A tattoo is a lifelong investment, so if you have one you’re going to want to keep it looking its best. We all know that sun exposure is bad for you but if you have a tattoo you should take extra care. UV radiation can cause serious damage to your skin like premature aging and even skin cancer, plus it can leave your tattoos looking dull and faded. That’s because spending time in the sun dramatically speeds up the fading process. That means sun protection should be a priority if you want to keep your tats looking fresh.
Before we get started, I just want to make a quick disclaimer. This blog post isn’t about aftercare for new tattoos. If you’re unsure what to do, contact your tattoo artist for aftercare instructions. You should not apply sunscreen to new tattoos. When you first get your tattoo done, be sure to keep it covered and stay out of the sun until it’s fully healed.
After it’s done healing, it’s important to take measures to protect and care for your tat by applying sunscreen or covering up before going outdoors. Read on if your tattoo is fully healed and you’re looking for the best sunscreen for your new tattoo.
Another little thing to note is that although we make recommendations about sunscreen for scars and sunscreen for sensitive skin, they weren’t made specifically for tattoos – so the products listed there won’t do quite the same job.
If you’re reading this and you’ve yet to get your tat done, I suggest you carefully consider the placement before you do. Why does the position matter? Aside from the obvious reasons (aesthetics, personal preference etc.) if you spend a lot of time in the sun the position is super important for a number of reasons.
Think about it. If it’s in on a part of the body you can’t see like your shoulder or back it’s easy to forget it’s there. So are you gonna actually remember to apply sunscreen? If you can’t reach it yourself, you’ll need someone to help you out when you apply too. Will there always be someone around to give you a hand? And, if you spend a lot of time in the sun for work, it probably makes sense to choose a spot that’s normally covered by clothing.
Also, make sure your tat isn’t placed close to any moles as this could also cause you to miss warning signs (changing color, shape, size or texture) that it may be evolving into a melanoma or skin cancer.
Another thing to take into account is when you should get it done. If summer is your fave time of year and you’re planning on spending loads of time outdoors, it might be better to wait until winter. If you’re going on holiday and you know you’ll be out and about, you may want to wait until the end of the trip. Be strategic when booking your appointment. Choose a time of year when you know you won’t be tempted to expose your new ink to the sun.
Once your tattoo is fully healed, you’ll want to start thinking about how best to care for it long-term. This should include making sure you use the right sun protection but does sunscreen actually protect tattoos? Well, that depends on your definition of protect. It definitely can slow down the fading process, which will mean you’ll need less touch-ups in the future and can potentially save you both time and money.
Lately the market has been flooded with sunscreens which are supposedly specifically designed for tattoos but are they all they’re made out to be? Don’t fall victim to this marketing ploy as any good sunscreen will do. In this guide, SimplySunSafe will discuss the must-have features to keep your tat looking good as new.
After thorough research into requirements for sunscreen to protect tattoos and prevent fading, SimplySunSafe recommends BADGER All Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 as the best sunscreen for tattoos. Read on for a detailed buyer’s guide, comparison table, and in-depth reviews of the top 5 sunscreens for tattoos.
To keep your tattoos looking fresh and prevent fading, you should look for a number of must have features in your sunscreen:
Broad spectrum protection
When choosing a sunscreen you should always check the label for the words ‘broad spectrum’. Read on to find out why. When you spend time in the sun, your skin is exposed to different types of light radiation including UVA and UVB rays. The thing is though, not all active ingredients protect against both. That’s because they permeate different layers of your skin.
The outermost layer is called the epidermis. This layer can be damaged by UVB rays which cause it to tan or burn. Beneath the epidermis is the dermis. This layer is not affected by UVB rays but it is affected by UVA rays which penetrate the outer layer of your skin. UVA rays are associated with premature aging. Both UVA and UVB contribute to the risk of getting skin cancer. That’s why your sunscreen should protect against both. Check the label for the words ‘broad spectrum’ to be sure your sunscreen has got you covered.
