We all love to show off our tattoos. No one gets a new tattoo with the intention of hiding that art form from the world. We all love to show off the tattoos on our hands, legs, shoulders…
That’s why we prepare our skin for hours of sunshine, applying a generous layer of sunscreen lest we get sunburns. The truth is, you can worsen the wound if you apply sunscreen before the ink heals.
What are your options? When can you put sunscreen on a tattoo? Read on!
- Reasons Not to Use Sunscreen on New Tattoos
- When to Use Sunscreen
- Sunscreens Suitable for Tattoos: Here’s What to Look for
- Other Solutions in Addition to Sunscreen
- What to Do When Your Tattoo Gets a Sunburn
- Final Thoughts
- Related Articles
Reasons Not to Use Sunscreen on New Tattoos
In summer, when the sun is out, everyone is cheerful. We go out often to get some sun. But, there’s always that nagging thought about sun damage, especially after getting a new tattoo.
You shouldn’t apply sunscreen to your new ink.
First of all, remember some important facts.
It’s an Open Wound
You’ll be exposing a fresh wound to the chemical ingredients in sunscreen, and they can irritate skin that’s already sore and sensitive.
But, if you bask in the sun for hours without sunscreen, sunburns worsen the healing process, more so when you have scabs. When you pick scabs, you risk getting scars on your ink or an infection. Your skin may form blisters or become itchy and irritated. In the end, your tattoo will look nothing like what you anticipated.
For these reasons, if you must be in the sun for leisure before your ink heals, do so in the late or early hours of the day when the sun isn’t scorching.
The Tattoo May Heal Slowly
Some sunscreens are thick and may block oxygen on the surface from reaching the healing wound. Without airflow, infections may also plague your new tattoo.
What’s more, if your sunscreen is sticky, dirt particles settle on top of the wound. This environment may also increase bacteria growth and infect the new tattoo.
When to Use Sunscreen
It’s disheartening to spend so much time and money at the tattoo shop for your ink to get an infection because of a product applied to it against your tattoo artist’s instructions.
So, wait for the wound to heal fully. That’s between four and six weeks for most people.
From then on, apply sunscreen on your tattoo regularly. That’ll protect your skin and prevent the ink from breaking down in the long term when the skin cells die. You’ll also prevent premature aging, where the wrinkles stretch the tattoo so much that you can’t tell how it was before.
When the tattoo heals, apply sunscreen daily. It doesn’t matter whether it’s summer or winter, as the UV rays are always there, even on overcast days.
Additionally, apply sunscreen before swimming as water doesn’t prevent sunburns.
Sunscreens Suitable for Tattoos: Here’s What to Look for
A cream consistency is better, as you’ll see the coverage as you apply it. Such formulation leaves no chance of extending it too close to the healing tattoo, and if you do, you can see where to wipe it off. Also, you can control the amount applied to your tattoo, unlike when you use a spray. It makes reapplication easy, covering the areas prone to sunburns with a thick layer.
The sun protection factor should be SPF 30 or higher, depending on how your skin reacts to sun exposure. If it’s more sensitive, you need a high SPF, like 30.
On top of that, choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen to block both UVA and UVB rays. UVA and UVB rays damage your skin in different ways. Some of the long-term changes after overexposure include wrinkles and sagging skin. Sunburns pop up even a day after sun damage, and you get them due to exposure to UVB rays.
Apply sunscreen about 15 minutes before going into the sun, and reapply if you bask for two hours. Further, reapply earlier than two hours if you go for a swim or sweat a lot. It’s better to wait for the ink to heal as trapped dirt and sweat may worsen your tattoo as you reapply sunscreen.
You’re also to avoid irritants like dye and fragrance. These may irritate your skin. Other ingredients to avoid are oxybenzone and octinoxate, as these irritants can cause a rash or itchiness.
A good sunscreen lists its ingredients on the tube or bottle, showing the percentage of active ingredients. It also states the SPF factor on the bottle.
Apply a moisturizer and sunscreen to rehydrate the tattooed skin when you resume your skincare routine since you’ll stay for about four weeks without sunscreen as the wound heals.
Other Solutions in Addition to Sunscreen
Avoid Tight Clothing Over the Tattoo
Cover the tattoo with loose clothing to block direct rays of the sun and let the wound breathe. If you tighten it, you’ll cut off the oxygen supply we talked about, and the material will also rub your sore skin.
Get Inked When the Weather is Cool
It’s one of the ways of avoiding summer sunbathing with an open wound. Though UV rays also reach earth in winter, you get less exposure than on a hot summer day. You’ll not sweat bucketfuls in winter, which will reduce the chances of infection. Plus, you’ll spend more time in warmer spaces indoors, so fewer chances of sunburn.
What to Do When Your Tattoo Gets a Sunburn
What if your tattooed skin gets a sunburn?
Tattooed skin gets sunburns the same way the rest of your skin does due to overexposure. UV rays won’t focus on the tattooed section only. Instead, you’ll treat sunburns on all exposed areas.
Since a tattoo involves inking the top layers of your skin, the ink pigment changes as you shed skin cells.
The damaged skin reddens before it swells or scabs as it heals if you have mild sunburns. Take a cool shower to relieve the discomfort if the sunburns are all over your body. Don’t pop the blisters. Instead, use a cold press to cool your skin. Next, apply an unscented ointment. Wear loose clothing to protect the skin until the wound heals in about two weeks.
Mild sunburns make the ink dull, but severe ones may cause scarring. Further, severe sunburns need more than a cool shower and moisturizer. Consider booking a doctor’s appointment if the burns have pus, extreme scarring, or the wounds take longer than two weeks.
Can I put sunscreen on a 3-week-old tattoo?
You can apply sunscreen if it’s healed. However, if the tattoo is healing, give it a few more weeks.
If you apply sunscreen when on a wound, it’ll take longer to heal, and you risk getting an allergic reaction from the ingredients.
Is it better to use mineral or chemical sunscreen for tattoos?
Mineral sunscreen protects your tattoo more. Chemical sunscreens take about half an hour to be effective, which means you either stay out of the sun for that duration or risk sun exposure. On the other hand, mineral ones act immediately.
Further, mineral sunscreens deflect the sun’s rays, while chemical sunscreens absorb them, which means the ingredients go deeper into your skin. You’re also more likely to irritate your skin with chemical ingredients than mineral sunscreens with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
How long can I be in the sun with a new tattoo?
Getting a tattoo compromises the skin barrier; therefore, you risk sun damage from overexposure as you’ll be in the sun with a fresh wound.
It’s not only about exposure to natural light since a tanning bed can also damage your skin. If you must be out in the sun, do so before 10 am or after 4 pm when the rays are gentler. But, if you can, don’t sunbathe until your tattoo heals.
When can you put sunscreen on a tattoo? Sunscreen is damaging to new or healing ink. Therefore, give your tattoo time, get out of the sun, and you’ll not deal with complications.
Some of the repercussions of applying sunscreen on a new tattoo are irritation, infection, and itchy skin. But, once your tattoo heals, apply sunscreen to prevent sun damage and keep your ink looking fresh.
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