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How to ensure quick healing and protect the colors of your tattoo
Would you like to fulfill the long-term dream of a tattoo? A dream with risks: who is the right tattoo artist for me? Are tattoo colors harmful to health? How do I optimally care for my new tattoo? We will help you find answers to the questions about your tattoo and explain how you can take good care of your tattoo.
Tattoos have been used by people for centuries to beautify the body. Tattoos used to belong in the "dirty corner" and were reserved for seafarers, milieu sizes and criminals. Who does not know the famous "jail tear", which should make it clear that the "proud" bearer has already been in prison? This picture has changed drastically since the 1960s: today tattoos are part of the street scene and more than this. Tattoos have become part of body jewelry, good tattoo artists often have to wait many months. About 13% of Germans are already tattooed and over 70% of those tattooed are considering re-tattooing. More than 2/3 of them already have a second tattoo. An even clearer picture emerges in the USA, because more than half of the “mid-agers” are tattooed between the ages of 30 and 40.
From a medical point of view, a tattoo is a wound!
As part of a tattoo, color is applied with a very small needle that penetrates the skin up to 8000 times a minute. "With a tattoo, thousands of tiny puncture channels are created, which from the body's point of view are nothing more than a multitude of small wounds," says Dr. Timo Spanholtz, specialist for plastic surgery from Cologne. "And these wounds have to heal. It is therefore extremely important to prepare the body for the tattoo and to support it in the post-tattoo phase with special active ingredient care, ”emphasizes the doctor. You can find out more about tattoo care below in this article. In any case, it is important to organize the necessary care products before the tattoo so that you can have them ready to hand in the bathroom.
Colored or black? Big or small?
Around half of all tattoos in Germany are "black / white", ie designed using black color. The second most common color is red, followed by blue, green and yellow. On average, tattoos are surprisingly large in Germany with about 20x20cm. Colored motifs in particular, which are exposed to UV radiation, quickly fade without sun-protective care in the initial phase. Motifs become pale and lines become indistinct.
When choosing the studio, the design and the right technology, there are many questions: Who can advise me? Who is aware of their responsibility as a serious tattoo artist, works cleanly, reliably and conscientiously? There is now an enormous selection of tattoo studios not only in large cities such as Cologne, Berlin, Hamburg and Munich. On average, there is already one studio for every 10,000 people in major cities.
The choice is yours!
In any case, you should pay attention to how long a tattoo artist has been working in the studio and have plenty of designs and tattoos shown by him or her. If you are enthusiastic about the style and the design corresponds to your ideas, the hygiene of the studio, the sterility of the needles etc. must of course be observed. Confront the tattoo artist directly with your questions. Many tattoo artists do not use disposable needles because of the lower quality, but rather sterilize their needles. This means that the device (sterilizer) used for this must be up to date, maintained and calibrated. Otherwise, the needles are not sterile.
Care should also be taken when choosing colors: many colors are suspected of containing carcinogenic substances. A regulation was recently amended at European level and Öko-Test was commissioned to carry out a corresponding investigation. Colors should therefore be certified and checked. The tattoo artist you trust should also be able to give open answers to this topic.
Especially with very large tattoos, you should consider planning the tattoo in several steps. This keeps the tattooist's concentration fresh and reduces the stress on your skin.
Tattoos abroad - a lasting holiday experience!
What a wonderful idea: A hot day surfing on the beach, a few beers and after barbecuing we all get a tattoo to commemorate the vacation we have together. So far so good. But be careful! In very few travel countries, hygiene regulations correspond to those in Germany. Infections such as hepatitis or HIV can be more common there and spread if the needles are not cleaned properly! The tattoo colors used may not be subject to any controls and may contain carcinogenic ingredients. "As nice as the thought is," explains Dr. Timo Spanholtz, "I urgently advise against a holiday tattoo." The risks outweigh the benefits in such a scenario, emphasizes Dr. Spanholtz.
The optimal tattoo care
As described above, it makes sense to maintain new tattoos intensively. Reasons for intensive care with high quality products are:
- The tattoo can be healed faster, itchy crusts are avoided.
- The color fastness of the tattoo is protected, the colors remain bright and the lines do not distort.
- The tattooed skin can be protected against damaging UV rays and the tattoo remains in bright colors for years.
"I see huge differences in the quality of the tattoos in my practice," the cosmetic surgeon Dr. Timo Spanholtz, "and again and again it turns out that not so beautiful tattoos just weren't optimally cared for". If you ask your tattoo artist, he may not be able to provide you with more detailed information about the products available, or may even advise you to simply apply "any discounter cream". "I would never follow this advice," said Patrick Günther, pharmacist and managing director of oceanpharma from Hamburg. "Ordinary creams and many alleged tattoo treatments can pull the colors out of the skin in the early phase," warns the expert. Then the tattoo care suddenly becomes a horror: colors fade, the skin becomes mushy and over-greasy and begins to itch unbearably.