Best SPF for Tattoos
Sunscreens come in a range of different Sun Protection Factors (SPF) – from as low as 4 to as high as 100 – but which should you choose? SimplySunSafe recommends you go for a sunscreen that is greater than SPF 30 but not more than SPF 50 in line with dermatologists’ views at the Skin Cancer Foundation. Let me explain why in a little more depth.
SPF is an indication of what level of protection your sunscreen offers against harmful UVB rays. This number tells you what fraction of these UVB rays will reach your skin (as opposed to being reflected or absorbed by your sunscreen). For example if you use a sunscreen that is SPF 15, 1/15th of the sun’s UVB rays will still reach you. This corresponds to about 93% coverage.
So by wearing sunscreen you are able to essentially multiply the amount of time you can spend in the sun without getting sunburnt. Of course, you can’t literally multiply the amount of time it takes you to get burnt by the factor or your sunscreen to determine how long you can safely stay out. That would be oversimplifying things big time.
That’s because there are more factors at play than the SPF. The time of year, time of day, geographic location, elevation, skin type and how much sunscreen you apply all play a role in how long it takes for you to tan or burn.
The higher the SPF, the higher the protection, right? Yes, that’s right, but maybe not as much as you’d think. Take a look at the table below for more in depth information on just how much coverage each SPF offers.
|SPF Rating||UVB Protection|
Interesting, right? You might have been surprised to see there’s actually not a big difference between the higher factors. That’s exactly why I don’t recommend sunscreens with an SPF higher than 50. They’re more expensive and it’s really not necessary.
Physical is better than chemical
There are two main types of sunscreen on the market – physical and chemical. What’s the difference?
That would be the active ingredients and how the work. Physical sunscreens create a physical barrier that reflects UV rays before they reach your skin whereas chemical ones are absorbed into your skin so that when UV rays reach it they are absorbed by the sunscreen.
Which is best?
Well to a degree that comes down to personal opinion. Some people prefer chemical sunscreens or combination ones because they are more readily absorbed, less greasy and don’t leave a white cast. But that’s really the only advantage to choosing a chemical sunscreen and a pretty superficial one if you ask me.
I personally prefer physical sunscreens and for more than one reason. Firstly, physical sunscreens don’t use dangerous chemicals such as oxybenzone. Oxybenzone and some other common chemicals used in sunscreens are endocrine disruptors. Not sure what an endocrine disruptor is? Basically they’re chemicals which can mess with your hormones. They can disrupt the thyroid and reproductive systems.
I also prefer physical sunscreens because they work immediately upon application, last longer, are less likely to cause irritation and have a longer shelf life.
How can you identify whether your sunscreen is physical or chemical?
You can look out for the words ‘physical’ or ‘mineral’ on the bottle. You won’t see chemical sunscreens advertising themselves as such but brands which make physical sunscreens will usually make the distinction on their packaging.
That’s because they pride themselves for leaving out the nasty stuff and looking out for consumers and the environment. If it’s still not clear, another way to check it by looking at the list of active ingredients. If the active ingredients listed are either zinc oxide or titanium oxide (or a combination of the two) you’re good to go.
Rub on lotion not spray
Spray formulas are becoming increasingly popular and make up a large part of the sunscreen market these days but are they any good? Not really. They might seem like a great time saver but unfortunately they’re not as safe or effective as rub on lotions.
I really don’t recommend spray on sunscreens and neither do the FDA or EWG. That’s because they’re not safe for consumers if accidentally inhaled. Spray formulas can damage delicate lung tissue if you breathe them in and there hasn’t been much research into the potential problems they may cause for consumers.
Spray formulas are also a bad choice because they give you a false sense of security. You think you’re wearing enough sunscreen, when in reality you aren’t. That’s because it’s hard to create a thick enough coating when you apply them. Do your skin (and lungs) a favor and skip the spray on sunscreen.
