Tattoos and Time

Jolene Schwartz

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Tattoos have represented personal identity, affiliations, philosophy, and creative choices from Paleolithic man to Corporate Execs, and are gaining a new interest and popularity with both sexes. It’s a fact that 10% of the people in the United States have at least one tattoo somewhere on their body.

A tattoo by definition is permanent. Pigment is inserted under the epidermis with a needle or sharp object into the dermis where the color is captured by the body for all time … well almost.

Tattoos change over time because the skin is constantly changing from regeneration, sun, wind, water and other assaults. The appearance of a tattoo therefore must also change as the skin stretches, shrinks and ages. Pigment moves imperceptibly over time on a cellular level and elasticity and skin resiliency naturally decline. Age spots, tanning and wrinkles can take a toll on the clarity and color of tattoos too.

How well and how long a tattoo stays defined and the color vibrant is most affected by the immediate aftercare, and then the lifelong skin maintenance. Aftercare guidelines vary, but the common denominator is: prevent infection and promote healing to retain as much ink as possible in the tattoo. Tattoos generally heal completely within two to three weeks, but must be kept continually moist to prevent scabbing, which removes color from the tattoo.

A tattoo’s number one enemy is sun; tattoo pigments fade like all other color under direct sunlight; red and yellow are the most difficult color to maintain, black and blue is the most stable. Tattoos are part of the living skin organism and a minimal amount of color is treated like foreign molecules and transported away through the lymph system. The best defense in the battle of the fading tattoo is to stay out of the sun, cover the tattoo with clothing and wear a really good sunscreen.

Tattoos reside in the dermis layers and are seen through the epidermis. Simple common sense steps will keep the epidermis clean, healthy, smooth, and hydrated for optimal clarity of body art. Use a gentle cleanser weekly to remove the build-up of body oils, dirt, grime, and the dull ashy film that blocks the color of your tattoos. Daily use of a moisturizer (that dries with a residue free finish) reflects deeper color.

A tattoo that is expertly applied, healed properly and protected from the sun can remain vibrant for decades, but there is no escape from those changes that come, simply as a result of time.

© 2005 Jolene Schwartz

Jolene Schwartz is a grooming specialist for over 20 years; as a master barber and licensed cosmetologist in her own men’s salon. She launched e-com site; writing monthly columns about men’s products, lifestyle, and offering the finest in men’s grooming products.


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