Tattoos and Sun Safety

How to Keep Your Tattoo Looking Great

If you've ever gotten a tattoo, you've heard the whole tattoo care spiel, which includes sun protection. Sun safety is no joke, especially if you're inked. Sun exposure can cause serious damage to the skin over the course of a lifetime, including premature aging and even skin cancer. If you have a tattoo, you probably want to keep it looking its best, so it's a good idea to pay a little extra attention when it comes to sun protection.

Since the sun's UV rays are damaging to the skin, many people with tattoos choose to apply sunscreen to their body art to prevent it from fading. Professional tattoo artists actually recommend keeping your tattoo covered up for the first three months. Once the healing period ends, sunscreen should be carefully applied before going outdoors.

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Risk Factors

All tattoos fade over time, but sun exposure can seriously speed up the fading process. Generally speaking, the lighter the ink, the more quickly the tattoo will fade. Dark colors like black, blue and purple take the longest to fade, while colors like red, pink, yellow, green and orange are more prone to fading and require more attention.

Placement is also an important factor to consider. It's easy to forget about protecting your tattoo if it's located on a part of the body you can't see, such as your shoulder or your back. Your tattoo might be out of sight, but it definitely shouldn't be out of mind. If it's in a hard-to-reach spot, have someone else apply the SPF if that helps.

Protect Your Tattoo With a Quality Sunscreen

There are quite a few sunscreens out there that are labeled as special tattoo sunscreens but don't fall victim to marketing lingo. Any sunscreen will work just fine. The best sunscreen for a tattoo is the same as what you would you use for the rest of your body. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using an SPF of at least 30 for maximum sun protection.

You also want to use a sunscreen that offers broad spectrum protection, meaning it protects against UVA and UVB rays. SPF denotes protection from UVB rays or the rays that burn. A broad spectrum sunscreen also protects the skin from UVA rays or the rays that cause premature aging and skin cancer.


Some people take extra special care when applying sunscreen to a tattoo, but neglect the rest of their body. Failure to diligently apply sunscreen greatly increases your risk of developing skin cancer and melanoma, the most aggressive, not to mention deadly, form of skin cancer.

It's important to know that there is no such thing as a safe tan. Unless, of course, you use a topical sunless tanning product. Spray tans, self-tanning creams, and bronzers are simple and attainable ways to get that sun-kissed glow without putting yourself at risk of developing skin cancer, and they're also safe for tattoos and won't cause fading.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Vasicek BE, Szpunar SM, Manz-dulac LA. Patient Knowledge of Sunscreen Guidelines and Frequency of Physician Counseling: A Cross-sectional Study. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2018;11(1):35-40. PMID: 29410729

  3. Skin Cancer Foundation. Tanning.