How To Protect A New Tattoo From The Sun

Learn how to protect your new tattoo from harmful sun rays and keep it radiant and healthy.

Written by , Integrated MA (English) Gazala Firdos Ansari Integrated MA (English) linkedin_icon Experience: 2 years
Edited by , MA (English) Subhrojyoti Mukherjee MA (English) linkedin_icon Experience: 4 years
Fact-checked by , MA (English) Shreya Mukherjee MA (English) linkedin_icon Experience: 2 years

One might say only half the battle is already won when you have finalized your tattoo design, booked an appointment with a professional tattoo artist, endured the pain of the body art, and paid the artist their due. The deal is not done until your tattoo is completely healed. A crucial part of it is to protect it from the elements, especially the sun, because a new tattoo and sun exposure is not a pretty combination. You can take our word for it.

We are not surprised to know that those who go for their first tattoo, or new tattoo enthusiasts wonder how to protect a new tattoo from the sun, or how long to keep a tattoo out of the sun. These inquiries are natural and important to make, and if you find yourself one such person, worry not! This article will attempt to answer all your questions. Scroll down!

How Does The Sun Affect Tattoos?

A man with a fading arm tattoo due to sun exposure
Image: IStock

The UV rays from the sun get absorbed by the skin when you are exposed to direct sunlight. These UV rays may break down the pigment in your skin and cause your tattoo to fade prematurely. Although tattoo ink is not administered in the upper layer of the skin, constant and direct exposure to sunlight may cause UVA rays to penetrate it and lead to loss of tattoo pigment.

While the risk of damaging your tattoo from exposure to sunlight is certain, there are various sure-shot ways of preventing it. The next section takes you through them.

How To Protect A Tattoo From The Sun?

We all want to flaunt our new body ink as soon as we can. But to let it heal perfectly, we need to give it time and protection. There are several ways you can protect a new tattoo from the sun.

1. Apply Sunscreen

A person applying sunscreen to their tattoo to protect it from UV rays
Image: Shutterstock

Using plenty of sunscreen is among the most effective ways to protect your tattoo when you must be in direct sunlight. Sunscreens are not only crucial for tattooed skin but also for normal skin to ensure proper protection against wrinkles, sun spots, blotchy skin, uneven complexion, and other skin-related issues that may lead to permanent damage if not taken care of. Opt for a gentle sunscreen with natural ingredients and 30-50 SPF. Ensure it is a broad-spectrum sunscreen to shield your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.

2. Cover It Up

If you do not mind covering your tattoo up or you do not want to apply and reapply sunscreen, covering the tattooed skin with a layer light of clothing is the best option for you. Keeping a new tattoo out of the sun for the first month or at least the first two weeks is essential to protect its vibrancy. It will be fine as long as it covers the tattoo completely.

protip_icon Quick Tip
If you have a tattoo on the neck or near your face, put on a wide-brimmed hat to shade your tattoos and block sun rays.

3. Avoid Peak Afternoon Hours

A girl trying to move away from the sun to protect her tattoos
Image: Shutterstock

When you have a fresh tattoo, try to avoid going out during the peak hours of the afternoon for at least the first 2 weeks. A new tattoo is a fresh and healing wound that is more prone to sun damage than normal healthy skin. If you are an outdoor soul, try to move about before 10 am and after 4 pm when the sun is not as strong.

4. Hit The Tattoo Parlor In The Winter

One of the wisest decisions that you can make to avoid sun exposure is to get your tattoos in winter. The first reason is that the weather makes us naturally layer up our clothes, which helps protect any body art underneath. The second reason is that the sun is not as sharp in winter as in the summer, and it results in less UV ray penetration.

5. Give The Tanning Salon A Miss

If overexposure to the sun causes wrinkles, sun spots, and sunburns, tanning salons are no better either when you have a fresh tattoo. Laying in tanning beds give us that smoking hot just-back-from-a-vacation look, but they cause equal, if not more, skin damage. The lights in tanning salons can severely irritate tattooed skin.

6. Ensure Proper Hydration

A woman with a tattoo drinks water to hydrate herself
Image: Shutterstock

Keeping your body and skin hydrated from the inside out significantly helps your body fight internal and external damage. Hydration does not simply mean soaking your skin. Rather you should apply a gentle moisturizer a few times a day and drink plenty of water to maintain the moisture barrier of your skin.