"I have had to remove unsatisfactory tattoos several times by surgery," reveals Dr. Spanholtz. This is a very stressful situation for the patients. While resulting scars with proven scar care such as Scarcare® or Cicacare® can be maintained, the market for tattoo care is very confusing. There is a large amount of partially confusing information available on the Internet. However, when it comes to caring for your tattoo, "much helps a lot", it is important to use the right measures and products to achieve a perfect tattoo result. The frequently used products in Germany include proTAC®, Tattoomed®, Pegasus Pro and some brands from abroad. The differences are large - so it is worth taking a closer look at the care recommendations and the available products.
The 3 phases of tattoo care
Before you start a long drive, fill up your car, right? The same also applies to tattoo care: the skin to be tattooed should be prepared for the “micro injury” before the tattoo. The proTAC® products enable the skin to be specifically prepared for the tattoo. The skin's regeneration potential is activated by the patented active ingredient Spiralin®. This enables the skin to go into the tattoo with optimal care. proTAC® was the only manufacturer on the market to prove this effect by means of a scientific study.
Once the desired motif has been applied - and hopefully to your full satisfaction - the 1 phase of care begins immediately after the tattoo: After healing, the irritated skin needs intensive care with suitable products. These promote the trouble-free recovery of the skin. In this phase, "wrong" creams are most often used. Dr. Timo Spanholtz explains: “Many simple creams change the color. The viscosity, osmolarity and the added ingredients can lead to color fading or even loss of color. ”It is important to“ use a cream that is perfectly tailored to the first phase of the tattoo, ”Spanholtz continued. While many products attribute the main effects to the active ingredient dexpanthenol (e.g. Tattoomed®), proTAC® has the patented active ingredient Spiralin® (active ingredient of 2015) and, above all, scientific data that confirm the effect on fresh tattoos. Simple creams such as marigold creams, petroleum jelly or bepanthenol can even have unwanted effects on the new tattoo: You can pull the colors from the so-called dermis into the higher-lying epidermis, where they fade faster or, in the worst case, can be completely lost, since this layer of skin is regularly removed .
In the early phase after tattooing, crust formation should be avoided at all costs. Many tattoo artists recommend using cling film for this and e.g. to wrap the upper arm. "This creates a moist environment in which bacteria can only really grow," explains Dr. Timo Spanholtz. Protecting the tattoo in this way is fundamentally correct, but two things should be strictly observed: first, a care cream should be applied beforehand that contains a disinfectant component (here proTAC® comes into question) and second, no non-sterile films from the discounter be used. Medical products that are available online are more suitable. These transparent polyurethane foils protect against the ingress of bacteria, drain liquid to the outside and protect the fresh tattoo from the covering clothing.
What many do not know: Long-term care is also necessary. "Damaging UV rays cause color pigments to disintegrate in the so-called dermis," explains Dr. Spanholtz, cosmetic surgeon from Cologne. "The tattoos are getting paler and the contours less clear, so that ultimately a tattoo (so-called cover-up) is necessary," says the doctor. Therefore, the skin should be cared for weeks, months and years after a tattoo and protected against exposure to UV rays. A high sun protection factor is advisable for this. Some manufacturers offer corresponding sunscreens, while other manufacturers e.g. rely on special pens for your pocket that cover not only sun protection but also tattoo care.
What to do if something goes wrong?
If you notice after the tattoo that the skin becomes inflamed, a thick crust forms or the skin becomes increasingly red, you should definitely consult a doctor. "The doctor has to help here," says Dr. Inflammation is not to be trifled with and antibiotic treatment may be necessary. Many customers see the tattoo artist for a second or third time. This can also be prevented by targeted care, as an investigation by the youth craze Skinart UG showed. Conclusion: get it right and care for your tattoo so that you avoid complications and re-piercing.
Long enjoyment of valuable tattoo art
If you take this advice to heart, there should be no obstacles to getting your tattoo happy. No matter if black´n´white, old school, realistic or watercolor, every tattoo deserves reasonable care. Take some time and take care of your tattoos - so you can enjoy them for a long time and the tattoo artist can be proud with you of his permanent art.
If you have any questions about tattoo care, please contact our expert Dr. by email ([email protected]). Turn Timo Spanholtz.
Dr. med. Timo A. Spanholtz, specialist for plastic and aesthetic surgery, head of the practice clinic at the Rosengarten
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (BLE): How do I care for my fresh tattoo? (Accessed: 16.09.2019), safer-tattoo.de
- Rosenbaum B.E., Milam E.C., Seo L., u.a .: Skin Care in the Tattoo Parlor: A Survey of Tattoo Artists in New York City, Dermatology, 2016, karger.com
- Mayo Clinic: Tattoos: Understand risks and precautions (accessed: September 16, 2019), mayoclinic.org
- Walter Liszewski, Jared Jagdeo, Anne E. Laumann: The Need for Greater Regulation, Guidelines, and a Consensus Statement for Tattoo Aftercare, Jama Dermatology, 2019, jamanetwork.com