Anyone who has gotten a tattoo will be concerned about fading, discoloration, or blurring. So, how much sun will fade a tattoo? We have the answer!
There isn’t a specific amount of time spent in the sun that will cause fading in a tattoo. It depends on various factors, such as the tattoo’s age. You should always apply sunscreen or cover up tattoos if spending time in the sun. However, it typically takes years to start fading.
So, you’ve got a beautiful tattoo that you’re in love with, and you want it to retain its crispness and vibrant colors over the years, but this is far easier said than done. Perhaps the worst thing for your tattoo’s longevity is sunlight.
So, if every tattoo is susceptible to sun damage, you’re going to want to know how to avoid ruining the beauty of the design. To do so, you need to understand why sunlight is bad for tattoos and what measures you can take to mitigate the potential damage that it can cause.
The UV rays from direct sunlight will cause your tattoo to fade because when exposed to the sun, UV rays are absorbed, and white blood cells will carry the ink away as if it is an infection, which, in effect, breaks up the pigment of your design. The tattoos exist under two layers of skin, with the layer on top filtering out sunlight from the pigment.
Two types of UV rays will cause fading, namely UVA and UVB rays. Since tattoo ink is held in the second and thickest layer of your skin, the dermis, it is normally safe from sunburn.
However, it is easily penetrated by UVA rays, and consistent exposure will trigger your white blood cells to carry the ink away, with the remaining ink appearing discolored, smudged, faded, or blurred.
On the other hand, UVB rays are those that will cause your skin to burn. And through consistent exposure, sunburn can distort and hinder the healing process of new tattoos. And sunburn will cause fading in tattoos in the same way that consistent UVA rays exposure would.
In essence, a tattoo fading results from your body’s response to skin damage and what it will either consider an infection or wound, or ailment. So, over time, exposure to sunlight will cause your tattoo to fade.
It is recommended that you avoid sunlight as much as possible and use sunscreen to provide extra protection against the harmful UV rays.
There is no specific formula or rule for exactly how much sun will fade a tattoo, so the best policy to take is to keep out of the sun as much as possible.
However, the amount of sun exposure that your tattoo will be able to withstand depends on several factors, such as your skin tone, the type of tattoo you have, the intensity of the sunlight, how well you’ve protected your skin, as well as the age and color of the tattoo.
People will paler skin tones are more susceptible to burning and are. Therefore, their tattoos have a higher risk of fading in sunlight. Furthermore, more detailed tattoos with finer lines are more likely to fade than traditional tattoos with thicker lines, which will hold their shape a lot better over time.
Summer sunlight will do far more damage than winter sunlight, while those who take extra care to protect their skin with sunscreen as often as possible will enhance the longevity of their tattoos. Finally, if a tattoo is new and hasn’t yet healed, it can be damaged through sunburn, peeling, blistering, and cracking far easier. Tattoos with light colors will also age faster.
Nonetheless, most tattoos will take years to fade unless you are completely irresponsible and get sunburnt every weekend.
As we’ve already discussed, tattoos with thinner, more detailed linework will fade a lot easier than more traditional tattoo styles. This also applies to tattoos with letters that use fine, intricate fonts.
In addition to this, tattoos that use light colors like yellow or green are especially susceptible to fading compared to darker colors like black, blue, or purple.
However, the tattoos that are, by far, the most susceptible to sun damage and fading are new tattoos. After getting a tattoo, your artist will give you self-care instructions that you should follow. Typically, they’ll tell you to keep your tattoo out of direct sunlight for a minimum of two weeks.
This is because a fresh tattoo is essentially an open, completely unprotected wound. Therefore it burns much faster than healed skin if exposed to the sun. This would cause your tattoo to burn, crack, blister or peel, and, therefore, fade.
There are several ways to extend the longevity of your tattoos, such as wearing sunscreen, covering up, and moisturizing.
Perhaps the best advice would be to get your tattoo during the winter months when the sunlight is less intense, and you’re wearing more layers of clothing. But don’t fool yourself into believing that exposure to sunlight in the winter will not affect your tattoo – it just won’t be as bad as sunlight exposure during the scorching hot summer months.
However, if sunlight is unavoidable, applying sunscreen will help to protect your skin from the sunlight and therefore mitigate the fading effect. It is recommended that you use sunscreen with a 30-50 SPF. What would be more helpful is to cover your tattoo with at least one layer of clothing, which will protect your skin from UV rays.
Furthermore, remember that in the winter months, your skin will become dry far easier and, if you are susceptible to dry, itchy, or flakey skin, it could also cause your tattoo to fade. In that case, it will help your cause to apply moisturizer in the mornings and/or evenings. You should also try to drink as much water as you can to stay hydrated and for your skin to protect itself. Long, hot showers can also be bad for your tattoos because they will strip your skin of natural oils and dry it out. Rather take shorter showers with cooler water temperatures.
The sad reality is that your tattoo will never look quite as crisp and vibrant as the day you got it. There is no way to say exactly how much sun will fade a tattoo, but if you follow the recommendations that we’ve laid out for preserving your tattoo, it will retain its color, shape, and boldness far longer without needing any touch-ups.
Some of my favorite designs, tattoo books, and aftercare products, selected for you
Thank you for reading my article, I hope that you have found it helpful. If you would have trouble finding ideas for your tattoo, wonder what is meaning of design that you have found or what to buy for aftercare, to make sure that your tattoo will be healing quickly and easily, here are some of my favorite products in one place, hope that this will also help.
Design and tattoo ideas
For some ideas you can have a look at those 3 books with hundreds of designs that I use with my clients, they are available on Amazon for Kindle or in classic, paper version (links below):
- Great Book of Tattoo Designs, Revised Edition: More than 500 Body Art Designs (Fox Chapel Publishing) Fantasy, Celtic, Floral, Wildlife, and Symbol Designs for the Skin by Lora Irish
- The Big Book of Small Tattoos – Vol.1: 400 small original tattoos for women and men by Roberto Gemori
- Tiny Tattoos: Over 1,000 Small Inspirational Artworks by Rebecca Vincent.
If you would like to read more about the meaning of different tattoo styles and designs before you will decide what you would like to have, I can recommend a book that was really useful for me when I was starting my tattoo adventure – it’s “Conscious Ink: The Hidden Meaning of Tattoos” by Lisa Barretta (through the link you can find it on Amazon for around $10).
The skin at the tattoo site often dries out. To prevent it and speed up healing for my clients, I usually recommend one of those tattoo aftercare balms (you can find them on Amazon):