Tanning with Tattoos – How to Protect Your Tattoos while Tanning!

It’s no secret; the sun is your tattoos worst enemy.  If this was an action movie, your tattoo would be the main character and the sun would be its arch nemesis. The sun is constantly trying to find ways to get to and damage your tattoo. This doesn’t mean that you should avoid the sun altogether! Tan skin can be very appealing to some! Tan skin can even make your tattoos ‘pop’ more.

If you are going to tan, it is very important to do it correctly. If you do not follow the proper precautions, you could end up ruining your tattoos.

Just because you are tattoo doesn’t mean that you need to halt all of your summer activities. Tanning is a critical part of life to some people. By tanning, you’re going to be making some trade offs. Your skin will be tan, but you may be putting your tattoos at risk. To limit the damage of the sun on your tattoo, follow the advice laid out in this article.

How Long to Wait to Tan After Getting a Tattoo?

First of all, always follow tattoo aftercare instructions completely! Skipping any steps in your aftercare can damage your skin beyond repair. Do not even attempt to suntan before a tattoo is fully healed.

Tattoo healing usually takes approximately 2 weeks. It is generally a good idea to wait a bit longer than 2 weeks to be safe. It is entirely possible that your skin may take substantially more time to heal than average after getting a tattoo. So within the 2 weeks of healing, try your best to stay out of the sun!

Staying out of the sun is a small sacrifice to make to keep your brand new tattoo looking good.

Healing your tattoo before tanning is important for more than just aesthetic reasons. It can actually be dangerous to expose your tattoo to sun light. If it is still healing, your tattoo is at an increased risk of infection. Getting sunburn can increase this risk even further.

Can You Put Sunscreen on a Brand New Tattoo?

No! Putting sunscreen on a brand new tattoo is a terrible idea. There are countless reasons why you shouldn’t, but we have an entire guide on that. To summarize, sunscreen is sticky and full of chemicals. Applying sunscreen to a new tattoo greatly increases the risk of infection. Nothing is worse than a skin infection on a brand new tattoo!

A tattoo is an open wound. You wouldn’t pour chemicals into an open wound, but when you apply sunscreen to a healing tattoo, you’re doing just that. In addition to the chemicals, sunscreen contains artificial fragrances that can cause irritation.

Make sure you follow your aftercare instructions carefully. It is important to follow through on every step laid out in the aftercare instructions to avoid any complications.

You should wait until you’re totally sure that your tattoo is healed before applying a layer of sunscreen. If you’re unsure if your tattoo is healed appropriately, you can compare your tattoo to images online.

Ways to Keep Your Tattoos Safe in the Sun

If you do want to tan, it is important that you follow the proper precautions to stay safe and get a good tan. A high SPF sunscreen will be your best friend. Even if it is not completely sunny outside, a quality sunscreen will still protect you from the harmful UV rays.

A sunscreen with 30 SPF (sun protection factor) will protect you from 97% of the UV rays. Expert dermatologists recommend a 30 SPF sunscreen to most people. It is impossible to get 100% UV ray protection with just sunscreen alone.

It is important that you are consistent in the reapplication of your sunscreen. Sunscreen wears off in a relatively short period of time. The bottle will tell you how often to reapply. Often, sunscreen will need to be fully reapplied after 2 hours. If you’re in water, it may need to be reapplied more frequently.

In addition to applying a sunblock, dark protective fabrics are also useful. The darker the clothing, the more UV rays it will prevent from penetrating and reaching the skin. If your tattoo is still healing, dark loose fabric will be the best clothing to wear.

Sunscreen and clothing can only do so much in protecting your tattoo from the sun. It is important that you are aware of your body and where the tattoo is located on your skin. If your tattoo is exposed to the sun, protecting it may be as simple as rotating your body.

How Tattoos Fade In The Sun

The sun is always out to ruin your tattoos! It’s an unfortunate fact of life, but UVA, UVB, and IR rays will damage healthy skin. According to some sources, the sun is the number on cause of fading. If you want to prevent your tattoos from fading, it’s obvious to avoid constant sunlight. However, this brings up the issue of people wanting to tan but still having tattoos.

How do Tattoos Look When they Fade?

Overtime, lines that were once sharp will become duller. Bright colors will also dull out. Tattoo fading is part of the natural process of having a tattoo. Some may not like the look of a faded tattoo, but others do. Some people think that a faded tattoo adds ‘character’ to it.

If you want to, it is possible to keep your tattoos from fading. Eventually, they will fade anyways but there are steps that you can take to slow this process down. Lotion, sunscreen, and hydration are all ways to keep your tattoos from fading.

Can You Use a Tanning Bed with Tattoos?

Tanning beds are the same as the sun. In fact, tanning beds may be even more damaging to your skin that sunlight would. The reason is because a tanning bed is a more constant source of UV rays. When someone enters a tanning bed, they fully submerge their bodies into the bed of lights.

Natural sunlight is not as constant and it is possible to move around in the sun, keeping it from hitting one spot constantly. If you really want to use a tanning bed, it is your own call, but it is important to understand the risks associated with tanning beds.

Both natural and artificial UV rays damage skin. There is a dangerous misconception out there that since tanning beds are synthetic, that they do not cause damage. Tanning beds emit the same exact rays that the sun does. A tanning bed will fade your tattoo at the same rate that the sun would.

Tattoos aside, artificial tanning in tanning beds can be very detrimental to your health. UV radiation causes wrinkles, brown spots, and more. People who use a tanning bed BEFORE the age of 34 increases their chance of getting melanoma by an entire 75%.

Safe Alternative to Sun Tanning: Spray Tanning

If you want a tan and this article scared you from getting one, don’t you fret! There are safe alternatives to tanning. Best part is, you can do it even if you have tattoos. Spray tanning is safe and can be very affordable.

If you’re applying spray tan to a fully healed tattoo, it will not injure it. In fact, it may even keep the tattoo looking better for longer by creating a protective coat over it. Tattooed skin is the same as regular skin after it is healed. Anything you would do to natural skin, you can do to tattooed skin.

The only negative to spray tanning is that it may make vibrant tattoos a little less bright. To counter this however, you can just remove the spray tan from parts of your tattoo that you want to ‘pop’.



So You Still Want to Tan with Tattoos?

We apologize for scaring you with this article. There are plenty of tattooed people who still participate in tanning. Just make sure that you take the proper precautions and cover your tattoos as to keep them young. (Tanned skin can even make tattoos look better at times!)

Mayo Clinic “Are tanning beds safer than natural sunlight?”
Harvard Health Publications “Sun-Damaged Skin”