You may already know that the sun is the number one enemy of your tattoo. Whether your tattoo is new or old, UV rays can cause significant skin damage and potential distortion of your ink. Protecting your tattoo is essential, and knowing when it’s safe to go in the sun again after a new tattoo is equally important. We’ve got you covered in this thorough guide.
Table of Contents (clickable)
- 1 How Does the Sun Damage Tattoos?
- 2 How to Protect Your Tattoo in the Sun
- 3 What to Do If You Get Sunburned
- 4 Our Final Thoughts
How Does the Sun Damage Tattoos?
The easiest way to imagine the damage that the sun and its UV rays does to tattoos is to consider a laser tattoo removal gun. Laser tattoo removal guns are a heavily concentrated and focused ultraviolet ray that blasts away at ink deposited in your skin.
The sun acts as a more tame but equally damaging enemy to your tattoo, slowly breaking down the pigments in your ink with it’s less concentrated rays. This causes your tattoo to fade faster than it normally would age. You may be asking if some ink colors fade quicker in the sun, and this is true; lighter colors are less pigmented and experience faster fading from UV rays than dark colors such as black.
In addition, sun exposure can often accidentally lead to sunburns. The damage done to your epidermis may make you think that your ink is safe, but this burn can cause permanent damage to your skin that impacts your tattoo, such as scarring. Getting a sunburn on a new tattoo could lead to blistering and permanent distortion, or potentially infection of your open wound.
The sun contains two types of UV rays that reach the earth and damage human skin:
- UVA Rays - This causes premature aging and also leads to the fading of multiple tattoo inks, especially lighter colors.
- UVB Rays - This is essentially the culprit for the severe damage done to your epidermis such as sunburn.
How to Protect Your Tattoo in the Sun
Luckily, having tattoos doesn't mean we need to avoid the sun entirely. There are various ways that we can protect our tattoo from damaging UV rays while still enjoying a little vitamin D.
Keep Brand New Tattoos Out of the Sun
If you have a new tattoo, you should avoid sun exposure until it is fully healed. New tattoos are essentially open wounds, and risking sunburn could significantly impact the healing time of your tattoo, or worse, cause blistering, infection, or permanent distortion to your ink.
- Be careful when using sunscreen on new tattoos. Sunscreen should only be applied to new tattoos after they’ve had at least two or three weeks to heal, as many of the ingredients in sunscreen should not be applied to an open wound as it may cause allergic reaction or irritation.
- Cover your tattoo with clothing or remain in the shade. If you can’t avoid being out in the sun with a new tattoo whether it’s for personal or work related reasons, you should definitely keep your tattoo covered to offer it additional protection. There are multiple options for coverings to protect tattoos which we documented in our article, How To Cover A New Tattoo For Work - Protecting Your Ink Safely.
Use Sunscreen When The Tattoo Has Fully Healed
Sunscreen should be a daily part of your skin health routine. Even if you are planning to go out on a cloudy day, you should lather on the sunscreen to ensure your skin is in the best of conditions and to protect your tattoo from the effects of UV damage.
Check out our list of the Best Sunscreen For Tattoos: Top 6 Choices Reviewed.
Wear Loose Fitting Clothing
If you can’t avoid the sun and can’t seem to find yourself some shade, loose fitting clothing can get the job done for you. While you won’t get 100% protection from loose clothing, it will certainly minimize your risk of sunburn or damage.
Get a Tattoo in the Winter
The easiest way to avoid the temptation of going out in the sun too soon after a new tattoo or to prevent extreme UV ray exposure on a new tattoo is to plan your tattoos in the winter season, or to plan your tattoo after a vacation excursion.
Do You Need to Protect Your Tattoo in a Tanning Bed?
Don’t be fooled into thinking that tanning beds are any safer when it comes to combating UV damage and aging of your tattoos. In fact, tanning beds contain UVC - the sun produces UVC rays but they are not strong enough to impact individuals on earth, and the results of UVC damage are similar to UVA and UVB rays.
There are ways to get bronzed without fading your ink, so avoid tanning beds if you are looking to protect your ink from the sun.
What to Do If You Get Sunburned
Our very first recommendation to you if you notice any signs of sunburn on your tattoo, especially sunburn on a new tattoo, such as skin that is hot to the touch, blistering, extensive redness, or pain, is to speak to a medical professional.
Sunburns, when extreme and left untreated, can turn into severe level burns and cause permanent scarring or damage to your skin, and subsequently your tattoo.
If the sunburn doesn’t seem very extreme, there are a few at-home remedies to help ease your discomfort:
- Use a cold compress on your skin - check out our article, Should You Ice A New Tattoo? - Safety Tips For Swollen Ink
- Moisturize the area with a soothing product such as Aloe Vera
- Drink plenty of water to ensure you are combating the potential for dehydration, and also to nourish your skin
Our Final Thoughts
While the fading of tattoos ultimately cannot be avoided, it can certainly be combated with protecting your new tattoo from the sun. Tattoo sun protection should continue for your lifetime, because your overall skin health requires it. Using a sunscreen that we recommend can keep you and your ink safe from the sun.