Updated: September 14, 2020
By Derek Martin
Summertime is here and what better way to fade the color out of those vibrant tattoos of yours then to step outside in the blistering hot sun unprotected?
While fading the shit out of your tattoos is probably not on your bucket list of things to do this summer, the fact of the matter is most people with tattoos will venture out into UV rays paradise this year without a drop of SPF sunscreen to protect their ink.
*I’ll give you a moment to gasp and vomit in disgust.
Now that you’re done judging the hell out of people that don’t properly protect their tattoos, I want you to come down off your precious high horse and admit to all of us that you too have gone out in the sun unprotected. I’ll wait….
Now that you got that off your chest, I would like to admit that I too am guilty of skipping the sunscreen on occasion. I’m only human for fucks sake.
The truth is most of us tattooed folk have plenty of room to improve when it comes to protecting our ink — yes, myself included. Since sunscreen does require a conscious effort to apply it, it’s pretty common for people to simply forget about it before venturing outdoors.
The truth is I’m not here to berate or judge you for slacking on the sunscreen — although I may do it silently. My goal however is to share with you my list of best sunscreens for tattoos that are designed to protect the skin from UV rays, prevent tattoo fading, and even help eliminate the need for future touchups.
They say the most effective sunscreen is the one that actually gets used, and it’s with that sentiment in mind that I selected the following list of best SPF sunscreens for tattoos. Enjoy.
- CannaSmack – Ink Guard Sunscreen SPF 30
- Ink Eeze – Ink Shield Sunscreen SPF 50
- Sun Bum – Sunscreen SPF 30
- H2Ocean – Surfers Choice Sunscreen SPF 50
- La Roche-Posay – Cooling Water SPF 60
- Art of Sport – Skin Armor Sunscreen SPF 50
- Ink – Tattoo Sunscreen Spray SPF 50
- Alba Botanica – Sensitive Sunscreen SPF 50
Best Sunscreens for Tattoos Reviewed
CannaSmack – Ink Guard SPF 30
When it comes to applying sunscreen to tattoos, it doesn’t get much easier or convenient than CannaSmack Ink Guard. Similar in appearance and function to a stick of lip balm — except much bigger — CannaSmack is a solid sunscreen that is applied to tattoos the same way you would apply a stick of deodorant. It not only makes application very quick, easy, and precise, it’s also a hell of a lot less messy than traditional liquid sunscreens. Aside from being convenient and easy to use, CannaSmack Ink Guard is also formulated with a ton of skin nourishing and moisturizing ingredients that are beneficial for both new and old tattoos. It’s also waterproof, non-comedogenic (doesn’t clog pores), fragrance free, and made in the USA.
What I like about CannaSmack Ink Guard SPF 30:
• Skin beneficial ingredients
One of the great things about CannaSmack Ink Guard is that it does more than protect tattoos and skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays – It’s also full skin nourishing and moisturizing ingredients. Here’s what’s inside:
- Hemp seed oil – Harvested by cold pressing hemp seeds, this oil is packed full of skin beneficial omega fatty acids and vitamins that nourish, hydrate, and moisturize skin.
- Beeswax – Contains anti-inflammatory properties that soothe the skin and also promotes wound healing (great for new tattoos). It’s also full of vitamin A that helps keep the skin moisturized and promotes the health of the dermis and epidermis layers of the skin.
- Coconut oil – Derived from the kernel of mature coconuts, this oil reduces inflammation, helps cleanse the skin of bacteria, and even moisturizes.
- Sunflower oil – Rich in vitamins A and E which help protect and moisturize the skin.
- Aloe vera – Helps soothe, nourish, and moisturize the skin. It also helps reduce redness, irritation, and inflammation.
• It’s not sticky, greasy, or messy
Let’s face it, most traditional sunscreens feel like shit when they are applied to the skin. They’re sticky, greasy, messy, and often times they fucking stink. CannaSmack is different. It applies quickly and easily, it dries fast, and it doesn’t leave any unpleasant stickiness or greasiness behind. And aside from a very faint scent from the all-natural ingredients (no added scent), this stuff doesn’t smell like anything — it certainly doesn’t stink.
