Cosmopolitan posted "12 Best Sunscreens to Protect Your Tattoos" The article includes Visha Skincare founder, Dr. Purvisha Patel shares her expert insights on the best best way to protect and to preserve tattoos young and old.
Your ink will thank you in 40 years.
PSA: Whether you just got some new ink (congrats, btw), or you’ve had yours for years, you still need a sunscreen for your tattoos at all times. Seriously. And it's not just for your skin's general protection—but for the ink's, too. “Recently tattooed skin is more sensitive and more prone to sun damage,” says Dendy Engelman, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City. “Your tattoo will already fade over time from your body's regular metabolic clearance, but the sun's UV radiation breakdown will cause even more fading." So to keep your Pisces tattoo or Scorpio tattoo lookin' fresh, you gotta lather on the SPF.
Luckily, with the help of some experts, I found the best sunscreens for tattoos that you'll actually want to rub over your tattoos (more on that below). But first, everything you need to know about using sunscreen on your tattoos—like which SPFs are best, how often you should apply them, and how to choose the right formula in general. Let's get started.
Meet the experts
- Dendy Engelman, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City.
- Purvisha Patel, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon, and the founder of Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Associates in multiple locations across Tennessee and Mississippi. Dr. Patel is also the founder of Visha Skincare, a skincare line that specializes in brightening and fading UV damage.
Will sunscreen ruin a tattoo?
“No, your sunscreen is not going to ruin the tattoo,” says dermatologist Purvisha Patel, MD. Contrary to the myth that sunscreen will affect or damage the tattoo ink itself, sunscreen is actually completely safe, as long as you let the skin completely heal first from the wound created by the tattoo needles.
If you're working with new ink, you can start covering it with sunscreen as soon as the skin around your tattoo has completely healed, says Dr. Patel. That's usually around four to six weeks after getting it done, during which time you should keep it covered to prevent sun exposure as it heals. And after that, SPF actually has the complete opposite effect: It'll help your tattoo stay brighter and crisper than it would if you weren't using sunscreen on a daily basis (yes, daily, unless you live in an underground cave).
How to choose the best sunscreen for tattoos
Consider the coverage you need
Dr. Engelman says to look for sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 or more: "When it comes to sunscreen, more is more—you can't overdo it,” she says. If your tattoo is new, Dr. Engelman suggests starting with a higher SPF, like SPF 50, since the skin has been recently penetrated with needles and is more sensitive to sun exposure. And keep in mind that how much sunscreen you use actually matters. If you have a three- or four-inch tattoo, you should be using a quarter-sized dollop of sunscreen to fully cover and protect it, she says.
Decide if you like mineral vs. chemical formulas
The best sunscreen for your tattoo is the one that you’ll be actually wear every single day. But if you want the most derm-approved type, go for a mineral sunscreen. Mineral sunscreens act as a physical barrier against the sun that sits on top of your skin (which Dr. Engelman says is preferred for a tattoo), instead of chemical sunscreens which have chemical-based sun blockers (like oxybenzone and octinoxate) that absorb UV rays—which can be potentially irritating on sensitive or freshly tattooed skin.
Look at the ingredients list
If you’re still in the early weeks of your tattoo, Dr. Patel says to opt for a fragrance-free sunscreen to avoid any irritation or inflammation on healing skin. No need to introduce known irritants into an already-ouchy area, you know? And remember that it's not just about the sunscreen—it's also about keeping your skin moisturized to help it heal faster (when it's fresh) and prevent it from fading (when it's healed). So make sure to stock up on a tattoo-safe lotion and pick a sunscreen spiked with lightweight hydrators, like hyaluronic acid and squalane, to keep your skin healthy.
Now that you’re basically an SPF expert, time to get to the best sunscreens for tattoos—but first, a preview of what’s to come:
Our top sunscreen for tattoo picks of 2022
- Best overall: EltaMD UV Sport Sunscreen Lotion, Broad-Spectrum SPF 50
- Best stick sunscreen: Aveeno Positively Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Stick
- Best lightweight: CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
- Best on Amazon: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Water Resistant and Non-Greasy Sunscreen Lotion
- Best sheer sunscreen: Black Girl Sunscreen Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30
Cool, now let's get into the details with the 12 best sunscreens for tattoos, ahead.
1 BEST SHEER SUNSCREEN FOR TATTOOS
Black Girl Sunscreen Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30“You want to make sure you get full coverage by applying a thick layer of sunscreen over your tattoo," says Dr. Dendy. But if the white cast on that thick layer has you concerned, opt for this clear sunscreen that dries, yup, totally sheer, so you won’t have a visible filter or white cast over your ink. It's also fragrance free, so it's safe for fresh ink.
