How Long After a Tattoo Can I Put Suntan Lotion on It?

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Taking care of a new tattoo will ensure it heals properly and remains beautiful for years to come. Your tattoo's care doesn't end there though; you'll need to protect if from sun exposure every day. Applying suntan lotion to your tattoo gives it protection from the sun's rays; but wait until the advised time frame before slathering it over your tattoo.


Sun rays do not fade ink, but they do kill skin cells, causing ink loss. This may cause the ink to blur or lighten the tattoo. This is especially important during the healing process, as the skin has not recovered yet and contains a lower level of melanin; without melanin your skin's protection from sunlight is greatly reduced. Using sunscreen over your tattoo is important once the tattoo is healed, but refrain from exposing it to the sun until it's healed.

The Healing Process

After you receive a tattoo, your skin starts the process of forming a new protective layer of skin. During this time your skin may flake, peel and scab to exfoliate itself. It may even look blurry or cloudy as it heals. The healing is complete when all exfoliation has stopped.

Time Frame

Most tattoos heal visibly in two weeks. Healing time varies with each person and tattoo. Proper hydration and diet give your skin what it needs to heal quickly. Feet and hands reproduce skin cells more quickly than other body parts; tattoos in these other body parts may take up to an extra two weeks to heal. Columbia University recommends giving it 45 days for your skin to fully repair from the damage caused by the tattooing process.

How to Protect

Do not apply suntan lotion while the tattoo is healing; instead keep it covered with loose clothing. Avoid tanning beds and stay out of the sun as much as possible. Once healed, keep your tattoo covered whenever possible to avoid fading or discoloring the tattoo.

Applying Sunscreen Lotion

After your tattoo is healed, apply sunscreen lotion whenever your tattoo will be exposed to any amount of sunlight. Use a suntan lotion containing at least 50 SPF. Re-apply every few hours, based on the lotion's directions. Applying sunscreen lotion will not stop your tattoo's aging process, but will lessen the effects of sun exposure.