• It’s safe for new and old tattoos
I first came across CannaSmack Ink Guard when I was looking for a sunscreen that would be safe to use on my few weeks old hand tattoo. I was immediately impressed by Ink Guard’s long list of natural ingredients that are safe, and even beneficial for a still-healing tattoo. Aside from the good stuff that’s in it, what’s not in it is just as important. It’s completely free parabens, sulfates, and synthetic fragrances that could cause irritation and negative skin reactions on a healing tattoo.
• Reasonably priced
What’s not to like about a product that works exactly as it’s intended and doesn’t cost a small fortune? I’d also like to mention that a stick of this stuff lasts. In my opinion you can’t go wrong with CannaSmack Ink Guard sunscreen when it comes to protecting tattoos.
Ink-Eeze – Ink Shield SPF 50
If you plan on spending a lot of time outdoors this summer you might want to check out this tattoo protecting sunscreen spray from Ink Eeze. Unlike traditional liquid sunscreens that can be a mess to apply, Ink Eeze sunscreen spray covers tattoos in a protective layer of SPF 50 with the simple push of a button. If you’re unfamiliar with Ink Eeze, they are a tattoo lifestyle brand that offers a long line of awesome and innovative aftercare products that include: lotions, ointments, soaps, creams, and even a cool spray on bandage. If you’re serious about keeping your tattoo looking it’s best for years to come, I highly recommend you check out Ink Eeze – Ink Shield sunscreen.
What I like about Ink Eeze Ink Shield sunscreen:
• Easy to apply
I think one of the biggest reasons why people avoid using sunscreen is because it can be messy and time consuming to apply. When you’re in a hurry or running late, the last thing you want to do is slather some greasy sunscreen on your tattoos and wait for it to dry. The great thing about Ink Eeze is that it’s pretty much the exact opposite of traditional sunscreens. Not only is it a very convenient spray sunscreen, but it’s also very quick and easy to apply. With just the quick press of a button it applies a powerful dose of SPF 50 that does an excellent job of protecting tattoos and preventing fade.
• It dries fast/Non greasy
One of the other things that I really like about Ink Shield is how quickly and cleanly it dries. I’ve always hated how traditional sunscreens feel heavy and greasy on the skin. But with Ink Shield I find that it not only dries almost immediately, but it also doesn’t leave any greasy, oily, or white residue behind on the skin.
• It smells really good
Aside from it’s powerful UVA and UVB blocking protection, another great thing about Ink Shield is that it smells pretty damn good. The all-natural coconut fragrance smells tropical and fresh. It’s not too strong or overpowering but leaves a light, pleasant scent on the skin. In my opinion it plays really well for both men and women.
• All-day protection
Nobody want’s to spend their day continuously worrying if their sunscreen is holding up — or continuously reapplying it for that matter. One of the benefits of using Ink Eeze Ink Shield is that it provides all day UV protection for tattoos without having to keep reapplying it throughout the day. A quick spray in the morning is enough to keep your tattoo safe and sound until the sun goes down.
Sun Bum – SPF 30
When it comes to sunscreen, Sun Bum knows a thing or two about quality. Sun Bum is a USA based company that got started in 2010 when the founders began making sunscreen for themselves and loved ones. Their premium quality waterproof sunscreen has quickly become a popular choice amongst surfers, beachgoers, and outdoor enthusiasts. One of the reasons why Sun Bum is so popular is because they have a large and diverse product line of sunscreens that are well suited for all skin types. Not only do they offer their original liquid sunscreen (pictured) in a variety of protection levels (SPF 15, SPF 30, SPF 50, SPF 70), but it’s also available in spray and stick options as well.
What I like about Sun Bum sunscreen:
• Applies smoothly and easily
One of the things that really sets Sun Bum apart from other liquid sunscreens is ease of use. Sun Bum has a thin, runny consistency that is very easy to spread and distribute over any size tattoo — large or small. This is not only ideal for covering large tattoos — like a sleeve, but it also means you don’t need to use much of this sunscreen per use. This definitely helps prolong the life of the bottle.
