They say tattoos are addicting. Once you get one, you’re definitely going to want more. Whether you’re on your first tattoo, your fifteenth, or your fiftieth, chances are, you’ve been told how important it is to take good care of your skin and protect it from the sun. But how vital is that skincare routine for your tattoo, and what does it actually mean for your skin?
UVA vs UVB Rays
The sun emits two types of ultraviolet radiation, UVA and UVB. UVA rays can cause long-lasting damage to your skin, which can lead to wrinkling and sagging to tattoo areas. UVB rays cause surface damage and sunburns that can damage the look of your tattoo, and cause new tattoos to itch and blister. They may even cause infections.
Using Sunscreen on Tattoos
Some sunscreen manufacturers advertise specialty tattoo-safe sunscreen, but experts say they’re not much better for your skin than regular sunscreen. Instead of trying a ‘tattoo safe’ label, look for these things when you’re looking for tattoo-friendly sunscreen.
- Use cream-based sunscreens which show up easily on your skin, and will spread more evenly for maximum protection.
- Look for an SPF level of 30 or higher. If the tattoo is newer, choose SPF 50, which is suitable for sensitive skin.
- Look for ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Mineral sunscreens are very good for protecting your skin after a tattoo and are also better for the environment when compared to chemical sunscreens.
- Reapply the recommended every two hours and practice sun-safe practices like keeping in the shade, wearing long sleeves or pants over your tattoo and wearing hats.
If you have a new tattoo, you should be avoiding all direct daylight until it has healed over, meaning when it stops peeling. If you have a job where you work outdoors, this may be impossible. In that case, you should keep the bandages on as long as possible. Always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen 15 minutes before heading outside. Skipping this step in your tattoo care regime puts you at risk of sunburn, along with fading or warping, even if it’s a few months old. Don't forget to reapply! Look for a zinc oxide sunscreen spray to make reapplication easy and convenient.
Sunburn on Tattoos
If you do find your tattoo has been exposed to a sunburn, follow these steps.
- Apply cool compress and moisturizer over the burned area. Stick to something hypoallergenic to be gentle on your skin.
- Drink lots of fluids and keep an eye on your burn. IF you get a fever, or you notice swelling around your tattoo, it could be a sign of infection, and you should seek medical attention immediately.
- Carefully monitor any changes to your skin, in case you need to visit your tattoo artist for a touch-up.
Tattoos are a great way to express yourself, but it’s essential to take care of your tattooed skin, both as it heals and afterward, to keep that ink looking amazing. Sunscreen protects against UV sunlight that causes fading, and can even help protect your tattoo from infection and other dangers while healing.