Can You Get a Tattoo While Wearing Fake Tan?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on March 19, 2020
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

Yes, you can get a tattoo while wearing fake tan, but it isn’t recommended. Legitimate health concerns surround such inking. Health matters aside, the tattoo artist will also have a hard time picking out the colors—should the illustration match your natural or tanned skin?

The most common questions that pop up during the summertime in tattoo studios are often related to tanning. Right off the bat, fake or not, tan affects the inking process. 

With fake tan, in particular, the risks involved are enough to discourage most tattoo artists from even attempting to ink tanned skin. The most common strategy for dealing with such skin is to clean the tan off the area of interest with disinfectant. Why spray if it’s going to be removed before you get your ink?

Dangers of Fake Tan

What could be so harmful about smothering our skin in a substance that has the power to alter its color and appearance? Well, quite a lot, according to experts

The biggest issue with fake tan is its main skin coloring compound, dihydroxyacetone. If it gets into the bloodstream, it has the potential to damage our DNA, and that could lead to the development of malignancies and cancers in the body. 

Even though the data isn’t conclusive, as your tattooist may be well within their right to reveal, better safe than sorry… wouldn’t you say?

Preparing The Skin Before A Tattoo

When we go to have a tattoo, the tattoo artist should always prepare the skin beforehand. In doing so, they’re eliminating any germs and bacteria on the skin and minimizing the risk of infection

To understand how tanning may affect your inking experience, you need to first understand how the skin is prepared aforehand:

Step 1: Clean the Skin

Most tattoo artists will use disinfectant or alcohol to clean the skin and free it from any harmful chemicals that should be kept out of your bloodstream. Examples include cream, perfume, makeup and, more importantly, fake tan. 

Step 2: Shave the Skin

Whether it’s fine baby hairs or a fully grown bush, hair covering the area of interest has got to go.

This prevents hair from becoming trapped in the wound or in-growing hairs causing irritation and infection while the tattoo’s healing. It also helps the tattoo artist to see what they’re doing. If a strand of hair can be an obstruction, imagine what skin-wide tan can do.

Normally, however, your tattoo artist will remove any hair around the site using a razor; so if you’re worried about damaging the area shaving before getting inked, just leave it to your artist. 

Step 3: Stencil the Skin

Tattoo artists will form a stencil on the skin before tattooing. They may do this freehand, or they may print a pre-inked outline of the tattoo and transfer it onto the skin. This way, they can easily follow the lines with the needle.  

It’s likely that if you’re wearing fake tan to your tattoo appointment, the artist will clean the tattoo area. You’ll be left with a big white patch around your tattoo, which is going to look a bit silly and will defeat the purpose of tanning in the first place.

Tattoo Color Perception

On top of the issues surrounding the question of health and hygiene with tanning and getting inked, the fake tan will probably cause the tattoo to appear different. It’ll affect the artist’s ability to effectively blend the tattoo colors, and the artificial color from the tan could alter the colors altogether. 

Having a tan may also cause the tattoo to appear different from how it would’ve looked on natural skin. This holds for real tan as well, which is also not advisable before getting tattooed. 

What if you don’t like the way your tattoo looks on your natural skin, once your tan fades? Not only will this be annoying for you, but it’ll also cost you if you want to go back and have any alterations or adjustments made to your new ink. 

Preventing Infection 

Hygiene is key when getting a tattoo because the needle breaks the skin, and, with that, comes a risk of infection. Fake tan is made up of chemicals and substances that should be used on top of the skin. They weren’t designed to enter the body. 

If these foreign chemicals should get under the skin or into the bloodstream, they could cause infection, irritation or possibly cause an allergic reaction. 

Final Thoughts 

We probably don’t take getting a tattoo as seriously as we should, especially with looking after our skin after the fact.  Avoid tanning right before getting your ink done. With fake tan, seeing as it’s made of harmful chemicals, avoid it until the tat’s fully healed.

When you eventually go ahead with getting your dream tattoo, it’s imperative that you always follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare advice closely, and be sure to invest in a high-quality tattoo healing lotion to aid recovery.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan-friendly aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated, but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times, and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.​

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