2 BEST SHEER SUNSCREEN FOR HIDDEN TATTOOS
EleVen by Venus Williams Unrivaled Sun Serum SPF 35
If your tattoo is almost always covered by clothing (hi, hidden tattoos), you don’t necessarily need to reapply your SPF every two hours just for brunch outside. But don't feel too protected by your clothes: Dr. Dendy says a white T-shirt typically has the sun protection strength of SPF 4, says Dr. Dendy. So don't skip out on SPF if you're outside all day; slather on this lightweight, serum-like sunscreen before getting dressed to be safe.
3 BEST OVERALL SUNSCREEN FOR TATTOOS
EltaMD UV Sport Sunscreen Lotion, Broad-Spectrum SPF 50
For you ~outdoorsy~ types, you’ll def want a waterproof sunscreen that has a high SPF, like this one with SPF 50. Your sunscreen is no good if it slides thirty minutes after being in the heat, leaving you and your tattoo fully exposed to the sun.
4 BEST STICK SUNSCREEN FOR TATTOOS
Aveeno Positively Mineral SPF 50 Sunscreen Stick
Hate the feeling of sunscreen on your hands? Same. Look for a a spray sunscreen or stick sunscreen like this one, so you can swipe it several times over your tattoo (remember, you need more than you think), without leaving your hands greasy or sticky. It has SPF 50 protection, it's fragrance-free, and it's also water resistant—so really, you have no excuse not to wear it.
5 BEST SUNSCREEN FOR UVB AND UVA PROTECTION
Dr. Jart+ Every Sun Day Mineral Sunscreen SPF 50+
UV rays come in two forms: UVB (which causes sunburns) and UVA (which causes skin damage and premature aging). Both, however, contribute to skin cancer and, of course, the fading of your tattoo. Luckily, this broad-spectrum mineral sunscreen with SPF 50 protects your tattoo—and your health—against it all.
6 BEST LIGHTWEIGHT TATTOO SUNSCREEN
CeraVe 100% Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
If you have ~traumatic~ memories of your mom forcibly rubbing the greasiest of sunscreens on your face, I promise this tattoo sunscreen won’t trigger you. Just like anything CeraVe does, it’s super moisturizing and silky, so you can load on the appropriate amount (reminder: a quarter-sized drop for a three-inch tattoo) without the heavy, sticky feeling of old-school sunscreens, no matter where you apply it.
7 BEST TATTOO SUNSCREEN ON AMAZON
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Water Resistant and Non-Greasy Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 70
Trust me, in forty years, your tattoo will be thanking you for wearing this SPF 70 sunscreen...today. Right now (go get it; we'll wait). Instead of leaving a greasy or dewy sheen behind, it dries with a matte finish and is lightweight enough that you'll barely feel like you're wearing anything.
8 BEST ON SEPHORA
Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30
This fragrance-free mineral sunscreen is spiked with squalane, an ingredient that mimics your natural skin oils to keep your skin barrier (and tattoo) healthy and moisturized, while the SPF 30 will protect it from both UVB and UVA rays. Even better? Even though it’s a mineral sunscreen, it goes on sheer, so not a smidge of white residue to be found.
9 BEST TRAVEL-FRIENDLY SUNSCREEN
Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Sport Stick SPF 50
This leak-proof stick sunscreen is super easy to throw in your bag and reapply throughout the day (which, for the record, you should be doing every two hours you spend in the sun). Thanks to jojoba esters (derived from jojoba oil), it will glide on really smooth, and keep your skin moisturized thanks to squalane.
10 BEST FRAGRANCE-FREE TATTOO SUNSCREEN
Paula's Choice Resist Youth-Extending Daily Hydrating Fluid SPF 50
Unlike the thick, greasy sunscreens that you might be used to, this one with SPF 50 is lightweight, milky, and dries into an invisible barrier that you’ll barely notice. It’s also fragrance-free, so if you’re concerned about any fragrance-induced irritation, there’s none to be found here.
11 BEST MOISTURIZING TATTOO SUNSCREEN
Glytone Hydra Lipid UV Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 40
Packed with two moisturizing MVPs, hyaluronic acid and squalane, this creamy sunscreen will keep your skin soft and hydrated, while also keeping your tattoo safe from the sun's fading wrath. And don't worry about the texture: It'll quickly dry down into a velvety finish with no noticeable residue.
12 BEST MATTE SUNSCREEN FOR TATTOOS
La Roche-Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra-Light Sunscreen Fluid SPF 50
A huge part of what makes a good sunscreen (other than, um, actual sun protection) is texture and finish. This SPF 50 sunscreen for your tattoo has a lightweight matte finish, so whether you have a full sleeve or a small tattoo on your wrist, you won’t feel any greasiness or see any shininess after you apply.