Best Sunscreen for Tattoos: Keep Them Looking Great For Longer

Tattoos are like paintings; they'll stay beautiful if they are taken care of and protected from damage. The ink from tattoos tends to fade as they age, especially when exposed to lots of sunlight. To keep ​them looking like the day you got them, consider buying protective tattoo sunscreen.

Quick Top 5 Sunscreens for Tattoos

Reviews of the Best Sunscreen for Tattoos

1. Australian Gold SPF 50 Tattoo Stick

Australian Gold SPF 50 Tattoo Stick

This sunscreen comes in a wide-shaped stick form which allows for fewer and quicker swipes compared to cylindrical shaped tubes. It's a pretty flexible sunscreen since you can use it both for outside and in tanning beds.

It may be a bit smaller than most would prefer, but this means it's more compact and convenient to carry in your purse or beach bag. Depending on the size of your tattoo(s), the time that it lasts can vary.

Even though it's small, the tattoo stick works very well for its size, and if you regularly tan outside or in a tanning bed, the stick doesn't leave any noticeable tan lines, and it doesn't burn. What's even better is that it goes on clear so that it won't leave any residue.

The only real setback here is its size, so if you have large tattoos or sleeves and go outside often, you may be buying this more often than you'd like.


  • Smells good
  • Very effective
  • Doesn't leave tan lines or residue


  • Small for the price

​2. H2Ocean SPF 45 Sea Life Sunscreen

H2Ocean SPF 45 Sea Life

Made with zinc oxide as one of its active ingredients, this sunscreen comes in a lotion form, and it rubs on cleanly. Because it's somewhat of a thick lotion, it doesn't require a whole lot of application.

This is an especially great sunscreen to use if you often go swimming or surfing since it will stay on your skin for up to 80 minutes in water. It doesn't smell too strong, and because it's an oil-free formula, it's recommended for dry skin types that are more sensitive to the sun.

Although it's only one ounce, the sunscreen lasts for quite a while since it's relatively thick enough to apply in small amounts. It can leave a thin white film if not rubbed in well enough or applied too thickly, but other than this, it's highly effective and strong enough to protect the skin from damage.


  • Cheap
  • Works even in the water for up to 80 minutes
  • Don't need to apply much


  • Can leave a thin white film sometimes​

​3. Coppertone SPF 50 Tattoo Stick

Coppertone SPF 50 Tattoo Stick

This stick sunscreen provides broad spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays which can fade or blur your tattoos. Its formula consists of beneficial properties like vitamins C and E that help keep your tattoos looking as good as new.

The size is similar to a large chapstick, so this is more practical for smaller tattoos. It can be used on larger tattoos as well, but it might run out faster than most would like, and as some users have mentioned, it's exhausting to do so due to its size.

The sunscreen is also water-resistant for up to 80 minutes, and it's portable enough to fit into your pocket or bag. It's easy to apply since the size allows for more accurate coverage of the lines of a small tattoo, but may take more of an effort for larger tattoos.


  • Ideal for smaller tattoos
  • ​Reasonably priced


  • Stick breaks easily

​4. Ed Hardy Tattoo Stick

Ed Hardy Tattoo Stick

Great for both moisturizing and protecting skin from harmful rays, this sunscreen stick goes through all the stops. It provides maximum sunlight coverage with an SPF of 50 and has broad spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays.

The sunscreen's formula includes shea butter, so it doesn't dry out the skin when exposed to sunlight. It's also water-resistant and goes on clear without being too greasy or sticky. Many find the light tropical fragrance to be pleasant and is even effective for those that regularly tan.

Size-wise, most prefer that it be bigger, but otherwise, it seems to work fairly well. It's a similar shape to a deodorant stick, so the wide stick shape helps with effective coverage over a small or large tattoo.

Because it's fairly small, it's easy to stow away when traveling or going outside and is great for new and older tattoos.


  • ​Strong protection - SPF 50+
  • Doesn't dry out skin
  • Water-resistant


  • Really small​
  • Expensive

​5. ​Cannasmack Ink Guard

This hemp infused sunscreen stick is especially useful for tattoos with lighter colors. It's perfect for new tattoos (after they healed) to keep their colors vibrant and protected from fading, and the SPF is high enough for those with issue-prone skin and powerful UV radiation protection.

It's relatively easy to use due to its cylindrical and round shape, similar to a glue stick. It's also found to be unyielding, for it has a tendency to make noticeable tan lines if applied outside the lines of your tattoo.

Regarding how long it lasts, some users said it lasted them for a few months and others up to a couple of years. It depends on how often you go outside and how large your tattoos are. Additionally, the sunscreen has a nice smell, compared to other sunscreens that have an unpleasant and vigorous chemical odor.

