Causes and Treatments for Sunburn on Tattoo

Flaunting your tattoo during summer parties and endless trips to beaches seem a fantastic idea. It sounds even better to ink your arm or shoulder with a brand new tattoo to make the most of sunny days. With eye-catching tattoo designs, you can show-off your tattoo obsession as well.

However, have you ever thought about sunburn on your favorite tattoo design? The sun is not only harmful to skin but it is incredibly dangerous for the tattoo on it as well. It is highly likely to get sunburn when exposing your bare skin to it.

This sunburn can cause an unpleasant short-term damage and pain. If you left it untreated, it can lead to serious skin infections and dismantle the overlook of your tattoo design. It is worth noting that sunburn is equally threatening to an old tattoo as it is for a new one. Therefore, you need to protect both tattoos from ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun.

sunburn on tattoo

Sunburn and Old Tattoo


No question you need to opt for safety precautions immediately after inking certain part of your body. Tattoo healing is, however, based on the placement of it in most cases. Moreover, it does not matter whether you have ensured tips to maintain your tattoo or not. These UV rays are potent enough to cause long-term damage even on the perfectly healed tattoo design.

Your skin cells destroyed on a daily basis, naturally. This cells breakdown skyrockets when you expose your skin in intense sunlight, harsh UV rays, and scorching heat. That is why sufferers of sunburn encounter excess skin peeling than people with no sunburn. This regular and vigorous skin peeling contribute to tattoo fading in a short time span.

It is evident that dark colors absorbed sunlight as compared to the neutrals or lighter hues. If your tattoo contains gray or black ink, it is likely to soak sunlight twice than non-tattooed skin. As a result, your old tattoo begins burning at a fast rate.

Sunburn and New Tattoo

New tattoos are vulnerable to sunlight. It seems like your skin has gotten a large wound with some amounts of ink in it. These wounds on the skin are prone to the damages of UV rays along with bacterial or skin infection. Newly Tattooed skin is damaged in no time if you do not ensure safety precautions and leads to complications such as:

Irritation on the Skin

Sunburn contributes to itch, rash, and burn to the delicate skin cells and surrounded area during healing time.

Delays Healing

Tattoo artists prohibit exposing your tattoo to sunlight during the healing period. It will not only hinder the process but cause severe damage to your skin as well.


Sunburn does not allow quick healing to your tattoo limiting its capability to combat infections. If not treated adequately and on time, these injections can bring a new series of skin problem.


Mild to severe sunburn tends to swell and blister, causing permanent damage to your tattooed skin. In most cases, this condition gets worse and risks associated with the onset of cancer increase.

Patchy Areas on Skin

The ink of your tattoo gets faded due to sunburn. It also becomes patchy in some areas encouraging you to go to your tattoo artist for a touch-up. This rework indicates more use of ink in the already affected area.

tattoo sunbrun

How to Heal the Sun-Burnt Tattoo

Developing redness and irritation around the skin of your tattoo suggests it has burnt. You should look for shade quickly to prevent further damage and practice the following:

  • You need to cool the affected area down via a cold shower. If a cold shower or bath is not a possibility, you should opt for a wet towel or ice to compress the area immediately. Be sure to dab the affected skin gently.
  • For the new tattoo, go for a quick shower instead of the bath as bath water probably has elements or bacteria that may worsen your condition. If you have decided to compress the area to soothe it, make sure to use a clean cloth. In addition, do not wrap or leave the cloth on the tattoo more than a minute. This way, water will neither saturate nor disrupt the ink that is settling on a new tattoo.
  • Next step involves moisturizing the area using products prepared with aloe vera. To prevent serious damages on your new tattoo, make sure to opt for products that do not contain artificial scents and colors. Scent or color often causes irritation around the tattooed skin.
  • Keep your skin hydrated. We suggest consuming many fluids along with at least nine glasses of water to cool down your skin from inside.
  • You can also take painkillers to reduce pain. It is an effective way to treat minor pain. However, if your pain is intense, you should consult the tattoo artist and dermatologist alike to get the right treatment. In addition, painkillers will not combat inflammation. You will need to visit a doctor in this context.
  • If your sunburn brings large blisters, dizziness or fever, do not overlook the condition and opt for medical help immediately. These are the symptoms of severe sunburn, which may contribute to skin problems as well.

Useful Tips to Avoid Sunburn on the Tattoo

Tattoo artists recommend opting for useful tips and tricks to maintain your tattoo. This way tattoo design and ink remain fresh for an extended time. In addition, chances are your tattoo will look new for years. However, the outcome may disappoint you if you overlook its maintenance. You can prevent your tattoo from damages via certain ways such as:

Avoid Sunlight

Do not expose your new tattoo on the sunlight until peeling and scabbing stopped completely. This period can last up to 2 – 3 weeks. Not to mention, some die-heart tattoo fans cannot resist the urge to showcase their design in the public and end up ruining the hard-earned efforts. Therefore, do not let sunlight touch your new tattoo for a certain period to protect it.

Limit Excess Use of Tanning Products

Avoid using tanning products on the tattooed skin and step out in the sun until it heals completely.

Use Prescribed Moisturizer

Do not apply moisturizing products and use only the ones prescribed by your tattoo artist, if you have a plan to go out in the sun. Excess chemicals might cause a reaction when coming in contact with the sunlight and UV rays.

Use Sunscreen

At this point, you may assume applying lots of sunscreens will protect your tattoo completely. It is quite contrary that applying excess sunscreen can cause damage beyond your imagination. The ingredients in most sunscreen seem harsh specifically for a new tattoo.

In this case, your skin is usually sensitive and vulnerable to irritation and other adverse effects. You should only use moderate quantity of a sunscreen prescribed by your dermatologist.

Skin experts recommend SPF 30 for tattooed skin. If you opt for it, apply carefully on the affected area at least 30 minutes before stepping out in the sun.

In case of swimming or activity that causes excess sweating, reapply the sunscreen after every two hours but clean the area thoroughly before second application. You need to keep your skin clean 24/7 to protect your tattoo from sunburn.

Dry Tattoo Area

Do not forget to dry the affected area. When you step in sun, it burns the tattooed skin, which you can cool via cold water. After cooling it down, let your skin air dry first. It will also allow your skin to breathe before you reapply the products.

Cover Your Tattoo

It is extremely difficult to cover your tattoo when it is meant to be flaunted. However, tattoo artists recommend covering your tattoo even after applying sunscreen to speed up the healing process and to combat the damages of the sunlight. You should choose loose cotton clothing material particularly when the sun is shining outside.

Consult an Expert

You need to pay extra attention to the tattooed area of your skin. If it requires consulting a dermatologist, do not hesitate and discuss the kind of your skin. Whether it is dry or oily, you should have a complete knowledge in this context.

The expert will prescribe the products as per your skin type and the condition of your tattoo. This seems a wise step as it can prevent various adverse effects that sunlight and UV rays may cause to your tattoo.

Bottom Line

A tattoo enhances your overall personality in no time. However, you should not overlook the fact that tattoos are vulnerable to the sunlight. It is threatening to your skin. Moreover, when the skin has a tattoo on it, the UV rays are likely to cause incurable damage. It may sound disturbing but ensuring safety precautions and using the prescribed products can do the job for you. This way, you cannot only protect your favorite tattoo but speed up the healing process as well.