Your Guide to Safely Tanning With Tattoos

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Warm weather and sunshine-filled days make it hard to stay inside. There's nothing quite like feeling the warm rays on your skin, but sun protection is also essential—especially if you have a tattoo. Basking away the day's worries is great, but be sure your tattoos and skin are properly protected. 

SPF is Key

This should go without saying, but you should be wearing SPF every single day, whether you have tattoos or not. UV rays will fade your tattoos faster, but the key takeaway here is that sun exposure can also cause skin cancer (including deadly melanomas). Inked or not, protect any area of skin that isn't covered by clothing by wearing SPF 30 or higher, reapplying throughout the day.

Tanning Beds

What about tanning beds? Indoor tanners are just as damaging as the sun, if not more so. The ultraviolet rays are much more concentrated and people tend to overexpose themselves in tanning beds, not realizing just how strong the rays are. Burning the skin may damage a tattoo even more than slowly tanning out in the sun. Again, if you must tan, protect your ink with some SPF. 

Everyday Exposure

Even if you aren't laying out or using a tanning bed, you are probably being exposed to more sun than you think. Riding with the windows down in your car or running errands outside exposes you to the sun's rays, even if it's not as intense as tanning. Using SPF every day is important to protect your skin from signs of aging, but it may also keep your tattoo looking new longer. Skipping SPF isn't ideal, but even covering your tattoo with clothes or staying in the shade can help protect it. 

Brand New Tattoos

Don't put sunblock on a new or fresh tattoo—follow your artist's aftercare instructions and keep your tattoo covered or shaded with clothing for the first few weeks. You can use sunblock once your tattoo has finished peeling and has grown its first protective layer of skin. Sunblock alone is not going to be sufficient for a new tattoo if it is exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time. A tattoo is usually considered well-healed after about 3 months.

Self Tanner

Luckily, self tanner is a safe option to achieve a golden glow if you have a healed tattoo. As long as your tattoo is completely healed, you can apply lotion or tanner to it like you would other parts of your body.

Depending on the shade and color of the particular sunless tanning lotion you use, it may look a little funky over your ink. Test how tanner will look by using a thin layer of lotion over your tattoo first.

Don't Be a Gambler

Your tattoo is an investment, so don't take a gamble by not properly caring for it. It only takes a little effort and time to either cover up or safeguard your tattoo with sunscreen. Proper care may keep a tattoo looking vibrant for years to come, meaning you won't have to go back for constant touch-ups. 

Article Sources
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  1. Gonzalez CD, Walkosz BJ, Dellavalle RP. Aftercare instructions in the tattoo community: an opportunity to educate on sun protection and increase skin cancer awarenessJ Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2020;13(6):22-23.

  2. Le Clair MZ, Cockburn MG. Tanning bed use and melanoma: establishing risk and improving prevention interventionsPrev Med Rep. 2016;3:139-144. doi:10.1016/j.pmedr.2015.11.016

  3. Müller CSL, Oertel A, Körner R, Pföhler C, Vogt T. Socio-epidemiologic aspects and cutaneous side effects of permanent tattoos in Germany - tattoos are not restricted to a specific social phenotypeDermatoendocrinol. 2017;9(1):e1267080. doi:10.1080/19381980.2016.1267080

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