Tattoos In The Sun – What NOT To Do When 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 is dependant on a few factors, but what you must understand is that your tattoo is always going to look much better throughout its life if you keep it shielded from the sun as best as possible.

We will show you how you can have fun in the summer sun while keeping your tattoo in top condition.


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 on the area is going to be detrimental to healing.

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

Over the first month or so your skin is going to be extremely sensitive to the sunlight and UV rays, and you will notice that if you expose the 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 keep the tattoo out of the sun until healing is complete. 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.

Can You Put Sunscreen on a New Tattoo?

Although you may assume that you could just rub sunscreen over the area while the tattoo is healing, this is ultimately a bad idea. The ingredients included within most sunscreens and creams will be too harsh for the sensitive area and could cause irritation and other unwanted side-effects, including prolonged healing times.

It is therefore advised to just keep your tattoo out of the sun altogether until the tattoo has completely healed. After the tattoo has completely scabbed and peeled, you should then be able to start applying sunscreen to the area and expose the tattoo to the sun. It’s recommended to wait at least 3-4 weeks.

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 also 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 Coppertone Tattoo 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.

How to Keep Your Tattoo Safe in the Sun

What you need to remember is that you must ALWAYS apply sunscreen to your tattoo whenever it is going to be expose to the sun. This sun screen should be at least factor 30 in order to keep as many UV rays from penetrating the lotion as possible.

Keep your Tattoo Out of the Sun

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

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.

Being in water can greatly increase the detrimental effects of the UV rays on your skin due to the reflection from the water (meaning that the rays are coming from all angles). It is therefore recommended to pick a good waterproof sun lotion to ensure that 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 about 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.

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 whilst white tattoos and white highlighting doesn't hold up very well at all against UV rays. Colors in between vary when it comes to ease of fading.

Another factor that comes into play with how a quickly a tattoo fades in the sun is how well your tattoo was made and how good the artist was.

Your tattoo will hold up against fading much better if the artist inserted the ink at the correct depth and packed the skin with as much ink as possible - whereas if the ink was added at a shallower level than necessary, and the amount of ink added was scarce then expect quicker fading.

Tanning With Tattoos In 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, so keep this in mind if you’re a regular tanning bed user.


  • Hopefully you know realise how dangerous the sun is to your tattoo, especially if the tattoo is brand new. Below is a roundup of the most important points you must remember when it comes to tanning with a tattoo
  • Don’t expose your new tattoo to the sun at all for at least 3-4 weeks after getting it gone. The area will be much more sensitive and much more prone to burning. Don’t apply sunscreen during this period either as it’s likely to irritate the area and disrupt healing
  • UV rays can penetrate cloud easily, so don’t think your tattoo is safe just because it’s overcast
  • Always use a strong sunscreen – at least factor 30
  • UV rays can be reflected from water and make the effects of the sun stronger against your skin – remember this if you swim outside or if you’re around around water regularly. Make sure you choose a good waterproof sunblock
  • Different ink colors fade at different rates – black inks being the most resistant and white inks being the most prone to fading (with other color’s fading rates being in-between these two)
  • Sun tanning beds are just as dangerous to your tattoos as the sun, so keep this in mind if you’re a regular user. Tanning with tattoos is not recommended either way (whether you're being exposed to natural UV or artificial light).

At the end of the day, if you spend most of your waking life in the sun, you need to be responsible about picking the right tattoo for yourself, and deciding whether you think it's wise to get inked on an exposed area of the body, or whether it'll be best to get on in a slightly more covered-up area.

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