The sun is a beautiful thing. Just like your ink!
Everyone appreciates a warm, sunny day packed with vitamin D – but this doesn’t mean that we should be completely exposed to the sun all of the time. If you have tattoos, you know how important it is to protect them from fading and losing their vibrancy.
Sunscreen is essential for protecting your tattoos and keeping them bright and vivid.
It might seem like there isn’t much difference between using sunscreen on skin with tattoos as opposed to those without – but in fact there are some things worth considering before picking up any bottle off the shelf!
Why Do You Need Sunscreen to Protect Tattoos?
Tattoo ink is considered a foreign substance by your body, and when your skin is exposed to UV rays, your skin’s immune cells can decide to go after the tattoo pigment.
This process of your body’s immune cells going after your tattoo to protect itself from harmful substances is called “tattoo fade”.
On top of that, sun exposure will naturally fade all kinds of colors. Just think of that old couch in your grandparent’s house that’s seen decades of light exposure! Sunlight bleaches colors, which is why heavily-exposed areas of a couch will have more faded color than the under sides of a cushion.
What Type of Sunscreen is Best for Tattoos?
Sunscreens containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are often recommended for those with tattoos, as they offer a physical barrier between your skin and the sun’s harmful UV rays.
They provide you with broad spectrum protection (which means that they protect against both UVA and UVB radiation) which can decrease redness and irritation with you tattoo.
Although chemical sunscreen is certainly beneficial as well, many of those with tattoos prefer physical sunscreens over chemical sunscreens. This is because some people are concerned about the ingredients in chemical sunscreens, as it’s more common for chemical sunscreen ingredients to irritate skin and even cause allergic reactions.
As far as which SPF rating to look for – SPF 30-50 is best (as is true for the rest of your skin. Anything exposed to the sun should be protected). Make sure to reapply your sunscreen regularly, otherwise you won’t be properly protected, even if you use a higher SPF sunscreen.
Our List of the Best Sunscreens for Tattoos
1. Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Stick
With a lightweight feel and a formula that dries clear, Aveeno Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Stick provides immediate coverage in a package that you can take anywhere with you. It’s also packed with colloidal oatmeal to help prevent irritation.
Aveeno’s new Positively Mineral Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Stick is perfect for those who need lightweight, on-the-go sun protection. The formula dries clear and contains colloidal oatmeal to help prevent irritation as well as SPF 50+.
Plus, the stick form is super easy to apply no matter where your tattoo is on your body!
2. CeraVe Hydrating Sunscreen Body Lotion SPF 50
CeraVe’s Hydrating Sunscreen Body Lotion is another great pick for tattooed skin and blank canvas skin alike! It provides broad spectrum protection against the sun and contains hyaluronic acid and ceramides, which will hydrate your skin.
Plus, it’s fragrance-free so you won’t have to worry about any irritation from its ingredients. It’s even dermatologist recommended!
3. EltaMD UV Active Broad-Spectrum SPF 50
EltaMD is a popular sunscreen for skin enthusiasts, and it’s no surprise why! This EltaMD UV Active SPF50 high-quality sunscreen is water-resistant and is formulated specifically for those who are prone to sweating or activity.
As an oil-free, paraben-free, and non-comedogenic formula, this is also a great sunscreen for people with oily skin.
4. Neutrogena Clear Body Lotion SPF 30
Neutrogena Clear Body Lotion provides highly transparent coverage while protecting the tattoo ink on your skin. This popular fan-favorite sunscreen is great for inked up skin and non-inked too. It also contains no synthetic fragrances or oils that can irritate sensitive skin types.
5. Supergoop Body Butter SPF 40 Sunscreen
Supergoop’s Body Butter SPF 40 Sunscreen will protect your artwork and maintain its color, all while keeping your skin soft, suple, and moisturized!
It glides on as smoothly as a body lotion, while still offering some of the highest level of sun protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
6. Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion SPF 50
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Lotion SPF 50 is another great sunscreen choice for those with tattoos. It offers broad-spectrum protection and goes on clear and smooth, so you can easily apply it before going outside or spending time at the beach without worrying about having a white caste.
Keep in mind that this sunscreen is a chemical sunscreen rather than a physical sunscreen, so it might not be ideal for all users.
7. Sun Bum Mineral Spray Sunscreen SPF 30
The Sun Bum Mineral Spray is the perfect sunscreen for those who don’t want their tattoos to fade away, but lack the patience required for rub-in lotion sunscreens.
The Sun Bum spray is unique in that it’s a zinc-based, mineral spray, providing easy application with the protected provided by physical sunscreen. It also boasts a matte finish and doesn’t feel greasy on skin.
8. CannaSmack Ink Guard SPF30 & Tattoo Fade Shield
CannaSmack Ink Guard SPF30 & Tattoo Fade Shield is infused with hemp seed oil and a plethora of vitamins. This nourishing formula will protect your skin from the sun while keeping your tattoos bright and vibrant.
If you’re looking for a sunscreen that works to shields your skin from the sun, while also protecting your tattoos, CannaSmack Ink Guard SPF30 & Tattoo Fade Shield is perfect for you. With this nourishing formula infused with hemp seed oil and vitamins, your skin will be protected from the sun’s harmful rays while keeping your tattoos bright and vibrant.