Why Do I Need Sunscreen for my Tattoos?

While there are lots of other factors that can make the ink from your tattoos fade, the sun's UV rays can significantly speed up the fading process. Many tattoo professionals recommend covering your new tattoos for at least three months to finish the healing process, and when going outside, sunscreen should be carefully applied to protect your ink.

Best SPF For Tattoos

Generally speaking, if your tattoos are made of black ink, they take longer to fade while lighter colors like pink or green fade in a shorter amount of time. To prevent fading, the American Academy of Dermatology suggest a sunscreen with 30 SPF for the best sun protection.

Tattoo sunscreen or tattoo tanning lotion is especially recommended if you like to tan since tanning beds emit UV rays to darken the skin tone but also fade tattoos if they're not adequately protected. For even more coverage from harmful light rays, a broader spectrum SPF sunscreen protects against UVA rays that cause skin cancer and premature skin aging.

What to Look for in a Sunscreen for Tattoos

To make sure that the sunscreen you get is protecting your ink and skin, there are certain ingredients and specifications you should look for in a sunscreen. Some of these are essential in effective skin coverage while others need to be avoided.

It's better if your tattoo sunscreen is a cream since using sprays, powders, and oils can make you miss a spot since you can't easily see if you covered your entire tattoo. Creams are also harder to rub or wash off, unlike other forms of sunscreen that can be water and oil-based.

As mentioned before, your sunscreen should be at least an SPF or 30 or greater for maximum sun coverage and provide broad spectrum protection to fight against UVA and UVB rays. If you like to swim outside, a waterproof sunscreen will benefit you even more.

The ingredients you should want in sunscreen is zinc or titanium dioxide. Zinc oxide is a common nanoparticle in sunscreens since they don't break down in the sunlight and provide greater protection than any other sunscreen chemical approved in the US.

What you don't want is Vitamin A (Retinyl Palmitate) or Oxybenzone in your sunscreen. Vitamin A is good for your skin, but studies show that it can be harmful when applied to your skin and exposed to the sun. Unlike zinc oxide, it breaks down in sunlight in the presence of UVA and UVB rays.

Oxybenzone is known to induce allergic reactions and act similar to estrogen in the body, not to mention it's not very environmentally friendly, so it's best to stay away from this ingredient completely.

How Long Until I Can Put Sunscreen on a New Tattoo?

Tattoos in the sun

Most tattoos visibly heal after around two weeks, but according to Columbia University, a full 45 days is an appropriate amount of time for your skin to heal fully. You shouldn't apply sunscreen lotion too early in the healing process since your skin is especially vulnerable during this time.

After getting a tattoo, your skin starts to regenerate a new layer of skin cells, so it's important that the healing process isn't delayed or interrupted by certain chemicals invading sensitive skin areas. Depending on which body part you have your tattoo on, it can take more than two weeks for it to heal properly.

Overall, once the skin above your tattoo stops peeling and scabbing, then it should be safe to apply sunscreen, making sure to reapply it every couple of hours that you are outside.

What Strength of Sunscreen is Best for My Type of Skin?

Everyone's skin is different, especially when it comes to tattoos. Some people don't require a particularly strong sunscreen while for others, the stronger it is, the better. Your tattoos need protection regardless, but your chosen sunscreen also needs to cooperate with your skin type.

Moisturizing sunscreens often come in creams, lotions, and ointments which are ideal for dry skin. These usually contain ingredients like essential oils, lanolin, and silicones such as dimethicone which prevent dry skin. Dry skin also tends to be sensitive, so an SPF of 15 or more filters out around 93% of UV rays, usually enough to prevent skin damage.

Darker skin types usually get black ink tattoos which last longer than other colors, and while darker skin has more melanin - a pigment that naturally protects the skin from sun damage - that doesn't necessarily mean it can't benefit from sunscreen lotions. Thus, a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 15+ is an effective choice.

For other skin types that may be prone to acne, peeling, or are older in age, stronger sunscreens with SPF 30 are a good strength to use since it blocks up to 97% of UV radiation and SPF 50 blocks up to 98%. A rule of thumb for issue-sensitive skin is the higher SPF, the more beneficial.

Tattoo Sunscreen vs Regular Sunscreen

To be honest, "tattoo sunscreens" are named so as just a marketing strategy, so there is no huge difference compared to regular sunscreens. In spite of this, tattoo sunscreens do tend to be a stronger SPF, but not all are guaranteed to protect your tattoo's ink from fading.

What matters in tattoo sunscreens is the ingredients. As mentioned before, some ingredients are essential in protecting your skin and others you should avoid since they do more harm than good. Contrary to popular belief, the sun's rays don't fade tattoo ink, but permanent skin damage does.