Spring is finally here and summer isn’t far behind it. That means it’s time to show off your sweet tattoos and maybe a little skin. Be careful though, too much sun can make tattoo colors fade. Some companies are catching on to that concern and are putting out products labelled as “Tattoo Sunscreen” or “tattoo sunblock”. You don’t need tattoo sunscreen to save yourself the expense of touch-ups and tattoos lost to fading. We have some simple tips to find high quality sunscreens that will keep your tattoo colors in tact for significantly less cost.
Not All Sunscreen Can Save Your Tattoo Colors
Tattoo sunscreen isn’t really a thing. If someone tries to sell you something claiming to be tattoo sunscreen, just say no. Regular sunscreen will do the trick just fine, as long as you know what to look for. In general, sunscreen is made in a variety of different ways using more than a few different active ingredients. Actually, it gets really confusing. Most of us will likely settle for whatever is cheapest at the local drugstore–even though we’ll likely pay for it later. That’s just life, right?
Not when you’re sporting hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of tattoos. Saving those tattoo colors means saving money and saving an investment. We can help you spot the best sunscreen to use to keep your tattoo colors from fading.
Some brands have released tattoo sunscreens that claim to protect your tattoos better than traditional sunscreen. Don’t fall for it. We found a bottle in a local CVS (not the one in the picture) retailing for $17.00. What a scam. You can get a high quality, safe to use sunscreen free of most nasty chemicals (parabens, etc.) for around $7. Here’s what to look for.
Real Tattoo Sunscreen… Sort Of
So what do you want from a sunscreen intended to help prevent fading tattoos? There are ingredients you want your sunscreen to have and there are ingredients you’ll want to avoid. FYI these “tattoo sunscreen” tips also apply to folks who don’t have tattoos. Quick, grab something to write with! You’re gonna want to take this list to the store with you.
Your “tattoo sunscreen” should:
- Be a cream: Sprays, powders, oils, and other forms of sunscreen can allow you to miss a spot because you can’t easily see where they have been spread. A cream also takes more to rub off than other types. Waterproof creams are a good idea if you plan on swimming in the sun. Avoid oils as they don’t offer much protection and can still allow your ink to fade.
- Be SPF 15 or greater. If you are fair-skinned, use a higher SPF. Don’t forget to reapply often!
- Provide broad spectrum protect against UV/UVA and UVB rays.
- Contain zinc or titanium dioxide for maximum protection.
Your “tattoo sunscreen” should not:
- Contain vitamin A or Retinyl Palmitate. While vitamin A is good for your skin, recent studies have shown that applying it to your skin and then exposing your skin to direct sunlight may be bad for you.
- Contain Oxybenzone. Some studies suggest that this compound may trigger allergic reactions and imitate estrogen in the body. Better to just avoid it if you can.
Want more help choosing the ideal “tattoo sunscreen”? The EWB has a great website that rates sunscreens on their effectiveness and their safety.
Some Tattoo Colors are More Likely to Fade
Not all tattoo colors are created equal. Rates of fading in tattoos can vary based on the color of the ink. We’ll list out the common colors and how likely they are to fade, but keep in mind that the best way to protect your tattoo colors from fading is to protect them from the sun. Age will do a little bit of damage but the sun will do most of it. Use sunscreen on tattoos that get sun exposure, wear clothing to keep your skin out of the sun, and whatever you do– AVOID GETTING SUNBURNED.
Tattoo Colors and Rates of Fading
- Black: black ink takes a long time to fade at all and, in general, a well done black tattoo will not significantly fade.
- Blue and Purple: These do eventually fade, but at a lower rate than other colors. A little protection will do them good.
- Pink and Red: It also takes a while for these colors to fade, but they can and will if you don’t take care of them.
- Yellow, Green, and Orange: These do fade. They definitely require a bit of care if you want the color to stay fresh.
- White: Yeah, it doesn’t look good man. You should definitely keep that out of the sun as much as possible.
More Tattoo Fading Prevention Tips
Out of sight is often out of mind. That rad piece on the back of your shoulder, or the back of your calf… it’s at a higher risk of fading than your chest piece or your sleeves. If you can’t see it, you may not remember to cover it. Tattoos that are in areas where short sleeves, shorts, or tank tops don’t cover are at a higher risk of fading. You’re actually more likely to lose color over long-term sun exposure than you are a single sunburn. So keep them covered when you can. It’s probably also a good idea to make putting on sunblock a regular part of your summer routine if you’re the outdoors type.
We know this is a tough one, but try not to spend all day in the sun. It’s cool to be outdoors, just try to get in the shade when you can. You have all summer long to get that beach tan or balance out your gnarly farmer’s tan. Don’t try to do it all in one day.
For those of you who are fair skinned or sun-averse, you burn more easily. We just said that a single burn won’t ruin your tattoo colors, but if you burn every year (especially in the same spot and extra very especially if that spot happens to be where your tattoo is located) you are at risk of having your tattoo fade. Use higher SPF when going out and definitely don’t bother with sunscreens and sunblocks that don’t include either zinc or titanium oxide. You just won’t get the protection you need.
Finally, you should know that SPF isn’t really a reliable indicator of how well a sunscreen will protect you and your tattoo. UVA and UVB rays affect your skin differently and do different kinds of damage. Don’t rely on the SPF number. Follow our tips for picking out the right sunscreen and you should be just fine.
For more tips on protecting your hide this summer, take the advice of these guys. They know what they’re talking about.