser Tattoo Removal.

October 21st, 2016 by Tattoo Removal in Tattoo Removal

Anyone who has spent time in this gorgeous sun-soaked country of ours knows that any prolonged exposure to the sun is going to have an effect on your skin.  Ultraviolet radiation absorbed from the sun is important in healthy doses as it helps our bodies produce vitamin D.  A vitamin that is essential to absorption of calcium and iron, assisting our metabolism and regulating our immune system.  And we all know how much I like to promote having a healthy immune system when discussing laser tattoo removal.  So, sun exposure must be a good thing for tattoo removal if it helps your immune system, right?

Wrong.

That same UV light which helps boost your immune system produces melanin when absorbed by the skin, the pigmentation that gives many Australians that stereotypical bronzed glow.  While there is nary a single person in this wide brown land of ours who is unaware that over exposure to the sun puts us at risk of burning and skin cancers, a lesser known fact is that time spent tanning can adversely affect your laser tattoo removal.

For laser tattoo removal to be its most effective you skin should ideally be its natural, untanned colour.  Tanned skin contains higher amounts of melanin than skin at its natural colour.  Those increased melanin levels have two distinct drawbacks to laser tattoo removal.  Firstly, high melanin levels can leave your skin susceptible to burning.  And burning can lead not just to pain but to scarring.  Once the skin is scarred the chances of successfully removing a tattoo from that area plummet dramatically.

Secondly, as discussed more in depth in our article ‘Do different skin types react differently to laser tattoo removal?’ melanin is a pigment in your skin.  And the source of the pigment is not a consideration for the laser used to remove your tattoo.  When treating your tattoo the technician needs to focus the laser on the ink pigment in your skin.  The melanin in your skin can diffuse this process, leading to more sessions being necessary to remove your entire tattoo.

And I’m sad to say that tans achieved with tanning beds and fake tans are no different.  Now I come to think of it, I’m not that sad about the fake tans.  Your upcoming tattoo removal may help you avoid an unskilled tanner causing you to look like you’ve been rolled in Doritos.  But I digress.  Regardless of how you have achieved your bronzed skin, you are running the risk of the removal process taking more sessions than might otherwise be required and potential hyper or hypo pigmentation.

The upshot is, to make the tattoo removal as painless, cost effective and successful as possible, do not fake tan and try to stay out of the sun for six weeks before your laser sessions.  I know that can be somewhat unrealistic with the busy and active lives many of us lead.  If you are unable to avoid the sun, then cover up the area you intend to have treated to circumvent melanin production in that area.

After your laser treatments it is equally important to avoid sun exposure to the treated area,  Best care practices for skin which has undergone laser tattoo removal dictate that you wait at least four weeks before exposing the treated area to the sun.  There is a possibility of burning and scarring if you do not, which somewhat defeats the purpose of paying for the removal procedure in the first place.

The TL;DR version of all of the above?  Avoid the sun for at least six weeks before treatment and four weeks after.  If you simply cannot avoid the sun, cover the tattoo you want removed while outside and put your holiday to Fiji off until your skin is completely recovered from your laser treatment.  Eat Doritos, do not use them as a fashion icon.