When Can I Put Sunscreen on My Tattoo?

February is finally approaching its last days, and with March approaching, we are all looking forward to sunnier days and warmer temperatures. If you’re planning on getting a tattoo in a month or two, sunny days might affect you more than you think.

Just like your skin, the tattoo also requires adequate UV protection, especially if you plan to show it off, proudly as it should be. But, things may not be as smooth as expected. Putting sunscreen on a new tattoo could make it or break it, depending on the tattoo’s healing process and whether or not it’s fully healed.

So, because we are approaching the time for tattoo demonstrations in the spring and summer, we decided to address this important subject in good time. So if you’re wondering about sunscreens and tattoos, you’ve come to the right place. In the following paragraphs, we’ll talk about when and how you can put sunscreen on your fresh ink. So let’s go straight there!

When can I put sunscreen on my tattoo: aftercare and sun protection

Why does my tattoo need aftercare?

After getting tattooed, the most important thing in the next period is tattoo aftercare. All tattoo care precautions and rules are here to help you prevent possible tattoo infection. Any disruption of the healing process can potentially spoil the tattoo design and create health problems. So, it is rather important, and every tattoo artist will agree and emphasize, to take care of your tattoo in the best possible way.

Now, sun protection is one of the most important aspects of tattoo aftercare. UV rays are quite harmful to the skin, but they also contribute to tattoo fading (speed it up, quite significantly). But, it is necessary to know when the tattoo requires such protection.

Why shouldn’t I put sunscreen on a fresh tattoo?

If you’re getting a tattoo in the spring or summer, your tattoo artist will advise you to keep the tattoo covered (by wearing loose, light clothing) and spend minimal time in direct sunlight for minimal UV exposure. Now, of course, all this is necessary until the tattoo heals completely. A fresh tattoo should not be covered with lotions or sunscreens.

You may ask yourself; Why?

Good, a new tattoo is like a new wound. Your skin has been pricked with a tattoo needle thousands of times (per second). Each sting creates a wound in your skin, which alarms the body into believing that you have been injured and your skin has been attacked. From there begins the healing process. If not done correctly, your body can easily turn the healing process into a tattoo infection, which is the body’s way of dealing with unwanted intruders, in this case, ink.

Now, above the skin, this healing process resembles the healing of an ordinary tattoo. The tattooed area is super red at first, blood, ink, and plasma may ooze out for the first 24 hours, and the body does everything it can to close the wound quickly and prevent infection. This is where you need to help your body’s natural healing process by clean the tattooed area and prevent contamination keeping it covered.

Another way to protect your fresh tattoo is to NOT put lotions on it over sunscreens. Just as you wouldn’t put sunscreen on a cut or open wound, you shouldn’t put it on freshly tattooed skin. Otherwise, you will disrupt the whole healing process by increasing the humidity in the scarring and drying tattoos. This can lead to growth and buildup of bacteria, which usually leads to serious infections and prevents the skin from healing properly.

Putting sunscreen on a healing tattoo can lead to long-term damage to the tattoo, which is often permanent and can only be treated with laser tattoo removal. Now, it would be a shame to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in your new tattoo only to end up having it removed (which is also quite expensive and may not guarantee complete removal).

There is also the scarring potential, left either from infection or laser ablation. Either way, it’s not a fun way to spend your summer this year (or any year for that matter).

When can I put sunscreen on my new tattoo?

Here is a simple answer; when your tattoo is completely healed. This is the only way to start your tattoo sunscreen journey. Until your tattoo is completely healed, you should keep it covered when outdoors by wearing loose clothing and spending as little time as possible in direct sunlight.

Be sure to wear cotton (or other natural materials like wool) that is lightweight, skin-friendly, breathable, and hypoallergenic. It’s essential to keep clothes from sticking to the tattoo for the first week or two, or until it completely seals. Otherwise, you risk contaminating the tattoos and causing infection.

To be more precise, it may take between 4 and 6 weeks for your tattoo to fully close and heal. In some cases, the healing process is prolonged (due to a weakened immune system or poor aftercare routine), but a month or two is usually enough for the tattoo to close and heal well. Your tattoo artist will provide you with the potential healing requirements and the time period the tattoo should heal taking into account the size of the tattoo, its location and many other factors unique to you.

