The biggest enemy to a vibrant color tattoo is that glowing heavenly orb which allows life to exist on this planet: the Sun.
First, let’s consider the awesome power of Helios, which comprises more than 99.8% of the total mass of our Solar System( greedy Jupiter is most of the rest.) The total energy output of the sun in ONE SECOND is about equal to 6,126,984,126,984 “Little Boys”(the Bomb dropped on Hiroshima.) The light from the Sun takes about 8 and one-half minutes to reach the Earth which is 93 million miles away, and STILL has the power to BURN A HUMAN BEING TO DEATH.
How to avoid being killed by a star:
It's not the visible light from the sun that causes sunburn(which is why you can STILL get a burn on cloudy days) but rather the invisible ultraviolet waves. Sunblock protects your skin by absorbing and/or reflecting burn-causing UVA and UVB radiation.
WHAT SPF REALLY MEANS: The SPF(sun protection factor) rating indicates HOW LONG a sunscreen remains effective on the skin. So, if you normally develop a burn in 10 minutes unprotected, a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 will protect you for 150 minutes (10 minutes x 15 SPF.)
So according to our nifty math above, we begin to see why 50+ sunblock begins to be a little absurd. 10 minutes x 50 SPF=500 minutes is about 8 hours. Sunblock Just doesn’t stay on that long; particularly if you’re in the water. Water resistant sunblock maintains the SPF level after 40 minutes of water immersion, but needs to be re applied after.The Truth is, sunburns can lead to melanoma skin cancer later in life, and that skin cancer could kill you. The sun really can be a jerk.
Not so deadly, but still costly effects of the sun on tattoos:
If you’ve ever left a book or magazine in the back window of your car, you’ve seen the effect of the sun on ink. Your skin is absolutely no different. Lighter colors tend to bleach out first, and whites get yellowed.
The vibrancy of the tattoo is also diminished as the skin under your tattoo tans. Tattoo inks aren’t opaque, they’re semi-translucent, meaning the skin underneath shows through. It’s like painting a room white after its been painted bright red, the old colors show through the lighter layer(this is also why you can’t just tattoo white or skin color over an old tattoo to cover it up, more on that later.)
The American Association of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that a "broad spectrum" sunblock with an SPF of at least 15 that is applied daily to all sun exposed areas, then reapplied every two hours. However, in some recent clinical trials, sunblocks with SPF 30 provided significantly better protection than sunblocks with SPF15. A higher SPF won’t hurt you, but they do tend to be more costly, and there’s just no reason to throw money away.
Your tattoo shouldn’t be the first reason you reach for the bottle of sunblock this summer: health and safety should be. BUT, if your tattoo IS the reason you start a more thoughtful skincare routine, well…that’s just one more reason tattooing is saving society.
Two days after writing this post I went out on a pontoon fishing excursion. Of course, I did my best, but the noonday sun, water, and general inattention caused a super nasty sunburn. Irony?