Skip to main content

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

  1. blog
  2. > Skincare Products

How do you choose the best sunscreen for tattoos? 5 expert-approved tips

Sun protection is a non-negotiable for your daily skincare routine—and it’s also important for preserving your ink.

Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Aug 31, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
Applying Sunscreen on a Tattoo
Curology Team Avatar
by Curology Team
Updated on Aug 31, 2023 • 6 min read
Medically reviewed by Donna McIntyre, NP-BC
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

A tattoo can be an exciting investment in your personal appearance. These designs and colors are meant to last a lifetime—but will they?

We all know that sunshine can damage skin, causing burning, peeling, premature aging, and even skin cancer. Tattooed skin is just as susceptible to sun damage as the rest of your body. Worse still, the sun may fade or damage your tattoo, altering its appearance. That’s why choosing the right sunscreen for tattoos is important to keep them looking their best. 

Want to protect your ink? Here, Curology’s dermatology providers share important considerations to take when choosing sunscreen for your tattoos, helping to ensure their longevity.

Avoid applying sunscreen on new tattoos—do this instead

There are precautions to follow during the healing process, which typically takes 1-3 weeks after the tattoo is completed. In general, during the first few weeks, it is recommended to avoid using sunscreen until the tattoo is fully healed. Instead, keep the tattoo away from direct sunlight at all times. If sun exposure is inevitable, it’s recommended to use protective clothing to shield it from harmful UV rays.¹

Healed tattoos need full protection, also

Once the tattoo has fully healed, it’s important to protect it from the damaging effects of ultraviolet rays. To protect your skin and prevent the tattoo from fading, follow these steps²:

  1. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher to all exposed skin areas.

  2. Reapply sunscreen every two hours when in the sun or after swimming or sweating.

  3. Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside.

  4. Seek shade from the sun, especially during midday when the sun’s rays are the strongest.

  5. Wear a wide-brimmed hat that provides shade for the eyes, face, nose, and ears.

  6. Cover up with lightweight, long-sleeved shirts, and long pants to protect your skin from direct sunlight.

  7. If you have an arm tattoo and are driving, consider covering it with an arm sleeve.

  8. Wear sunglasses that block 100% of both ultraviolet A and B light.

  9. Check the current ultraviolet index and practice sun safety when the index is at three points or higher, particularly during midday.

  10. Avoid using tanning beds, as they can also contribute to skin damage.

  11. Regularly monitor your skin for new moles or other unusual skin spots.

Additionally, if you notice any adverse skin reactions related to your tattoo, report them to your doctor for further evaluation.

Well-healed tattoos can still fade, so follow these strategies

Continuous exposure to direct sunlight can cause your tattoos to fade over time. It can also accelerate your skin’s aging process, leading to the development of wrinkles, sagging, and fine lines. To preserve the vibrancy and longevity of your tattoos, apply sunscreen diligently daily. By consistently using sunscreen, you can prolong the vitality of your tattoos and protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun.

Should you actively protect old tattoos from the sun?

Even if your tattoos are older and have been fully healed for some time, it’s still important to continue protecting them from the sun’s harmful rays. Neglecting to shield old tattoos from sunlight can result in painful sunburns and accelerate skin aging, possibly affecting the appearance of the tattoo. To prevent such damage, use a mineral sunscreen that sits on the skin’s surface and forms a protective barrier against UV radiation. By opting for a mineral sunscreen, like The Sunscreen by Curology, you can effectively safeguard your tattoos and minimize the risk of sun-related complications.

Colored tattoos need special sunscreen care

Different pigments used in tattoos may exhibit varying rates of fading. Tattoo dyes, in general, are highly sensitive to light, which contributes to the gradual fading of lighter shades as the years go by.³ To mitigate this fading process, be sure to apply sunscreen specifically on the tattooed area whenever you’re exposed to the sun. By taking this precautionary measure, you can help preserve the vibrancy and longevity of your tattoo and minimize the impact of sunlight on its appearance.

Certain colors tend to undergo changes in appearance over time—specific shades such as yellow, white, peach, or pink can be particularly vulnerable to a phenomenon known as paradoxical ink darkening. In this process, these colors may darken rather than fade, which can alter the overall look of the tattoo.⁴ Taking proper precautions, such as avoiding excessive sun exposure and following appropriate aftercare instructions, can help minimize the risk of paradoxical ink darkening and ensure the long-term integrity of your tattoo’s color palette.

