Can You Put Sunscreen on a (New) Tattoo?

 

One of the first thoughts that come in mind when getting a new tattoo is, “Hm, wonder if I should be putting sunscreen on it?” Spring is approaching and is show-off time.

The last thing you want is for your new piece of art to become infected, fade prematurely, or for your skin to get more irritated than it already was.

Let’s be honest: the healing process can be a pain if not done properly.

So, should you put sunscreen on a new tattoo? We shouldn't put sunscreen on a new tattoo until it’s completely healed, which could take at least 2-3 weeks. Sunscreen can pose many problems for fresh ink, all the way from slight skin irritation to harmful infections and ink fade.  

After the healing period it is strongly recommended to use sunscreen on our tattoos when exposed to sunlight

 

Keep reading to find out all about the dangers of using sunscreen on a tattoo wrongly, and how to avoid them!

Why should I avoid putting sunscreen on a NEW tattoo?

Putting sunscreen on a new tattoo puts your skin at risk of infection, irritation, and keeps your skin from healing properly.

You wouldn’t intentionally put sunscreen on an open cut, so don’t put it on a new tattoo. Long-term damage can permanently alter or ruin your ink’s look, which would be a massive bummer after making the investment.

The healing stage is crucial to make sure it lasts forever.

3 Reasons Why Putting Sunscreen on a Fresh Tattoo is Not Recommended:

#1. Generic sunscreens are not designed for tattoo care.

It’s very important to choose the right sunscreen type when our tattoo is completely healed, as many of the options out there can be full of harsh chemicals to our skin.

These harmful chemicals can cause some significant skin irritation to sensitive areas (you know, like a new tattoo). Think rashes, itchiness, and possible ink fading. New tattoos are already itchy and irritated enough; the last thing we want is to make it worse.

 

TIP: Use sunscreens that are specifically designed for it, as they don’t contain harsh chemicals that will affect your fresh tattoo - and skin -.

#2. Your skin needs oxygen

Your skin desperately needs oxygen to heal and regenerate. After all, a tattoo is a literal flesh wound.

Sunscreens are notoriously thick creams that can suffocate the wound and keep it from getting the air it needs.

 

Traditional sunscreens are sticky and can also pick up and hold on to small dirt particles. These little bits and pieces of junk can damage your skin and the new tattoo with tiny cuts and scrapes. Hello, infection.

By sitting as a barrier on the skin, sunscreen can cause the perfect little environment for bacteria to breed. Gross, right?  

Tattoo closeup

#3. Most generic sunscreens contain added color and fragrance - pick the right one.

Yet another way sunscreen can cause irritation to the skin surrounding a new tattoo.

Generic sunscreens often contain artificial fragrances and color to make them more appealing, but it just spells bad news for your new ink. Try to avoid those, and find sunscreens specifically designed for tattoos.

Many people are sensitive to fragrances and dyes anyway, so adding a new tattoo to the mix only makes it worse.

What Should You Do Instead?

Until your tattoo is completely healed, we recommend keeping it out of the sun altogether.
For those long two or three weeks of scabbing and peeling, make sure you cover the area with a loose layer of clothing. Nothing too tight, as you still want it to be able to breathe. Remember that oxygen thing we talked about? 
 

If you live in warm areas, it might be a good idea getting your new ink during the colder months, and you’ll be good to go by summertime.

You already have to avoid water anyway; why make summer even more miserable by having to avoid the sun, too? 

Either way, it is vital to keep your new tattoo protected and out of the sun while it’s healing. Unless you want permanent damage to your ink and to deal with some crazy itchy skin. No? That’s what we thought.

Can I Put Sunscreen On A Healed Tattoo?

YES. You absolutely should. Once your tattoo is 100% healed, you should go back to wearing an SPF whenever you’re spending time outside.

The sun and our tattoos are mortal enemies. Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before heading out, and make sure to reapply frequently while in the sun to keep your healed ink protected.

TIP: Use sunscreen that is an SPF of 30 or above and something that is waterproof to make sure you don’t sweat or swim it off during the day.

Why is it so important to protect my new tattoo from the sun?

UVA and UVB rays are not only harmful to the skin in general but can also cause some significant damage to your beloved tattoos.

Sun damage can cause ink fading, blisters, and a longer healing time. None of which sounds like a fun time to me.

It’s not just new tattoos, either. Old tattoos are also susceptible to fading and sunburning faster when exposed to the sun for an extended period of time. 

What do I do if my new tattoo gets sunburned?

If you didn’t heed the warning and went out into the sun unprotected and ended up with a nasty burn on your brand new tattoo, you can’t say we didn’t try to warn you. 

Sunburns can prolong the healing process, so be prepared to keep up your aftercare instructions for longer than initially anticipated. 

You also will need to keep a close eye on the tattoo for any signs of a rash or infection and don’t be afraid to call or pay a visit to your doctor if you think something may be wrong. Often, they can prescribe you an antibiotic to kill the bacteria causing the infection.

There’s also a chance you’ll need to go back to your artist for a touch up if the sunburn was bad enough and caused any premature damage or ink fading. All of this can be avoided by simply keeping your new tattoo safe and shaded from the sun!

Final Thoughts

The bottom line of this is that sunscreen can be very, very bad for NEW & HEALING tattoos.

Avoid. 0/10 would recommend.

Until your tattoo is completely healed, you should avoid sunscreen and sun exposure altogether. We know it’s annoying, but it’s what’s best for your skin.

BUT, once the tattoo is completely head, we MUST use sunscreen.

We want to ensure that those nice tattoos will shine and our skin will be protected.

After all, getting a tattoo, though a safe cosmetic procedure, causes trauma to the skin. You want to protect it during this fragile healing stage.

Once it has completely scabbed, peeled, and no longer has a sheen to it, you are safe to enjoy the sun again while wearing an SPF.

We hope you found this article helpful in your quest for knowledge of tattoo aftercare! Remember to follow all of the instructions your artist gave you and don’t lather on the sunscreen.

See you in the next one!

 

 

Our mission is to inspire and educate the tattoo community. We have combined our many years of experience in the industry and our love for tattoos to create useful and enlightening content. Join us in this exciting journey in the beautiful art of tattooing.
Welcome to Sorry Mom.

- Rasmus Cort Hansen, CEO & Founder