New Tattoos In The Sun – When Can You Start Tanning?

No matter how new or old your tattoo is, the sun will always be your tattoo’s worst enemy.

How long after getting a new tattoo before you can tan in the sun or on tanning beds is dependant on a few different factors. However, what you must understand is that your tattoo is always going to look much better throughout its life if you attempt to keep it shielded from strong UV rays as best as possible. Tanning after tattoos is highly discouraged.

How Long After Getting a Tattoo Can You Tan?

After getting a brand new tattoo, the area of skin is essentially a raw open wound with no protection over the recently inserted ink. Therefore, any sun exposure to the area is going to be detrimental to the healing process.

Your tattooed skin is going to be classed as an open wound until the scabbing process is complete. This can take up to two-to-three weeks, and sometimes a longer amount of time depending on the size and placement of the tattoo.

Over the first month or so, your skin is going to be extremely sensitive to sunlight and UV rays, and you will notice that if you expose your tattoo to the sun for any amount of time while it is still healing, it will start to sting and feel like it’s burning very quickly. This is a sign that you must remove the area away from sunlight as quickly as possible before sunburn damage begins to set in. Tanning with tattoos is not recommended full stop; let alone when the tattoo is still healing.


Sunburn on top of a new tattoo is not pretty. Your newly inked area will burn much quicker than other less-sensitive areas of skin, and any sunburn on top of your tattoo during this period of time could cause it to blister, peel, crack, fade and ultimately heal much less optimally for quite a long time.

Can You Put Sunscreen on a New Tattoo?

Although you may assume that you can just rub sunscreen over the area while the tattoo is healing, this is ultimately a bad idea. A fresh tattoo that is not yet healed will be sensitive to even the most delicate of cream.

The ingredients included within most sunscreens and creams will be too harsh for the sensitive area during the healing process, and could cause irritation and other unwanted side-effects, such as itching and prolonged healing times.

It is therefore advised to just keep your tattoo out of the sun altogether until it has completely healed. After the tattoo has finished scabbing and peeling, you should then be able to start applying sunscreen to the area and expose the tattoo to the sun.

My favorite and most recommended sunscreen for using on tattoos is Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch.

This lotion 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 is suitably strong at SPF 30, as well as being water-resistant, and having great hydrating properties.

If you’re looking for even more protection, there are also dedicated tattoo sunblock sticks available (like the CannaSmack Ink Guard) that you can use to top up tattooed areas of skin conveniently whenever you feel that your ink may be in need of slightly more protection.

What you need to remember is that you must always apply sunscreen to your tattoo whenever it’s going to be exposed to the sun. The sunscreen should be at least factor 30 in order to keep as many UV rays from penetrating the lotion (and your skin) as possible. In our opinion, these are some of the best sunscreens for tattoos currently on the market.

Also, remember that UV rays easily penetrate cloud, so even if the sun isn’t beaming directly onto your tattoo, it could still be at risk of harm.

If you find yourself outside and forget to apply sun tanning lotion to your tattoo, try to keep in the shade as much as possible.

Finally, being in water can greatly increase the detrimental effects of UV rays on your skin due to the reflection from the water (meaning that the rays are coming from a greater amount of angles). It is therefore recommended to pick a good waterproof sun lotion to ensure you’re protected at all times.

Tattoos and Fading in the Sun

Tattoo fading is a gradual process. You will probably find that if you go out in the sun a lot with a relatively new tattoo, your ink won’t look as though it’s fading at all in the sun, even without sunscreen.

You must remember, though, that a tattoo is for life. You may be able to get away with tanning and lounging around in the sun with no lotion on for a few years with no visible sign of fading, but keep doing it over the years and you will definitely see the condition of your tattoo degrading. Tattoos in the sun constantly will not last well.

Of course, if your ink has already considerably faded from tanning many times after originally getting it, an experienced tattoo artist may be able to redo the area and bring it back to life.

Faded Tattoo
The sun can do a lot of damage to your tattoo over the years

Different colors of tattoo ink also fade at different rates over their lifetimes, with black/grey tattoos being able to hold up against the sun the best while light tattoos and white highlighting don’t hold up very well at all against UV rays. Colors in-between vary when it comes to the rate of fading.

Sun Tanning Beds

Remember – tanning beds are just as dangerous for your tattoos as the sun. The UV rays distributed by a tanning bed are very similar to the rays beaming from the sun, and can fade your tattoo just as much as the sun can, sometimes in a faster amount of time. Keep this in mind if you’re a regular tanning bed user.