How To Protect Tattoos While Tanning: Your Guide to Safely Tanning With Tattoos

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There isn’t a better thing than feeling the warmth of the sun on one’s skin; so comforting and enjoyable. However, without protection, the sunlight can actually be our skin’s biggest enemy, especially if you have tattoos. It is well known that sunlight and tattoos don’t really go hand-in-hand, which is why you’ll hear tattoo artists emphasizing the importance of tattoo protection during the upcoming spring and summer days.

That is not for no reason; UV light can significantly damage tattoos, make them fade away quickly, and generally make them appear older and wrinkly. But, what about tanning? It is also known that a lot of people start visiting tanning salons prior to the summer and holiday season. This makes it easier for some people to transition between winter and summer when it comes to the tone of their skin and the skin’s ability to handle the sunlight and sunbathing.

But, can one really enjoy tanning as much with tattoos, and how can you really protect your tattoos while tanning? These are the questions we’ve decided to tackle so you can welcome the spring and summer days truly ready. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Your Guide to Safely Tanning With Tattoos

Tanning With a New Tattoo – When?

So, you have a new tattoo and you’re wondering when can you show off that beauty and sunbathe by the beach? Let’s start by saying that brand new tattoos need to be protected from the sunlight.

Newly healed tattoos are highly sensitive, so they need to be minimally exposed to the sun. New, healing tattoos, especially need to be protected; fresh tattoos are just like open wounds, and the healing process needs to be done properly, otherwise, the overall healing of the tattoo might be undermined and prolonged.

This can lead to a potential inflammation of the tattooed area, and a load of other health issues. Worst-case scenario; the tattoo, due prolonged healing process, becomes infected, so the design gets all messed up and the tattoo doesn’t heal the way it should.

So, when is the best time to have the tattoo exposed to the sunlight?

Well, in our humble opinion; sun exposure and sunbathing is a no-no with tattoos, overall. Sunbathing and tanning aren’t recommended if you have tattoos, in general, let alone with newly healed or healing tattoos. But, if you’re really desperate, or you live in an area where it isn’t really possible to walk around in jackets all the time, then you should ait at least a month to have the tattoo exposed to the sunlight.

Even then, your tattoo needs to be fully protected by sunscreen, and shouldn’t be exposed to the sunlight throughout the day when the sunlight is at its brightest, or when the UV rays are at their strongest. We’re aware that many people cannot wait for the summer holidays to expose their tattoos freely to the world, but, unless you want your tattoo to fade completely in two years instead of 20 years, then you should definitely follow our recommendations.

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Sunscreen and New Tattoo

So, now that we’ve established that walking around without putting sunscreen on your tattoo is a no-no, a new question arises; when can I start putting sunscreen on my new tattoo?

Well, normally, if your tattoo is still healing, there is absolutely no occasion in which you should put anything on your healing tattoo, let alone sunscreen. Considering that you shouldn’t even be exposing a healing tattoo lets you know that sunscreen is unnecessary and far from an option. Unless you want to cause a bad tattoo infection, leave your tattoo be and let it go through the healing process the way it should; uninterrupted and in line with your aftercare instructions.

Only when your tattoo is completely healed (meaning the skin is closed, there’s no scabbing, the color is matte, etc.), can you consider putting sunscreen on it. Even then you have to be extremely careful as to what kind of sunscreen can you use. The ingredients used to make regular sunscreens can be too harsh for a newly healed tattoo/skin, which is still a highly sensitive area. Therefore, you should definitely opt for sunscreens made specifically for tattoo protection. Our favorite tattoo sunscreens are;

  • CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50 – this is probably the best tattoo sunscreen on the market. It is designed to protect the skin’s natural barriers and is suitable for all skin types, even the most sensitive ones. The sunscreen is fragrance-free, paraben-free, oil-free, broad-spectrum, and has an SPF 50. If your tattoos are placed on generally exposed skin areas, you should apply sunscreen daily. Otherwise, you can apply it only when the tattoos are exposed (tanning, sunbathing).
  • Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection SPF 50 – another exceptional, tattoo-protective sunscreen is the one from Colorescience. This sunscreen is hypoallergenic, paraben-, sulfate-, oil-, dye-, and fragrance-free. It provides all-mineral protection from UVA and UVB, pollution, and infrared radiation. It comes in a mess-free stick, that glides nicely onto the skin and doesn’t leave a sticky residue. The sunscreen is sweat and water-resistant, which makes it ideal for those sunny, beach days.
  • EltaMD UV Active Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 – and finally, our top recommendation for the exceptional EltaMD sunscreen. Now, this is a high-quality product, designed to protect your tattooed skin. It is formulated for daily use and an active lifestyle. The sunscreen is water-resistant, as well as chemical-free, non-comedogenic, and broad-spectrum. Because of its rich ingredients and formula, the sunscreen is extra hydrating and nourishing.

These are some of our favorite sunscreens. Now, if you’re looking to buy a different sunscreen, we surely urge you to pay attention to the following features, yo you know your tattoo is getting that good-quality protection;

  • SPF (Sun Protection Factor) – for good tattoo protection, make sure to go for sunscreens with an SPF of a minimum of 30, up to 60. If your skin is ultra-sensitive, or you’re prone to sunburn, we even recommend you amp it up to SPF 100.
  • Broad-spectrum protection – to protect your tattoo properly, you need to protect it from both the UVA and UVB rays. Both are super damaging to the skin, so make sure to get a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which is designed to reflect both types of rays.
  • Water-resistance – if you’re buying sunscreen, make sure to always go for a water-resistant one. Not only is it more convenient, considering that you’re surely sweating more during the summer, but also you’ll be super safe even when swimming in the sea; the sunlight won’t damage your tattoo as the sunscreen stays on despite the water.
  • Hydration – because sun exposure tends to dry the skin out, it is essential to get a hydrating, moisturizing sunscreen. A nourishing, mineral-rich sunscreen with a deep-hydration effect is a perfect option for tattooed skin, to keep it not only protected but also hydrated and nourished.

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Sun Exposure and Tattoo Fading

At this point, it is essential to mention that long-term sun exposure, even when your skin has been properly protected by a high-quality sunscreen, will lead to gradual tattoo fading. That is something inevitable and an issue people generally deal with after 10 or 20 years of having tattoos. The fading is surely more significant and visible in people who haven’t used sun protection, and of course, in people who are older in age and who have had their tattoos for a few decades.

This can be generally fixed with tattoo touch-ups, to revive the tattoo a bit and bring it back to life. The touch-ups work the best in black & grey tattoos because they’re the best in withstanding the sun exposure tattoo fading. Colored tattoos are more prone to fading due to sun exposure, and are surely more difficult to touch up and fix.

Final Thoughts

With spring finally arriving, and summer around the corner, the season of exposed tattoos is right here. However, with the sun out, we need to start thinking about proper tattoo protection. Sometimes, those long-sleeve shirts aren’t enough to protect the tattoos, so we sure hope our insight into sunscreen protection has been useful.

We surely urge you to do your own research when it comes to the type of sunscreen you think would suit your skin type and lifestyle, but make sure to follow our recommendations for finding the best product. Kee pin mind that the better the tattoo protection, the more vivid and brighter will your tattoo stay, even years after getting it done.

Read More: Tattoo Aftercare: 6 Important Things You Must Know (2022 Updated)

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