What Is Tattoo Sunscreen?

N. Farley

Tattoo sunscreen is similar to traditional sunscreen, though it is typically designed for easier application to a specific area, rather than all over the body. Many tattoo sunscreens come in a roller tube similar to a stick of deodorant, while others work like a pen and have a thin, tip-like applicator. Generally, tattoo sunscreen should be applied at least an hour before sun exposure, but only after the tattoo's initial healing process. It is extremely important for tattoos to be well-protected from the sun, as over-exposure can cause them to fade and blur over time.

Tattoos should be constantly protected with sunscreen when exposed to the sun to limit fading.
Tattoos should be constantly protected with sunscreen when exposed to the sun to limit fading.

Some sunscreens can be difficult to apply over tattoos, particularly if the artwork is in a location that is difficult to reach, such as the back or shoulders. People often use tattoo sunscreen because it can be applied delicately to the exact area of the tattoo without spreading it over large areas of the body. By applying the sunscreen directly to the artwork, the individual can still get a tan on the rest of his or her body without having an outline around the tattoo's area. Many tattoo sunscreens are formulated specifically to protect tattoo ink. These formulas are sometimes waterproof and generally carry a higher concentration of sun protection factor (SPF) and moisturizing agents than traditional sunscreen lotions or sprays.

A tattoo machine.
A tattoo machine.

Tattoo ink is particularly susceptible to fading within the first few weeks, as the wound still needs time to heal. During this time, tattoo sunscreen should not be applied directly to the tattoo, as this can exacerbate skin damage by preventing it from breathing. Initially, tattoos should instead be kept out of the sun whenever possible and protected by clothing when sun exposure is unavoidable. After the initial hearing period, regular application of tattoo sunscreen will help the tattoo to continue looking fresh.

Because tattoo ink fades naturally over time, sun protection is an essential part of caring for a tattoo. Many artists are happy to touch up their work, but proper maintenance can decrease the need for this. To adequately protect the tattoo, sunscreen should typically have an SPF of at least 30. When the skin around the tattoo is protected from the sun, the tattoo will continue to appear darker and the colors will stay closer to their original shades. Light colors of ink such as white, yellow, orange and pink generally fade more quickly and more easily than darker colors like black, blue, green and purple.

Tattoo ink is susceptible to fading within the first few weeks.
Tattoo ink is susceptible to fading within the first few weeks.

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Discussion Comments


@feruze-- If you don't mind paying a little more, go for tattoo sunscreen. They even have spray sunscreen and sunscreen towelettes for tattoos if you don't like lotions.


@feruze-- You can definitely use regular sunscreen or sunblock. I know several people who do. My friend actually uses a sunscreen lip balm with high SPF because it's very similar to a tattoo sunscreen.

I personally prefer tattoo sunblock because I think it's more moisturizing, lasts longer than regular sunblock and stays on despite sweat and water. It's also much easier to carry around.

My tattoos cost me a lot of money, so I want to make sure they look bright and lively for as long as possible.


It's been a month since I got my tattoo. I have avoided the sun during this time. I always wore long-sleeves when I went outside.

I'm planning to go on vacation in a few weeks. I will still be very careful about sun exposure and will make sure to apply a sunscreen.

Just wondering, is it absolutely necessary that I get a tattoo sunscreen? Won't a regular sunscreen with an SPF of 50 be okay?

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