Summer is around the corner and that means longer days lounging in the sun with less clothing on showing off those finely crafted tattoos. But before you strut your stuff in the sunshine it’s important to know how to protect your ink from the sun. Since it’s sunny pretty much year round in San Diego it can take a lot of diligence. Especially when there are so many beaches, pool parties, and other outdoor activities calling your name that mean more time in the sun.  

But whether you are a visitor or a lifelong local, it’s essential to know that there is little else more damaging to a new or existing tattoo than direct sunlight. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can be detrimental to your skin by causing sunburn, premature wrinkles, skin cancer, and accelerating the fading process of tattoos. They can cause your body art to lose detail, feather, and cause colors to fade or even change to something you surely don’t want them to be.

Funhouse tattoo artist Leo Cadenazzi explains, “For tattoos that are fresh, the skin needs to hold as much pigment as possible during the healing the process and this means making sure there is no sun exposure. For older tattoos, like many things, the pigments are going bleach in the sun. Although it might happen over the course of several years, protecting your tattoos consistently will have lasting effects on the preservation of the tattoos brightness, colors, and detail.”

The golden rule for all tattoos: Whether you have one piece or one hundred, keeping your tattoos crisp and fresh is about keeping your skin healthy.

The sun is an enemy to all tattoos regardless if you got it done a day ago, a month ago, or several years ago. And it’s important to keep in mind that tattoos always lose when going up against the sun.  

Before you get ready to lounge at your favorite beach, whether it’s Wind and Sea or somewhere on the miles of sandy shore in Pacific Beach, here are some important things to know on how to protect your tattoo in the sun.

Step 1: Use Sunblock. Then Use More Sunblock

Not only is sunblock important for protecting the largest organ in your body, aka, your skin against sunburn, wrinkles, and skin cancer, but it will help preserve the detail and vivid details of your tattoo.

By the process of shedding skin cells and your immune system gradually absorbing the ink dyes and dispersing it, tattoos fade naturally over time. But UV radiation from sunlight has frequencies that are energetic enough to break down the ink molecules, which accelerates the fading process.

To help prevent this, apply a generous amount of SPF 30-50 sunblock 30 minutes prior to getting in the sun and that the tattoo is evenly covered. Make sure that the sunblock features the term “broad spectrum” as it subject to greater tests than other sunblocks and will fortify your skin properly against the suns rays. Using lather on sunblock will help ensure that there is an even coverage. 

Reapply the sunblock every 2 hours. Your ink and your skin will thank you later.

Step 2) Cover Your Tattoo with Clothing

We get it, you want to show off your body art. But covering tattoos with a light layer of clothing when you’re in glaring sunlight is an important tactic for preventing long-term exposure of the sun’s rays on your ink.

For those with hands, face, or neck tattoos this might be difficult altogether and we highly recommend extra diligence with step one by covering your exposed tattoos with sunblock. Unless, of course, you want to wear a ninja suit with gloves on all the time.

Soft, breathable fabric like cotton in light colors will allow ventilation for your skin and serve as a way to reflect some sunlight. Dark colored clothing will absorb more heat, so keep in this in mind when you plan your day out and about. Sweating can cause your sunblock to wear off faster and is something you will need to stay aware of.

Even if you’re just out for a quick walk to the store or taking your dog on a stroll, doses of sunlight on exposed tattoos will cause will eventually add up. In a place like San Diego this is pretty much every time you leave the house! But, staying conscious of this is key and wearing clothing that covers your body art is an effective preventive measure.

Step 3) Limit Your Time in the Sunshine

Okay, we know this one is asking a lot, but limiting sun exposure is one of the best preventative measures for limiting the gradual damage the sun can have on your ink.

But we need to be real with ourselves since staying indoors isn’t likely and should be considered a crime when you’re in a place like San Diego. However, monitoring the amount of sun you get is an important part of the process. Doing this combined with keeping inked areas covered, and keeping sunblock handy when you leave your house, Airbnb, hotel, or where ever your staying is a winning combination.

What Should I Do If My New Tattoo Gets Sunburned?

If you have a new tattoo that has gotten a sunburn, let’s face it, you didn’t follow the aftercare instructions of your tattoo artist. But we will give you the benefit of the doubt, and despite your best efforts your tattoo got sunburned it’s imperative to take care of it and not just brush it off just because you’re living it up and having fun.

You will want to moisturize the heck of your tattoo, drink tons of water, and by all means stay out of the sun.

Since the tattoo is still healing, the sunburn is going to delay that process further and will require extra TLC to have it completely healed.

If the severity of the sunburn is particularly bad, blisters may form which can cause irreversible damage to the tattoo and skin. The blisters have the potential to form a rash or infection as well, which might cost you a trip to the doctor for antibiotics. If this does happen to your skin then a touch up could be required.

The same goes for any fully healed ink you might have. You will want to nurse your inked area with lots of moisturizers and treat it like a sunburn on any other part of your body and keep it hidden from further sun exposure.

So, when it comes to strutting your stuff and showing off your guns or buns or wherever else your new body art might be, it’s important to keep in mind that it is much more sensitive to the sun then your normal skin and should stay hidden.

Can Tanning Beds Cause Damage to My Tattoo?

Just because it’s UV light from a tanning bed and not the giant fireball in the sky doesn’t mean that it’s safer for your tattoo. Actually, it can be quite the opposite. Although these UV rays are artificial they can be more concentrated than the sun. Many people don’t realize their skins limits when put under the UV rays of a tanning bed and will often overexpose themselves. Burning your skin in this way can be even more damaging than a gradual tan.

Applying sunblock with a cotton swab is an effective way to trace and fill in the tattoo to keep it protected in a tanning bed. You can also use a piece of fabric that matches the outline of your tattoo to keep it covered. If you are tanning with a tattoo, make sure to take these precautions before stepping in.

Is it Okay to Spray Tan After Getting a Tattoo?

If you’re wondering this in regards to a new tattoo, then it should only be exposed to the approved ointments. Sunblock and tanning oils or sprays do not fall into this category. It is important to only use the healing creams and moisturizers appointed by your tattoo artist.

If you have a fully healed and thriving tattoo then spray tans are much less of a concern.

Pro Tip: If it can hurt your skin it can hurt your tattoo. If there is a spray tan you know that works for your skin and doesn’t cause any irritation then it should be safe for a tattoo.

Since a spray tan is temporary, and it causes your tattoo to become darker you can either let it wear off naturally or wash it away to restore its natural look. You can also use a light lathering of barrier cream to shield the spray tan from the tattoo as well.

Your Tattoos Will Thank You Later

If you follow these steps and apply them consistently your tattoos are going to thank you and your skin will too. It will help preserve the brilliance of your tattoo and the sentiment or concepts it holds with the vitality it deserves.

We’d love to hear from you if you have questions or just want to talk shop. You can reach out to us by phone at (858) 483-7828 or by emailing us here.