A broad-spectrum SPF sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection can help protect colored tattoos from fading and paradoxical darkening.⁵

Choose the best sunscreen for your tattoos and skin type 

Your skin type can influence your skin’s reaction to the sunscreen you use. Sensitive skin tends to react more to chemical sunscreens compared to mineral-based products. In such cases, consider opting for mineral-based sunscreens, like The Sunscreen by Curology.

How to choose between chemical or mineral sunscreens

Sunscreen ingredients fall into two distinct categories: mineral and chemical.

Mineral

Mineral sunscreens use physical UV filters, such as zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, to reflect or deflect UV radiation away from the skin. This mechanism enables them to offer broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.⁶ 

Chemical

Chemical sunscreens are formulated with UV filters that effectively absorb UV radiation, offering similar, broad-spectrum UV protection compared to mineral sunscreens. One notable advantage of chemical sunscreens is their reduced tendency to leave a chalky or tinted white residue on the skin, making them more cosmetically appealing, particularly for folks with darker skin tones.⁷

Protect your tattoo with the right sunscreen

Choosing the best sunscreen for tattoos requires taking careful consideration to ensure your inked artwork’s long-lasting vibrancy and protection. Regardless of the age of your tattoo, it’s essential to shield it from the damaging effects of the sun. 

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

curology bottle
curology bottle

The Sunscreen by Curology offers broad-spectrum SPF 30 protection. It has a quick-absorbing and non-greasy formula that contains 9.4% zinc oxide, effectively reflecting UVA and UVB rays without clogging pores. This sunscreen can help shield your tattoo from harmful sun damage.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework, so you don't have to!

  1. Gonzalez, C. D. Aftercare Instructions in the Tattoo Community: An Opportunity to Educate on Sun Protection and Increase Skin Cancer Awareness. Journal of CLinical Aesthetic Dermatology. (2020, June 13).

  2. Gonzalez, C. D. Aftercare Instructions in the Tattoo Community: An Opportunity to Educate on Sun Protection and Increase Skin Cancer Awareness. Journal of CLinical Aesthetic Dermatology. (2020, June 13).

  3. Hauri, U. and Hohl, C. Photostability and Breakdown Products of Pigments Currently Used in Tattoo Inks. Karger. (2015). 

  4. Kirby, W., et al. Causes and Recommendations for Unanticipated Ink Retention Following Tattoo Removal Treatment. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. (July 2013). 

  5. Gonzalez, C. D. Aftercare Instructions in the Tattoo Community: An Opportunity to Educate on Sun Protection and Increase Skin Cancer Awareness. Journal of CLinical Aesthetic Dermatology. Ibid.

  6. Adamson, A. S. and Shinkai, K. Systemic Absorption of Sunscreen Balancing Benefits With Unknown Harms. JAMA Network. (2020, January 21). 

  7. Adamson, A. S. and Shinkai, K. Systemic Absorption of Sunscreen Balancing Benefits With Unknown Harms. JAMA Network. (2020, January 21). 

Donna McIntyre is a board-certified nurse practitioner at Curology. She obtained her Master of Science in Nursing at MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our thoughts on sun protection: *Sunscreen is only one part of UV protection—cute sun hats and shades are also recommended.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

Donna McIntyre, NP-BC

Related Articles

Which moisturizer is best for you?Skincare 101: What are whiteheads, and how do you treat them?Dry, flaky, or peeling skin on your nose? What causes it and how to prevent itFresh ink—what to do when a tattoo is peeling5 expert-approved serums to help minimize the appearance of large pores

Popular Articles

Ask Curology: Is my cold breaking me out?Slugging: The dermatologist-approved skincare hack going viral on TikTokTretinoin vs retinol: What’s the difference?How to create a self-care routine that actually sticksYour 2023 skincare horoscope
Try prescription skincare
30-day trial. Subject to consultation. Cancel anytime.
Get routine essentials
A display of Curology Custom Formula bottles on a white shelf.

Good skin days ahead

Join the 1M+ patients who’ve tackled everything from acne, to fine lines, to hair thinning with prescription-powered treatments, personalized by a Licensed Dermatology Provider.
Ingredients proven to tackle
  • Breakouts
  • Redness
  • Fine lines
  • Dark spots
  • Hair thinning
$29.95/month
*Subject to consultation. Cancel anytime.
Get StartedShop ProductsWhy CurologyHow It WorksOur StoryCommunity
SupportBlogReviewsCareersContact Us
Follow @curology
Terms of ServicePrivacy Notice
Do Not Sell My Personal Information
All Rights Reserved © 2024 Curology