Do Tanning Beds Fade Tattoos?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on January 7, 2020
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

Yes, tanning beds fade tattoos over time. The concentrated UV rays of tanning beds cause the ink pigment under the skin to break down. There are things you can do to reduce the chances of this happening, however.

How Does UV Light Affect a Tattoo? 

The problem is that tanning bed UV rays and tattoos aren’t friends. 

Your tattoos will begin to fade if you spend a lot of time in the sun, and that risk is increased if you spend time under the extra-strong rays in the tanning bed. 

UV light is quickly absorbed into the skin, and it gets right to work dissolving the pigment in your ink. 

Not only is this damaging to the integrity of your tattoo, causing sharp lines and shapes to blur, it also sucks the life out of your tattoos. The color and vibrancy are the first things to go, leaving them somewhat lifeless and dreary. Nobody wants dull tattoos, right? 

Even worse, some inks can change color entirely, for example, going from bold orange to a light pink color. 

Laser tattoo removal is an even more concentrated form of this process, so that should give you an indication of why sunlight and tanning beds are so bad for your ink—you’re basically going through the tattoo removal process, just slower.

What If My Tattoo Is New?

New tattoos are even more susceptible to being damaged under UV rays because the skin is raw.

Since tattoos damage the outer skin layer, the dangerous rays aren’t just hitting the top, tough layer of skin like they normally would be. They’re landing on skin that’s already compromised. 

It’s highly recommended to keep new, still-healing tattoos out of the sun, so it’s 10 times more important to heed this advice when it comes to tanning beds, due to their increased strength and potential to damage your skin, even when it’s healthy. 

UV light can do a lot of damage to your tattoo over the years

How Long Must I Wait After Getting a New Tattoo? 

Wait at least a month before showing off your new baby in the sun or subjecting it to a sunbed. 

Don’t think you can get away with wearing sunscreen on your tat, either — remember, it counts as an open wound, and you shouldn’t be using any cream other than a medically approved one on a wound. 

The risk for tattoo infection is higher when your ink is new, whether exposed to sunscreen, sun, or a tanning bed. There’s really no shortcut here if you want your tattoo to heal quickly, look great, and last for decades.

Can I Prevent My Tattoo Fading Under a Tanning Bed? 

If you can’t do without your regular tanning session, there are some measures you can take to reduce the chances of ending up with faded tattoos:

  • Sunscreen
  • Cover Up
  • Moisturize
  • Spray Tan

Wear Sunscreen

If you have to get under the tanning bed, apply sunscreen if your tattoo has completely finished healing. Use a product that is at least SPF 30 to provide as much protection as possible.

My favorite and most recommended sunscreen for using on tattoos is EltaMD UV Sport Sunscreen Lotion.

This broad-spectrum sunscreen has all of the attributes required for not only protecting your tattoo amazingly well, but also for helping to keep it bright and vibrant. It’s suitably strong at SPF 50 and is water and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

Most importantly, EltaMD is extremely tattoo-friendly and doesn’t contain any fragrances, oils, or parabens.

Cover Your Tat

If sunscreen isn’t for you, cover your ink up with a medical dressing or piece of fabric. Again, try to cover only the shape of your piece; otherwise, you’ll risk having an unnatural white outline on it.


Dry skin is a step closer to a damaged tat, so we recommend developing a habit of moisturizing every day. This replenishes the skin’s hydration and helps prevent cracks in the skin after being burnt. 

Do so even when you haven’t been exposed to the sun or the sunbed! Even on an overcast day, those UV rays get through.

Spray Tan

If you’re dead set on getting that summer tan but aren’t keen on the sunbed or harmful UV rays of the sun, there’s always spray tanning. 

This won’t fade your tats permanently as a tanning bed will, but it’s likely to temporarily dull or darken them slightly – similar to putting on makeup. 

Wait at least a month after getting new ink, though — the spray can aggravate new tats and increase the chances of becoming infected.

The Bottom Line About Tanning With Tattoos

Do tanning beds fade tattoos? Yes, if you don’t take the necessary precautions. 

Does this mean you can never go for a session on a tanning bed? No! Luckily for tattooed tanners, if you’re careful, you can get your bronze sheen without endangering your body art. Be sure to keep your sessions to a minimum, though, and have a stash of sunscreen handy for when you need to do it again.

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