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Written by Kieran Proctor

Sunscreen and Tattoos: The Essential Guide to Protecting Your Body Art



Sunscreen and Tattoos: The Essential Guide to Protecting Your Body Art

Tattoos are a creative and personal way to express oneself. However, preserving the vibrancy and detail of these expressive pieces of body art requires responsible care, especially when it comes to sun exposure.

In this article, we’ll explore when you can put sunscreen on your tattoo, whether you can put sunscreen on a new tattoo and what sunscreen is safe for tattoos.

Understanding the Tattoo Healing Process

Before we delve into the specifics of sun protection for tattoos, it’s crucial to understand the tattoo healing process. When you get a tattoo, your skin goes through a series of healing stages.

During the initial healing stage, your new tattoo is essentially an open wound. It’s during this time that you need to be particularly cautious with sun exposure.

The Impact of Sun Exposure on Tattoos

Exposing your tattoo to the sun’s rays, particularly during the healing process, goes against good aftercare practices and can result in detrimental effects. The sun emits two types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation — UVA and UVB. These rays can damage your skin and negatively affect the appearance of your tattoo.

Mad Rabbit - Defend Tattoo Sunscreen - SPF30+ Tattoo Sunscreen

The Role of UVA Rays

UVA rays have a longer wavelength, which allows them to penetrate the skin more deeply. This deeper penetration can lead to premature skin aging and can fade the colors in your tattoo.

Lighter-colored inks, including white and pastel shades, are particularly susceptible to fading under UVA exposure. However, even black and gray inks can lose their intensity over time if not adequately shielded from the sun.

The Role of UVB Rays

On the other hand, UVB rays primarily affect the top layers of skin and are the main culprits behind sunburn. A sunburned tattoo, especially a new one, can lead to complications like extended healing time, blistering and even permanent damage to the tattoo’s appearance.

Sun Protection for New Tattoos

Freshly inked tattoos are especially vulnerable to sun damage. Direct sunlight can slow the healing process, potentially lead to blistering and can cause permanent changes in the tattoo’s color and detail. It’s vital to keep a new tattoo fully covered and out of direct sunlight until it has completely healed.

The Role of Sunscreen in Tattoo Care

Sunscreen plays a crucial role in protecting both your skin and your tattoo from sun damage. It works by blocking or absorbing the harmful UVA and UVB rays, preventing them from wreaking havoc on your skin and tattoo ink. However, the use of sunscreen on a new tattoo is a topic that requires careful consideration.

Can I Put Sunscreen on a New Tattoo?

The answer to this question is a definitive no. Fresh tattoos are essentially open wounds. And applying sunscreen to them can introduce chemicals to the lower skin layers, potentially causing adverse reactions.

Furthermore, the healing process requires oxygen and air. Which can be blocked by a layer of sunscreen.

When Can I Put Sunscreen on My Tattoo?

You should wait until your tattoo has fully healed before applying sunscreen to it. Usually, this healing process takes between 4 to 6 weeks.

Once healed, you should apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before sun exposure to give it time to absorb and start protecting your skin. You should also consider using sunscreen everyday as part of your long-term aftercare routine.

Mad Rabbit - Defend Tattoo Sunscreen - SPF30+ Tattoo Sunscreen

Selecting the Right Sunscreen for Your Tattoo

Choosing the right sunscreen is crucial for effectively protecting your tattoo from sun damage. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a sunscreen for your tattoo.

SPF Rating

Opt for a sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 30. This rating offers approximately 96.7% protection from UVB rays. For even more protection, choose an SPF 50 sunscreen, which provides around 98% protection.

Broad-Spectrum Protection

Ensure your chosen sunscreen offers broad-spectrum protection. This means it shields your skin from both UVA and UVB rays, offering comprehensive protection for your tattoo.

Ingredient Safety

Safe and effective sunscreen ingredients include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These ingredients are found in mineral sunscreens, which are typically gentler on the skin and less harmful to the environment than their chemical counterparts.

In contrast, ingredients like oxybenzone and octinoxate may be harmful to aquatic life and have been linked to potential health concerns. Though both ingredients are FDA approved for use in sunscreens.

The Best Sunscreen for Tattoos

While there are sunscreens on the market specifically advertised for tattoo care, some experts will suggest that these products often contain the same ingredients as regular sunscreens. Yet the better tattoo specific sunscreens are designed to be used on a daily basis, often providing greater long-term protection as you’re wearing them more frequently.

Always remember, you can own the best sunscreen in the world, but if you never actually wear it then it’s of no long-term benefit to you. Tattoo sunscreens with a lightweight finish and which are designed to be worn everyday provide greater protection than a greasy sunscreen you carry with you, but never wear.

How Often Should You Apply Sunscreen to Your Tattoo?

If you’ll be out in the sun, apply your sunscreen at least 15 minutes (preferably 30 minutes) before heading outside to allow it to absorb into your skin. Reapply at least every two hours and more frequently if you’re swimming or sweating heavily.

Treating a Sunburned Tattoo

If your tattoo does get burned, it’s important to take immediate action. Apply a cool compress to the affected area, followed by a hypoallergenic moisturizer. Stay hydrated and monitor your skin for signs of infection, such as fever or swelling.

If you notice any of these signs, seek medical attention immediately.

Mad Rabbit - Replenish Daily Tattoo Skin Lotion - Tattoo Moisturizer

Additional Tips for Tattoo Sun Protection

In addition to using sunscreen, there are other steps you can take to protect your tattoo from sun damage. Avoid using tanning beds and sunlamps, as they can fade tattoos and increase the risk of skin cancer.

Also, try to limit your sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest. When you’re outdoors, always try to wear loose, lightweight clothing over your tattoos when you’re exposed to the suns harmful rays.

In Conclusion

Protecting your tattoo from the sun is crucial for maintaining its vibrancy and detail. By understanding the potential risks of sun exposure and taking the necessary precautions, you can enjoy your body art and express your individuality, while keeping your skin healthy and protected.

Article Sources – Recommended Further Reading

Vagabond takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.

  1. Sunscreen FAQs | American Academy of Dermatology
  2. Shedding More Light on Sunscreen Absorption
  3. Caring For Your New Tattoo: A Comprehensive Guide To Tattoo Aftercare
  4. The Do’s And Don’ts After A Tattoo
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