Why Clients Should Avoid Sun Exposure Following Scar & Stretch Mark Tattoo Camouflage

As a traditional tattoo artist, medical tattoo artist, or permanent makeup artist, it’s essential to tell your clients how to care for their skin properly after treatment, and perhaps even more so after scar and stretchmark tattoo camouflage. The nature of scar and stretchmark tattoo camouflage means that the area can look more “normal” than before, and so clients are naturally going to be more inclined to show off their new skin. If you don’t warn them of the dangers of sun exposure, you’ll end up with an unhappy customer.

 

Sun exposure in the days immediately following their treatment, and long after, should be avoided. While you may not think to give the same sun-avoidance aftercare advice in winter, you need to give it anyway; they may have plans to go on holiday or use a sunbed. 

Why should clients avoid UV exposure after scar and stretchmark camouflage? 

While it may not look like it to the average person, a tattoo – whether permanent makeup or art – is essentially an open wound. The skin in the area treated is vulnerable to infection and healing skin is more susceptible to sun damage than healed skin.  This is especially the case for darker skin types 4-5 where the process of any sort of needling can stimulate melanin production, so adding sun in to the equation can lead to unwanted darker results.  The combination of ink plus extra melanin production can be too much for darker skin types and most of the time the inkless method is best suited for them.

Healing skin can burn more easily, and in extreme cases, UV exposure to healing skin can even cause long-term damage such as further scarring and pigmentation issues.

Make sure you stress the importance of following your advice if they are a regular sunbed user, if the weather forecast is particularly
good, or if they’re going to be going away on holiday. Make sure they understand that it doesn’t need to be hot or even particularly sunny for UV damage to occur. 

Furthermore, clients also need to avoid getting the area wet for the first 2 weeks following treatment, which may be an issue if they have a holiday booked.  Make sure you check first!

What long-term aftercare advice do scar and stretchmark camouflage clients need? 

Make sure your clients understand that it can take 2-3 weeks for the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin) to heal, and a further 6 months before the tattoo heals completely, depending on their skin and the area. 

SPF on stretch marks

You need to explain how UV rays can accelerate the fading process over the long term. Overexposure to sunlight (or any form of UV light) at any time can cause fading, but early exposure during these first 6 months of healing may even cause the pigment to take on unwanted tones.

It’s best to discourage sunbed use entirely and advise clients to use SPF50 to the area when exposing the area to natural sunlight. You may need to explain that SPF loses its effectiveness throughout the day, so they will need to reapply SPF as often as every 2 hours to keep their skin protected. Again, make sure your client understands that UV can still be high on cold days.

 

If your client’s camouflage is on an area that’s not easy to hide, such as the face or hands, explain the risks of sun exposure carefully, and give them advice on how best to keep their skin shaded and protected. 

Now a little bit about titanium dioxide… you may have read some scare-mongering stories about how you shouldn’t tattoo stretch marks with skin tone ink, due to the titanium dioxide content which can turn a little yellow as it ages.  Yet those same people approve the use when camouflaging scars also using skin tone inks with titanium dioxide.  There is no difference.  Firstly, you should never treat someone with really pale skin for the reason that when colour matching, there would be a lot of white in the mix (which is the titanium dioxide).  Due to how transparent their skin is, In order for it to look natural, you’d have to dilute it down so much that the body will most likely break most of it down leaving the client disappointed.  In cases where there is some ink retention, the amount of titanium dioxide would be so little it is unlikely to be noticeable if it does change colour slightly over the years.  One of the biggest contributors to titanium dioxide slightly turning more yellow over the years is because of heat.  Therefore, this is another massive reason why clients should avoid sunbathing or sun beds following treatment.  If a client is a massive sunbed fan then they probably shouldn’t have this treatment.  The darker the skin tone, the less white content, and the less risk, plus we always dilute for natural results, so cottage-cheese photos you may have seen in the past are from treatments where the practitioner didn’t know what they were doing.  Inks have also changed, plus we use permanent inks mostly now which are more stable and less likely to change colour, but just fading slowly.  UV exposure will fade any pigment faster, so make this clear to clients!

What happens to the tattooed scars or stretch marks when the client gets a tan?

Apart from the above advice about the sun fading pigment faster, a client needs to understand what will happen to the immediate appearance of the tattooed scars or stretch marks.  The client’s custom skin tone ink mix will have been match to their untanned, natural skin tone.  Therefore the scars / stretch marks are less noticeable than before.  If a client then gets a suntan, the inked area will still not tan and the stretch marks or scars will become more obvious again, but not as obvious as before as they were tattooed a little darker.  But as I have explained above, ideally they should use SPF when in the sun to preserve the ink and increase longevity of the results.

What happens if a client doesn’t follow aftercare advice about UV exposure?

This is always a tricky question to answer because you can’t make someone follow your advice. Sometimes, you’ll have a client that is unwilling to give up their routine or are so determined to look a certain way on a certain day that they decide to forego your advice.

Besides making sure they understand the risks, and the risks involved in having the same area of skin treated to “top up” their treatment, consider giving them a handout that details your advice, and share advice regularly on your social media accounts. You’d be surprised to learn how many people want to learn the right aftercare but are too embarrassed or simply not aware enough to ask the right questions. Remember, they don’t know what they don’t know, so it’s your job to educate them.

Also, if you can point to all the efforts you go to to ensure clients understand how to best care for their skin, you’ll be able to lean on this if a customer becomes angry because their camouflage doesn’t heal the way they wanted. If you share your aftercare advice regularly on social media, you’ll be able to point to those posts to show that you do all you can to educate your clients.

Give your clients a copy of the consent form which includes proper aftercare instructions and keep a signed copy (scanned or photographed) to show they are willing to take responsibility for their aftercare. This can be another factor to show you did all you could if a client does not take your advice seriously. 

Now you know all the aftercare advice you should be giving your clients and the risks of sun exposure. With this information in hand, you and your clients can find success and enjoy the results of your work for years to come. 

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