Can Sunscreens Help Protect Your Tattoo?


You must have heard so much about applying sunscreens to protect your skin against harmful ultraviolet radiation but did you know that it also applies to you if you have tattoos on your skin? It is vital and mandatory to apply sunscreen on your skin all year long, but you need to be extra cautious during summers. Especially if you have those gorgeous tattoos, there’s no way you should take sunscreens casually. 

Why Do You Need Sunscreens for Tattoo?

There are two types of radiation that the sun emits – UVA and UVB. We’ll discuss in detail how each affects tattoos?

UVB Rays

  • These rays mainly harm the top layers of your skin and are responsible for causing sunburn. 
  • It can damage your tattoo as well, particularly a new tattoo. 
  • In simple terms, new tattoos are open wounds that need protection from direct sun rays until they completely heal. 
  • When these tattoos get sunburnt, they take a longer time to heal. You can experience blisters and itching too. 
  • However, sunburns can damage even an old tattoo. Being constantly exposed to these rays can cause changes in the appearance of tattoos over time. 

UVA Rays

  • UVA rays lead to long-lasting damage as they penetrate deeper into your skin. 
  • It can cause premature ageing along with wrinkles and sagging skin over the tattooed area. 
  • These rays can also fade several tattoo inks. 
  • Mainly, lighter-coloured inks fade faster as compared to darker inks. 

How Can You Protect a New Tattoo From the Sun?

You cannot apply sunscreen until your new tattoo heals. Therefore, cover it with loose clothing to avoid contact with sunlight. As new tattoos are open wounds, applying sunscreen can cause skin irritation due to minerals and chemicals. Once the tattoo heals, you can apply sunscreen. 

Should You Use a Sunscreen Specially Developed for Tattoos?

Brands mention these aspects to create a USP or unique selling proposition to attract customers. Don’t fall into this trap as it’s a marketing gimmick, and there’s nothing extra that these sunscreens do. They have the same ingredients as regular sunscreens and work similarly. These sunscreens are usually high-priced in comparison to the normal ones. 

Key Points to Look For While Buying a Sunscreen

Type of Sunscreens

  • It is better to get a cream-based sunscreen as you can see where you are applying it. 
  • The chances of missing any spot of the tattooed area can happen while using a spray or powder-based sunscreen. 
  • Choose a water-resistant sunscreen if you decide to go swimming. 
  • However, getting sunscreen would also depend on your skin type. Therefore, keep all these aspects in your mind while selecting sunscreen. 
  • Whatever you choose, it’s essential to apply sunscreen instead of none.  

SPF or Sun Protection Factor

Opt for a sunscreen that has SPF 30 or higher based on your requirement. Those with sensitive skin may need a higher SPF to avoid sunburns and other issues. Opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen. It implies that sunscreen offers protection from UVA as well as UVB rays. 


  • According to the FDA or Food & Drug Administration ( 1), zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are two ingredients that are safe for sunscreen use. 
  • Mineral sunscreens are effective when it comes to protecting tattoos. Unlike chemical sunscreens, they are considered safer for humans and the environment. 
  • Some of the ingredients that may damage the environment, chiefly aquatic life and coral reefs, are:
  1. Octinoxate – Florida, Key West and Hawaii have banned it. 
  2. Oxybenzone – Hawaii has banned it. 
  • As per study(2), some ingredients like oxybenzone can get into the bloodstream beyond the limits approved by the FDA (3). However, further research and studies are required to determine its effect on human health. 
  • Another ingredient banned in Canada and Australia is para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA). 

It may increase the risk of allergic dermatitis and skin’s photosensitivity. 

  • Another study on animals (4) also indicated that this ingredient could be toxic for animals. 

What to Do If You Have a Sunburned Tattoo?

  • Firstly, apply a cool compress to the affected area. 
  • Apply a hypoallergenic moisturiser to the burned area to soothe it down. 
  • Maintain a good water intake. 
  • If you notice swelling, have a fever, or feel the heat and cold waves, seek medical help. 
  • After it has completely healed, you can check with your tattoo artist for touch-ups. 

Some Important Tips to Remember

  • Limit your sun exposure or take extra measures to protect your tattoo. Sun being the strongest from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm, it would be best to avoid stepping out during this time. 
  • Wear loose or lightweight clothes if you have sensitive skin or a new tattoo. 
  • Avoid using sunlamps and tanning beds as they emit lights that can fade tattoos, cause a painful reaction and even lead to skin cancer. 

Summing Up

As you have gotten your tattoos with so much love, you surely wouldn’t want them to fade. The above-mentioned tips can easily protect your tattoos as well as your skin. In addition, regularly applying sunscreen is an excellent option to help ensure that your tattoos stay the way they are for a more extended period. 


  1. Do long sleeves protect the tattoo from the sun?

Long sleeves act as an extra layer of protection that helps protect your tattoo. However, remember to apply sunscreen and follow other essential tips mentioned in the blog above. 

  1. When can you go out in the sun after a new tattoo?

You will have to wait till your tattoo heals entirely before exposing it to direct sunlight. If you anyway have to step out, ensure that you cover the tattooed area with a layer of clothing. 

  1. Will one sunburn ruin a tattoo?

Yes, even one sunburn is enough to damage your tattoo. Mainly, if it’s a new tattoo, be extra cautious. As new tattoos are open wounds, sunburn can damage them and take longer to heal. 



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Chaitali Nayak

A writer and a skincare fanatic, Chaitali believes that words and kindness can transform the world. She has a master’s degree in Advertising & Public Relations and has worked for various advertising agencies and digital marketing firms. With the help of expert dermatologists at CureSkin, she works towards creating content that helps eliminate misinformation related to skincare. The aim is to educate yet bring something exciting and new every time for the readers. When not busy writing, you can find her talking to her plants, eating, drawing or watching movies.