Tattoos and Sun Safety

How to Keep Your Tattoo Looking Great

Tattoos and sun are definitely not a match made in heaven! If you have a tattoo, you've probably heard the whole tattoo care spiel, which includes sun protection. And sun safety is no joke, especially if you're inked. Sun exposure can cause serious damage to the skin throughout a lifetime, including premature aging and even skin cancer. The sun can cause tattoo ink to fade, making your ink look old and washed out. To keep it looking its best, sun protection is key.

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 recommend keeping your tattoo covered up for the first three months. Once the healing period ends, sunscreen should be carefully applied before going outdoors.

To find out more about which sunscreens to choose and what to do in case of a sunburn, read on!

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Risk Factors

All tattoos fade over time, but sun exposure can 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 shouldn't be out of mind. If it's in a hard-to-reach spot, have someone else apply the SPF if that helps.

How to Choose the Best Sunscreen

There are quite a few sunscreens 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 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, which 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.

How to Treat Tattoo Sunburn

If you have a sunburn on your tattoo, there are ways to treat it. Redness and irritation around a tattoo are usually indicative of a burn. The first thing to do, if you notice it while you're outside, is to seek shade or cover up, to stop any further damage.

Cool the area down as soon as possible. You can do this by taking a cold shower or bath. If that's not possible, a wet towel or ice on the area can help. Dab the area, do not rub it. If it's a new tattoo, take a quick shower, not a bath, to reduce the risk of infection.

Keep the area moisturized with aloe vera products. Avoid those with artificial colors or scents. Stay hydrated and drink at least nine glasses of water daily to keep your skin moist from the inside.

If you are having pain, over-the-counter painkillers can help, but if the inflammation is significant, call both your tattoo artist and a dermatologist to get treatment information. If you have blisters, dizziness, or fever, see a healthcare professional immediately.


When you have tattoos, taking care of them is important, especially with the sun. Good skin care is especially important with tattoos, and there are some easy things you can do to keep your ink looking its best. Minimizing sun exposure, choosing the proper sunscreen, and promptly taking care of any sunburns that happen can all help keep your tattoo looking fresh and vibrant.

A Word From Verywell

When you get your tattoo, don't be afraid to talk with the tattoo artist about proper care of your skin and ink. Most artists love talking about these topics, and this is their work - they want to make sure it looks good for a long, long time! Even if your tattoo isn't new, if you have any skincare or tattoo care questions, don't be shy about calling a tattoo shop and setting up an appointment (pay them for their time!) to discuss good tattoo care. You'll be glad you did.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does sunscreen fade tattoos?

    No, it doesn't. Sunlight fades tattoos. You can use any sunscreen, but it's recommended to use one with an SPF of at least 30.

  • Is spray sunscreen good for tattoos?

    You can use spray sunscreen, but even for general sun protection, spray sunscreen makes it harder to ensure adequate coverage and sun protection. It's best to use a cream or lotion-based sunscreen so you know your tattoo is properly covered and protected from the sun.

  • Is there a special sunscreen for tattoos?

    There are sunscreens marketed for tattoos but you don't need to buy any special sunscreen, just make sure it has an SPF of at least 30. If your tattoo is new, you should use the products recommended on the tattoo care sheet your tattoo artist gave you. If you don't have the sheet, call them to find out what products you need to use.

4 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.
  1. D’Orazio J, Jarrett S, Amaro-Ortiz A, Scott T. UV radiation and the skin. Int J Mol Sci. 2013;14(6):12222-12248. doi:10.3390/ijms140612222

  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.

  3. Wild Tattoo Art. Causes and treatments for sunburn on a tattoo.

  4. Skin Cancer Foundation. Tanning.

Originally written by Lisa Fayed