Protecting your tattooed skin from sun damage is essential to prevent any negative effects. An important part of that is to know how long your body art is vulnerable to damage through sun exposure. The next section offers more details about it.

How Long To Keep A New Tattoo Away From The Sun?

A woman applying sunscreen to her healed thigh tattoo
Image: Shutterstock

A new tattoo is just like a fresh wound that is vulnerable to various kinds of damages, such as trauma, infection, irritation, and sun damage. The first 2 weeks after getting a tattoo is when even slight carelessness can cause significant damage to your ink. Make sure to put at least a light covering on your tattoo while stepping out in the sun during this period.

A tattoo can take anywhere between 4 to 6 weeks to fully heal depending on its size, location, and several other factors. You may allow some sun exposure after you have put sunscreen on your tattoo once it is completely healed.

By now you are well aware that you must protect your new tattoo from sun exposure until it is healed and continue to limit it to maintain the vibrancy of your ink. But what happens when you fail to protect your tattoo from the sun? Find out in the next section.

Why Is It Important To Protect Your Tattoo From The Sun?

Sun exposure can affect a new tattoo in various ways. Direct sunlight for a prolonged period of time is considered harmful for everyone and for people with tattooed skin, it is essential to take certain protective measures for multiple reasons.

  1. It may cause the skin to sag and wrinkle and affect the tattoo design.
  2. UVA rays penetrate the skin to break down the tattoo pigment and fade the tattoo.
  3. It may cause sunburn in new tattoos.
  4. It may lead to alterations in pigments.
  5. It can cause freckles, moles, or sunspots.
  6. It hinders the tattoo ink from setting in properly.
protip_icon Pro Tip
Track your area’s UV index to gauge the intensity of sun rays and prepare for your sun protection accordingly if you plan to be outside.

A vlogger shared how she protects her tattoo sleeves from sun damage. She mentioned that taking protection is essential to maintain the look of the tattoo and added, “It’s like a painting and you wouldn’t want to leave a painting out in the sun because it would fade the colors. If you don’t protect your tattoos, your colors will fade, and they will fade a lot quicker if you’re out in the sun (i).”

All of us love spending time outdoors and when we have a new body art, the urge to flaunt it is real! However, it is also well-established that prolonged sun exposure causes significant damage to the skin. Sun exposure may affect a new tattoo in a particularly damaging way. You can apply sunscreen for tattoos, wear sun-protective clothing such as tattoo sun sleeves, or avoid stepping out in the sun unnecessarily to prevent tattoo fading and overall damage due to sun exposure. It is extremely important to ensure your tattoo gets the optimal healing time if you wish to keep your tattoos vibrant for a long period of time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is baby lotion good for tattoos?

While baby lotions are generally gentle, tattoo aftercare experts do not recommend putting them on healing tattoos because they are open wounds and may get irritated due to some ingredients. Instead, you may use a gentle moisturizer or tattoo balms.

Can I put sunscreen on a tattoo?

Yes, you can use sunscreens for protection of inked skin. However, avoid applying sunscreen on a fresh tattoo (2-4 weeks old) as it may irritate the skin and hinder the healing process.

How often should sunscreen be applied to my tattoo?

You should reapply sunscreen every couple of hours if you are outside or exposed to sunlight in your home.

Is it normal to get bumps on a tattoo after sun exposure?

While bumps on a tattoo after sun exposure can be a sign of mild skin irritation, it is best to consult your doctor and ensure it is not an allergic reaction or infection.

Key Takeaways

  • Direct sun exposure affects tattoos in several ways and may lead to fading, alteration in pigments, or other skin issues such as wrinkles and sun spots.
  • Apply sunscreen, wear full clothes, and avoid stepping out in the afternoon to protect your tattoo from sun exposure.
  • A new tattoo needs to be shielded from sun exposure for at least 2 weeks after the tattoo session.

If you have a tattoo sleeve or more than 4-5 tattoos, you need to take care of a larger surface area to protect your tattoos. Here is a video that might help you with it. Check it out!

Personal Experience: Source

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Gazala Firdos Ansari

Gazala Firdos AnsariBeauty & Lifestyle Writer

Gazala Ansari is a beauty and lifestyle writer with two years of experience. She writes on relationships, makeup, and lifestyle and has bachelor's and master's degrees in English literature from the Central University of Jharkhand. Gazala has previously worked for a content agency where she wrote articles on self-growth, fashion, beauty, and travel. She enjoys consuming and creating content full bio

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