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How to choose the best sunscreen for tattoos

When you first leave the tattoo shop, your new ink looks its best. The colors are vibrant and the lines are crisp. Unfortunately, the sun can become your new tattoo's worst enemy. Sun exposure can contribute to tattoo fading, color spread, and scarring. Fortunately, with the best sunscreen for tattoos, you can protect against sun damage.

The importance of the best sunscreen for tattoos

The overall look of your tattoo begins in your artist's chair, but it doesn't end when you leave the parlor. How you care for your ink will determine its lasting power and how your tattoo looks overall.

To maintain a beautiful piece of art on your body, you must take the appropriate steps to keep it from becoming a blurry or scarred mess due to damage from sun exposure.

The dangers of UV rays

The sun releases ultraviolet radiation in short wavelengths that the human eye cannot pick up. The two types of UV rays to worry about are UVB and UVA.

UVA rays cause your skin to tan and contribute to sunburn. They are also responsible for wrinkles and premature aging. UVB rays burn your skin and play a role in developing skin cancer by changing the DNA in your skin cells. As a result, the cells can rapidly grow and divide, leading to tumors or lesions.

The older you are, the longer it may take for your skin to heal. This is why sun damage takes a greater toll as you age. Fortunately, the best sunscreen for tattoos also protects against sun damage.

UV rays effects on tattoos

You have two top layers of skin, the epidermis and the dermis. Tattoo artists inject the ink below your epidermis and into the dermis. Unfortunately, UV light can penetrate the first layer of the epidermis and start breaking up the ink. A tattoo starts to look older, faded, and even blurry as the ink breaks up.

If you have a fresh tattoo, the consequences of sun exposure are worse. New tattoos are more susceptible to damage because they are open wounds. A fresh tattoo burns faster, leading to peeling, cracks, and blisters.

Colorful designs and light tints are more susceptible to damage than darker tattoos. The light colors fade quickly compared to dark colors like black, green, and purple. However, unprotected sun exposure can harm all tattoos over time.

How to choose the best sunscreen for tattoos

Every person's ideal sunscreen for tattoos might be different. Skin type and daily activity can affect how effective different types of sunscreen are for your skin, and the location of the tattoo on your body also matters when it comes to solar exposure. There are a few factors to consider to determine what works best for you.

SPF number

The sun protection factor tells you how long UV radiation takes to redden the skin underneath. For instance, if you have sunscreen with an SPF of 30, it will take 30 times longer for skin to burn than without sunscreen.

The higher the SPF number, the more protection you have. People who have an increased risk of skin cancer or immune disorders should use sunscreens with SPF 50 or above. In higher elevations, you should also use a higher SPF.

In addition to the SPF number go for a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which protects against UVA rays as well as UVB. Without broad-spectrum protection, your tattoos are still vulnerable to damage, and so is your skin. Only broad-spectrum sunscreen protects against all types of skin cancer. The best sunscreen for tattoos will protect the tattoo and your skin.

Tattoo location

Your tattoo's location determines how much sun exposure it gets. If you do not have the tattoo in a place where it will be exposed to sunlight, you may not have to apply sunscreen over it all the time. For example, tattoos on your abdomen may require sunscreen when you spend the day at the pool but not when you are wearing a jacket and sweater on a cool autumn walk.

However, if you have tattoos on your arms, neck, face, or any other exposed location, you should cover them with sunscreen daily.

Tattoo age

If your tattoo is still healing, do not apply sunscreen to it. Healing tattoos may appear red and irritated as they go through the same healing process as any other wound. During the initial 24 hours, your body does its best to seal the wound as quickly as possible. To speed up the healing process, you must regularly clean the area and keep it safe from any possible contamination.

Even if you’re using the highest quality sunscreen, do not apply it to a brand-new tattoo. It may take up to four to six weeks for the skin to close completely. Applying sunscreen any time before the tattoo is fully healed can affect its healing process.

How to protect your tattoo when it’s too early to use sunscreen

Before your tattoo has healed, try to limit your sun exposure. Some people choose to get tattoos during colder seasons to avoid the sun. You can also wear protective clothing all year round to protect the integrity of your ink.

The best protective clothing is dark materials with densely woven fabric. Many clothes come with UPF ratings that measure how much UV radiation can penetrate the fabric and reach your skin. Choose loose rather than constricting clothes, as tight clothes tend to stretch and allow more light to reach your skin — and may cause abrasion to the sensitive skin healing over the tattoo.

Protect your ink with the best sunscreen for tattoos

To keep your tattoo looking sharp for as long as possible, you must pay attention to sun protection. When choosing a sunscreen, look for one with a high SPF and broad spectrum to protect against all UV radiation.