9. Tattoo Care Sunscreen SPF 30
This sunscreen specifically markets itself as a sunscreen for tattoo care! Tattoo Care Sunscreen SPF 30 has a unique formula that acts as a deep tissue moisturizer and will help your ink stay colorful and vibrant against the damaging effects of UV rays.
It’s dermatologically tested and can be used by any skin type, with no allergens or parabens. This sunscreen provides protection from UVA/UVB rays while also preventing your ink from fading or cracking, using natural ingredients like cocoa butter, jojoba, and vitamin A and E.
10. INK Tattoo Brightener Sunscreen
INK Tattoo Brightener Sunscreen
Ink Tattoo Brightener SPF 50+ Spray is a tattoo-focused, water resistant, sunscreen that protects tattoos from fading while keeping the rest of your skin safe too!
Offering broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection, it includes powerful antioxidants to moisturize skin and keep it smooth. Plus, this spray is easy to apply, dries well with no residue, and doesn’t contain any overwhelming fragrances.
On top of all that, it’s reef safe, cruelty free, and vegan too!
11. Australian Gold SPF 50 Tattoo Stick
Australian Gold SPF 50 Tattoo Stick
Australian Gold SPF 50 Tattoo Stick is an excellent sunscreen for sensitive skin types with tattoos, from a well-regarded and experienced sunscreen brand.
This sunscreen glides right onto the skin and doesn’t leave a significant white cast when dry. However, this stick is extra-small, so while it’s ideal when portability is paramount, it may not be the best value for an everyday sunscreen.
12. INK-EEZE Tattoo Sunscreen Ink Shield
INK-EEZE Tattoo Sunscreen Ink Shield features SPF 50 protection with UVA/UVB broad spectrum. This easy-to-apply spray is perfection for on-the-go, and it’s coconut scented for a delightful fragrance (so long as your skin is not sensitive to fragrances). This tattoo ink shield features the Ozone Reef Friendly seal and is vegan too. It’s even made in the USA!
What About Sun Protection for New Tattoos?
If you’re planning on getting a new tattoo, you may want to get it in the cooler months rather than the summer.
It’s essential to keep your fresh tattoo out of the sun in order to allow your skin to heal properly and to preserve the fresh tattoo work done on your skin. Exposing a new tattoo to the sun can result in poor healing, altered pigmentation, and fading.
However, since a fresh tattoo is technically an open wound, applying topical creams willy nilly isn’t recommended. Instead, it’s best to use natural sun protection methods like sun sleeves, rash guards, and long-sleeved UV shirts to protect your vulnerable skin during this time.
More Q&As About Sunscreen for Tattooed Skin
Q: What is the best sunscreen for tattooed skin?
A: It depends on what you’re looking for. Many people with tattoos prefer physical sunscreen as opposed to chemical ones. Chemical sunscreens are more likely to clog pores, which can lead to skin irritation.
Q: Is zinc oxide safe for tattoos?
A: Physical sunscreens such as those relying on the active ingredient zinc oxide are considered better for tattoos because they stay on the surface of your skin instead of penetrating into the dermis like chemical ones do.
However, you should still be careful with what ingredients are in your sunscreen and how it interacts with other products you use daily – particularly if those contain acids or retinol.
Q: How do you choose a good sunscreen for tattoos?
A: The best way to ensure that your tattoo’s ink is protected from the sun is to use physical sunscreen with zinc oxide as the active ingredient.
When choosing a chemical sunscreen, you should look out for those labeled “non-comedogenic” and/or “hypo-allergenic” to help reduce the risk of breakouts or irritation.
Q: Will sunscreen fade or damage my tattoo?
A: No – in fact, sunscreen will do the opposite! Using sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 will help prevent your tattoo from fading and maintain its color and vibrancy. Using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA rays and UVB rays will help reduce the chance of sun damage to your artwork.
Sunscreens formulated for the face are often less irritating to use on tattoos than those formulated for other parts of the body (this is primarily the difference between face vs body sunscreen) , so consider using facial sunscreen if you’re especially worried about breakouts or skin irritation.
Q: How do you apply sunscreen on tattoos?
A: Always ensure that you are applying enough sunscreen, which is about two fingers worth for an area the size of your face. Make sure to rub in the sunscreen fully and evenly.
Q: Is it safe to use sunscreen on tattoos?
Yes, but you should always make sure that your tattoo is completely healed before applying any sun lotion in order to avoid infection. Cover up with sun shirts or sleeves until the tattoo is healed.
Sunscreen is essential for tattooed skin because it shields your artwork from the sun’s harmful rays and prevents fading. If you’re looking to maintain vivid colors, regardless of whether or not you have a physical sunscreen in mind, there are options available.
We suggest using a use zinc-based or physical sunscreen, recommending the sunscreens listed above in particular. But any sunscreen will do, so long as your skin tolerates it and you reapply regularly.
Failing to apply adequate sunscreen can make a waste of your beautiful tattoos! Keep them safe and looking great with regular sunscreen use.