Tattoos & The Sun: How To Protect A New Tattoo From Sun Damage

There are a wide range of factors that can alter the vibrancy and crispness of your body art as the years go by, but ultimately nothing will cause a blurred and damaged tattoo quite like the effect of the sun.

Most of us have experienced the nasty sting of sunburn and (should, by now) know the importance of sun-safety, especially in climates as harsh as Australia. Many people, despite being equipped with this knowledge, aren't aware that these sun-safe tips also apply to taking care of your body art.

If you have some new ink and you're concerned about the dangers of the sun's UV rays, then read on as we explain sun damaged tattoos, how best to avoid them, and what to do if your ink has already seen a little too much sunlight.

How sun exposure can lead to a blurred, damaged tattoo

When a new tattoo is being drawn on the skin, essentially what's happening is that multiple needles are injecting coloured ink pigments directly into the dermis (middle layer) of your skin. When your skin is exposed to the sunlight, the sun's ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB) tend to penetrate both the top layer (epidermis) and dermis. This is when the ink pigments begin to separate and break down, resulting in faded, blurred, or distorted body art.

Why is it important to of protect a new tattoo from the sun?

Aside from infection, too much sunlight is the worst thing that can happen to a tattoo during its healing stage. It's important to remember that until the scabbing process of your tattoo is complete, it is technically classified as an unprotected open wound. When exposing an open wound (new tattoo) to the sun, it is exposed to the risk of sunburn which will damage the tattoo far quicker than healed skin. If this happens, the best-case scenario is a prolonged healing time for your tattoo. In more extreme cases, a tattoo damaged by the sun during its healing process may result in permanent distortion in the lines and colouring of your ink.

What can I use to protect my tattoo from the sun?

When your tattoos have completely healed, it's imperative to treat these areas of skin just as you would any other part of your body. This doesn't mean spending the rest of your life in dark and shady places in order to preserve the vibrancy of your ink, however, the less exposure your skin has to UV rays, the better. To make the most of your fun in the sun without constantly stressing about the dangers of excessive sunlight, it's best to stick to these rules:

Wear sun-protective clothing and a hat

Apply a generous amount of SPF30 (or higher) sunscreen, at least 20 minutes before going outside

Stick to shady areas when possible

How to protect a new tattoo from the sun

During its initial healing stages (until the itching and scabbing process is complete), it's best to keep your tattoo completely out of direct contact with sunlight. It's also essential that during this stage of healing, no sunscreen is applied to your tattoo as this may result in an allergic reaction or infection. If need be, you can use more than one measure of protection to ensure your tattoo is covered, such as use of a breathable bandage as well as loose, sun-protective clothing.

How to treat sunburn on a new tattoo

If (despite your best intentions) you realise that the area of skin around your new tattoo has become sunburnt, the first step is moving from the sun and into the shade as quickly as possible. Once you've done this, attempt to cool your skin down with a cold shower (never take a bath while your ink is healing as this can result in infection). Once your skin has been thoroughly cleaned and cooled off, gently apply our moisturising remedy cream to the affected area in order to rehydrate your skin.

It's also important to remember that hydrated skin requires a hydrated body. To further ensure the restoration of your skin, make sure you're maintaining healthy fluid levels by drinking plenty of water during recovery periods.

How to fix a sun damaged tattoo

It's important to remember that sun damage to tattoos is permanent and cannot be fully reversed. However, if you have an older tattoo that's seen too much sunlight, there are a couple of options available to help restore its appearance. Here's what you can do the fix the appearance of a sun damaged tattoo:

Touch-up or rework:

If the tattoo has only been slightly affected by the sun, a touch-up or rework session with a professional tattoo artist can help restore its original appearance.

Tattoo removal:

If the damage is severe, tattoo removal may be necessary. This process involves the use of a laser to break down the pigment in the skin. It's important to note that this process can be painful and may cause scarring.

Camouflage tattoo:

Another option is to have a professional artist cover the damaged area with a new tattoo. This is known as a camouflage tattoo and can help hide the damage and improve the overall appearance of your tattoo.