Suitable for daily use
Are you constantly in and out of the sun? If you answered yes, applying sunscreen should be a part of your daily tattoo care routine. This will help you minimize damage caused by the sun to your skin and ink, slowing both the aging and fading processes.
Choosing a gentle, moisturising sunscreen is a great way to keep your skin hydrated and your tattoos looking fresh too. Soothing formulas won’t irritate your skin and can be used day-in and day-out to prevent unwanted UV radiation.
Best Sunscreen for Tattoos Comparison
|BADGER All Natural||Block Island Natural Mineral||Goddess Garden Everyday||Loving Naturals Clear Body||All Good Sunstick|
|Active ingredients||Zinc Oxide (18.75%)||Zinc Oxide (22%)||Titanium Dioxide (6.4%) & Zinc Oxide (6.0%)||Zinc Oxide (24.7%)||Zinc Oxide (20%)|
|Scented||No||No||Yes – Lavender||No||No / Also available in Coconut|
5 Best Sunscreens for Tattoos
After thorough research that combined discussing issues with customers, reviewing customer feedback, examining manufacturer specifications, participating in skincare forums, and reading medical journals SimplySunSafe has chosen the 5 best sunscreens for tattoos. All of these sunscreens provide broad spectrum, physical protection of SPF 30 or greater and are suitable for daily use.
SimplySunSafe would be hard pushed not to include a BADGER product in this review as they make some of the best mineral sunscreens on the market. BADGER’s All Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 is no exception. It’s a safe and effective choice for daily use for inked and non-inked consumers alike. This is an all-natural, organic sunscreen which blocks both UVA and UVB rays due to its high zinc oxide content (18.75%).
What I really love about BADGER’s products is that their ingredient lists are short and sweet and you can actually understand what all the ingredients are. This product only contains zinc oxide, extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, jojoba oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, and C02 extracts of rosemary and seabuckthorn berry. And, as you can see, they’re all natural ingredients.
This sunscreen moisturises and protects at the same time which will keep your tattoo looking bright and prevent it from fading. This simple formula has no added fragrances for users with sensitivities. It has a mild natural scent of organic beeswax.
As with all physical sunscreens, this sunscreen does leave a white cast. I know this may be off-putting for some users but the upside is you can actually see the physical barrier and rest assured your tattoo is well protected. To ensure an even coverage, knead the tube before use. This will make application easier.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Simple formula
- 80-minute water resistance
- Thick formula
Another great sunscreen for day-to-day wear is Block Island Organics Natural Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30. This product is one of the best sunscreens for tattooed skin as it is gentle enough for daily use, won’t irritate your skin, and contains lots of nourishing ingredients.
The combination of zinc oxide (22%) with natural moisturising ingredients such as vitamin E, aloe vera and shea butter will both protect and nourish your tattooed skin. It’s broad spectrum, water resistant, and factor 30 so it ticks all of the boxes.
And, like BADGER All Natural Sunscreen, this product is safe for consumers as it doesn’t contain nasty chemicals, parabens or sulfates. It’s vegan-friendly, eco-friendly and reef safe too. The tubes this product come in are recyclable too so don’t throw them in the trash when you’re done.
This sunscreen is quite lightweight and less thick and sticky than other high zinc content sunscreens on the market which is a plus. Like other zinc based sunscreens it will leave a white cast but I think the pros outweigh this one con. Give it a go and decide for yourself.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Lightweight formula
- Hydrating ingredients
- White cast
SimplySunSafe loves Goddess Garden Organics Everyday Sunscreen because it’s made from all-natural ingredients and is 100% biodegradable. It’s a gentle broad spectrum mineral sunscreen which is suitable for daily use.
Zinc oxide (6.4%) and titanium oxide (6%) work together to create a protective barrier which reflects harmful UV rays. Combined with natural moisturising ingredients such as aloe vera, sunflower, coconut and lavender oils this sunscreen will keep your tattoo looking fresh and your skin feeling soft. Sounds pretty good, right?