Here’s what you need to know about sunscreen for now

You will need to purchase specific tattoo sunscreens

Yes, it’s true; you can’t just apply any generic sunscreen to your tattoo and call it lit a day. Nope! You will need to buy a specific sunscreen designed for the sun protection of tattooed skin. Using the wrong sunscreen can simply contribute to tattoo discoloration, skin irritation, itching, rashes on and around the tattoo, and more. This is because generic sunscreens contain harsh chemicals that are quite harmful to the skin (especially sensitive skin like tattooed skin).

So, which sunscreen to buy? Here are some of our top recommendations;

  • CannaSmack Ink Guard Sunscreen Stick SPF 30 – CannaSmak has created this incredible sunscreen stick for protecting tattoos and preventing discoloration. The sunscreen is infused with hemp seed oil, omega 3 and 6, vitamins A, B, D and E for ultimate protection and premium care for your tattooed skin. The sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB, and it is 100% hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic. The water-resistant formula makes it the perfect choice for tattoo protection this summer. Of course, the sunscreen formula is cruelty-free.
  • EltaMD UV Active Broad-Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen – this is a high quality sunscreen option recommended by tattoo artists across the country. EltaMD sunscreen has a water resistant formula, designed for everyday use and active lifestyles, which we all have during the spring/summer period. It is rich in minerals and flavonoids and provides extra hydration and nutrition to tattooed skin. The sunscreen protects against UVA and UVB rays, which discolor, age and burn the skin. It’s also chemical-free, non-comedogenic, and water-resistant.
  • Inkeeze Ink Shield Sunscreen Spray SPF 50 – Inkeeze provides specific tattoo products needed for proper tattoo healing and aftercare. Of course, they offer great sunscreen options designed for tattoo protection. This sun spray has an SPF of 50 and will protect your tattooed skin from UVA and UVB rays. The sunscreen is light, gentle and contains no harmful chemicals. It’s not sticky or greasy and it will protect your tattoo from fading 100%.

Read more: The 10 best tattoo sunscreens in 2022: protect your tattoos from fading

You will need to purchase breathable, non-sticky sunscreen

The aforementioned sunscreens are completely lightweight, breathable, non-sticky, and grease-free. But why are these features so important. Well, your skin needs to breathe, just like you. Without oxygen, we’ll feel like we’re suffocatingliterally.

By putting on low-quality generic sunscreens, you close up the tattooed skin and promote the accumulation of dirt and the growth of bacteria. Did we mention you’ll also smother your own skin? Yes, without oxygen, which sunscreen prevents from reaching the skin, your tattoo might struggle to regenerate after sun exposure and it might start to fade quickly.

You will need to purchase fragrance- and dye-free sunscreens

Added chemicals like perfumes and dyes can just irritate the skin. This is why you need to pay attention to the ingredients of the sunscreen you will be using specifically for tattoo protection.

Low quality generic sunscreens contain artificial ingredients that mean “problem”. Your tattooed skin is super sensitive and needs gentle, chemical-free sun protection that’s also super effective against UVA and UVB rays. Again, be sure to check out our recommended sunscreens; they are super gentle on the skin yet provide exceptional sun protection without irritating or smothering the skin.

Final Thoughts

So, the final conclusion would be; DO NOT put sunscreen on a new healing tattoo. You risk damaging and painful infections and could completely ruin the tattoo design. Wait until the tattoo is completely healed. Only then can you truly enjoy the outdoors in the sun, but with proper sun protection. To avoid potential problems, we recommend that you get a tattoo during the colder months, so that your tattoo is fully healed in the spring and summer.

Either way, new and healing tattoos should be well hidden under loose clothing. If you’re not sure if your tattoo is completely healed, be sure to pay your tattoo artist a quick visit (if possible) and ask them to look at your tattoo. If it’s closed, completely stained, peeled and dull, it’s probably completely healed and you can safely apply sunscreen (appropriate and high quality).

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