Tattoo Safety Tips: Can You Put Sunscreen on a New Tattoo

You’ve got a nice new tattoo. How do you keep it that way?

The dangers of fading vary from person to person based on factors like age and skin tone, but one thing is universal if you don’t take care of your tattoo, it will degrade over time.

So how do you keep that nice, new thrashing shark tatt that cool shade of blue for years to come.

That’s because ultraviolet rays in sunlight attack your body’s cells. Without proper protection, this bombardment may cause the pigment from the dye to break down from UV exposure. The easiest way to prevent that from happening is to keep sunlight from directly falling onto your tattoo.

If you’re a regular sun seeker, then keeping your tattoo is even more difficult. After all, it’s not as exactly practical to wear a sweater while cruising the beach to keep sunlight off your new sleeve tattoo.

The next best option to carrying a sun umbrella all day long is to protect your new tattoo with sun blow. But can you put sunscreen on a new tattoo?

In this blog, we’ll explore the best ways to protect your new ink from the harsh effects of direct sunlight.

When you get your tattoo, it’s likely that your artist gave you directions on how best to care for your new body art. He or she may have given you some sample products lotions, balms, creams, sunblock and other skincare treatments to keep your skin moist and healthy.

But it can be difficult to keep your wits about you after a long session enduring the pain of the tattoo chair. So, we’ve put together this list to give you some tips on how to approach skin care to keep your tattoo looking fresh and new through the ages.

Let’s look at our original question

Can you Put Sunscreen on a New Tattoo

The answer is you really shouldn’t apply traditional sunscreen to a new tattoo.

traditional sunscreen cream

That’s because your skin is still healing. A tattoo is basically a really cool-looking wound. You should treat this wound as you would any laceration or burn. Rubbing chemicals on it probably isn’t the best idea.

That being said, there exists a wide range of products created especially for the freshly tattooed. Speak to your tattoo artist to see if he or she has any recommendations for these types of products.

How to Protect a New Tattoo from the Sun 

For a fresh tattoo, sunscreen might not be the best idea. But covering your tattoo definitely is.

Many tattoo artists and healthcare professionals would recommend that you avoid sunlight and strenuous activity altogether until your skin has had a chance to heal. But if you cannot avoid going outside during that healing time, try protecting the exposed skin with a piece of cloth.

How to protect a new tattoo from the sun

Once your tattoo heals, it’s important to regularly apply sunscreen anytime you expose it to direct sunlight.

For example, if you have an upper arm tattoo, you could cut a shirt sleeve and use medical tape to affix it to the area in order to protect it from UV rays, dirt, and grime.

Why is Sunscreen Important for Your Tattoo?

While putting over-the-counter sunscreen on a freshly healing tattoo is not recommended, it is vitally important that you protect your tattoo from the ravishing effects of the sun throughout your life. The sun can do a lot of damage to your tattoo over the years, fading that bright work of art into a dark blotch.

In order to better understand how the sun affects your skin cells and disrupts the color pigment in your tattoo dye, let’s take a closer look at the kind of sun rays that exist in nature namely the UVA and UVB rays. In addition to keeping your tattoo looking as good as it can for as long as it can, it is important to avoid both types of sun rays in order to prevent skin cancer. 

Why is sunscreen important for your tattoo

UVA Rays

Of the two types of ultraviolet rays UVA and UVB rays the UVA rays have longer wavelengths, which penetrate more deeply into the skin. This causes the skin to suffer more long-term effects, the most common and well-known may be the tanning of the skin. 

The longer wavelengths of UVA rays also cause other reactions with your skin. These rays are known to cause wrinkles and premature aging. Again, these longer wavelength rays are a major risk factor for skin cancers and should be avoided regardless of whether or not you have a tattoo.

UVB Rays

UVB rays have shorter wavelengths, and as a result, only affect the uppermost layers of skin.

These rays are known to cause the dark color of your skin when you tan, as well as painful sunburn and even blistering. UVB rays can bounce off things like snow and ice, but cannot penetrate glass.

As we mentioned previously, it is important to keep your skin protected from the sun at all times, regardless of how old your tattoo is. While using traditional sunblock and sunscreen may not be a good idea while your skin is healing, after a few months of healing your skin should be ready to be protected by a coat.

What Should you Look for in Sunscreen?

When it comes to protecting your skin from the sun, the most practical option is sunscreen. After all, it can travel with you everywhere in your bookbag or purse.

What should you look for in sunscreen

Once your tattoo has recovered from the peeling phase about a month or so into the healing process it should be healthy enough to take the ingredients in common sunscreens and sunblocks. Again, it is typically a good idea to defer to the aftercare instructions given to you by your tattoo artist when in doubt.

So what kind of sunblock should you use? Luckily the instruction here is pretty easy to follow.


Once your tattoo is healed, pretty much any sunblock is safe to use on your skin. But experts say to use SPF 50 or higher in order to block radiation from the sun.

There is a dearth of products made and marketed specifically for tattoo enthusiasts. While they make many claims as to the health benefits of their products over traditional sunblocks, most tattoo artists say they don’t make much of a difference for most healthy skin. They do, however, cost a lot more than traditional drug store brands.

Safe Ingredients

There are a few easy tips to follow when searching for the perfect sunscreen to protect your tattoo.

First, cream-based sunscreens often coat the area much better than sprays, which allow for better protection. When checking the ingredients, keep an eye out for zinc oxide, which is a mineral that promotes healthy skin and a healthy environment better than chemical ingredients.

How to Treat a Sunburned Tattoo

Oh no!

Despite your best efforts, you failed to reapply sunscreen every two hours as directed when you fell asleep on the beach and the sun moved from above your umbrella. Don’t worry! You can still work to get your skin back on track. 

Here’s a list of tips:

  • Remove clothing and jewelry from the infected area that might irritate the burn.
  • Run cool water over the burn to lower the temperature of the skin.
  • Use location unscented and with natural ingredients, including aloe vera if possible to the skin to sooth the burn
  • Do not pop blisters or peel skin.
  • Consider taking an over-the-counter pain relieving medication if necessary.
  • Wrap a loose bandage over the burn to prevent additional damage.

Other Tips to Protect Your Tattoo

  • Moisturize, moisturize, moisturize
  • Vaseline or petroleum jelly is a great protectant
  • Keep your new tattoo from sweat
  • Treat a new tattoo as you would a fresh wound

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