Do you have sensitive skin? No worries! Goddess Garden is free from harsh chemicals like oxybenzone, parabens and synthetic fragrances. It’s also a great choice for the environmentally-conscious as it is biodegradable and reef safe as well as vegan and cruelty free.
Goddess Garden pride themselves on making safe and effective products while using environmentally sustainable business practices. They also support organic farmers, local schools and family-friendly organizations. So you can feel guilt-free about choosing this product as your go-to sunscreen.
As with all physical sunscreens this product will leave a white cast on most skin types. As it’s zinc oxide and titanium dioxide content is relatively low compared to other products reviewed, it should leave you looking less pasty than the rest.
Goddess Garden Organics Everyday Natural Sunscreen comes in 3 different formulas – a rub on lotion, continuous spray and trigger spray. However, remember to steer clear of the spray formulas for the reasons mentioned earlier. The lotion formula comes in 2 sizes – 6 ounces and 3.4 ounces. Go the bigger tube for a slightly better price.
- Moisturising ingredients
- Fantastic company
- Lower levels of active ingredients
The number 4 sunscreen on our list is Loving Naturals Clear Body Sunscreen SPF 30+. It’s rare to find a clear physical sunscreen and that’s why this particular one made the cut. You’ll love that this product doesn’t leave a white cast, so your tattoo will look great even once you’ve layered up.
With 24.7% zinc oxide content, this is the strongest sunscreen reviewed in this post, and it provides excellent coverage. It’s up to 40 minutes water resistant too.
This product is made with 100% natural ingredients including organic beeswax, organic honey, grapeseed and sunflower oils. It’s doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals or fragrances and is gentle enough for daily use.
This moisturising formula can be a bit greasy and leaves a shiny residue which might be a downer for some. It rubs in easily which is a plus but it can leave greasy marks on clothes so watch out for that. As always it depends on your personal taste, so I suggest you give it a go and see for yourself.
- High concentration of active ingredient
- 100% natural
- 40-minute water resistance
- Shiny finish
The final product in SimplySunSafe’s line up for best sunscreens for tattoos is the All Good Sunstick SPF 30. I chose this product as an alternative to other stick formula ‘tattoo sunscreens’ on the market.
Tattoo Goo, Ed Hardy, Coppertone, and Australian Gold have all come out with tattoo-specific sunscreen sticks but EWG doesn’t rate them and some of them contain some questionable chemical ingredients, so I’ve left them off my list.
Because of the convenient size and packaging sunscreen sticks are great to have on hand for quick application when you’re on the go. They do the trick for covering up specific areas like tattoos, ears and noses but if you’re going to the beach or have a lot of exposed skin you’ll probably want to use this and another rub on lotion sunscreen for complete coverage.
Like all the other products reviewed All Good Sunstick is a physical sunscreen which offers balanced broad spectrum protection. That’s because its active ingredient is zinc oxide (20%).
All Good Sunstick is packed full of natural ingredients like jojoba, coconut and avocado oils. It also contains shea butter and vitamin E to nourish and moisturise your skin.
This particular stick is fragrance free but is also available in coconut if you’re after that summery vibe.
Sunscreen sticks tend to be on the pricier end of the sunscreen spectrum – another reason why you won’t want to use this all over. However, this particular brand is more affordable than most.
- Convenient size and packaging
- High concentration of active ingredient
- Slightly expensive
Hopefully this guide has helped you figure out what to look for when shopping for a sunscreen for tattooed skin. By now you should have an idea of what the non-negotiable, must-have features are.
All of the sunscreens listed will do the trick but SimplySunSafe recommends BADGER All Natural Sunscreen SPF 30 as the best sunscreen for tattoos. As always, one sunscreen may work better for you than the others, so it’s a good job to try a few and see what you like best.
If you have a favourite sunscreen that’s not listed here, please let me know in the comments below. I will do some research and consider adding it to the guide.