• It doesn’t feel greasy or oily
One of the things that I really hate about most liquid sunscreens is the heavy, greasy feeling they often leave on the skin. Thankfully Sun Bum is a little different. Not only does it dry very quickly, but it also doesn’t leave the skin looking/feeling greasy or shiny. This makes it not just great for tattoos, but it’s also ideal for use on the face since it doesn’t leave skin looking oily, but instead dries to a nice matte finish.
• It contains vitamin E
Protecting the skin and tattoos from UVA and UVB rays isn’t the only thing that Sun Bum sunscreen is capable of doing. It’s also full of vitamin E: a fat-soluble antioxidant that offers a ton of benefits for tattoos (and skin), including: moisturizing, healing, protecting, strengthening, and it also absorbs UV light which helps prevent damage to the skin. Powerful stuff.
H2Ocean – Surfers Choice SPF 50
You certainly don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy the UVA and UVB blocking protection of H2Ocean Surfers Choice sunscreen. If you’re unfamiliar with H2Ocean, they are one of the pioneers in tattoo and piercing aftercare, and were one of the first to introduce all-natural aftercare products to the tattoo scene. Some of their most popular tattoo products include: antibacterial tattoo soap, numbing tattoo balm, moisturizing cream, and of course this SPF 50 spray sunscreen. H2Ocean Surfers Choice is specifically designed to protect the skin and tattoos from the damaging effects of the sun, while containing nourishing and hydrating ingredients that are beneficial for both old and new tattoos.
What I like about H2Ocean Surfers Choice sunscreen:
• Skin moisturizing ingredients
One of the things that I really like about this, and all of H2Ocean’s tattoo products is the premium, skin beneficial ingredients that they formulate their products with. While their Surfers Choice sunscreen does a kick-ass job of protecting tattoos from the sun, that’s not the only thing it’s designed to do. It’s also full of moisturizing ingredients that help make tattoos appear more bold and vibrant while it’s on the skin. Here’s what’s inside:
- Aloe vera – Full of vitamins A & C, antioxidants, and it’s also highly anti-inflammatory. It’s known for it’s ability soothe the skin on contact and it also helps moisturize.
- Jojoba oil – An oil that’s derived from the seed of the simmondsia chinensis plant (an American shrub). It contains moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties that reduce redness and irritation. It’s also full of vitamins E & B which help moisturize and protect the skin.
- Butylene glycol – A humectant that is often derived from corn. It attracts moisture from the air and draws it into the skin — making if feel soft, supple, hydrated.
- Neopentyl glycol diheptanoate – While this one sounds like a mouthful — don’t ask me to pronounce it — it’s simply just an emollient that nourishes, conditions, and hydrates by attracting moisture to the skin and locking it in.
• Convenient spray bottle
If you’re looking for a tattoo sunscreen that’s quick and easy to use, Surfers Choice might be worth checking out. It features a very cool, easy to use spray nozzle that rotates 360 degrees and allows for smooth, quick, and easy application without the mess. It’s also worth noting that the nozzle features a bag-on-valve design. This simply means that the sunscreen is contained within a big that’s within the can — completely separate from potentially harmful propellants.
• It dries fast and is non-greasy
Nobody likes waiting for sunscreen to dry. One of the things that makes H2Ocean Surfers Choice so great is it’s quick drying and non-greasy formula. H2Ocean calls it “Dri-Mist” sunscreen, and they boldly claim that it dries on the skin in under 30 seconds. From personal experience I find their claim to be pretty accurate.
La Roche-Posay – Cooling Water SPF 60
If you’re looking for the best sunscreen for tattoos and price is not an option, you might really like this luxury SPF 60 sunscreen from La Roche-Posay. Winner of the 2018 GQ grooming award for best skin product, La Roche-Posay Cooling Water is on another level when it comes to unique and innovative products. Just like the name implies, this sunscreen melts like water during application while it provides a cooling sensation that feels pretty damn refreshing on the skin. La Roche-Posay was originally founded in 1905 in France as a dermatology Laboratory, but it wasn’t until 1975 that they began producing their premium line of skin care products.
What I like about La Roche-Posay Cooling Water sunscreen:
• Tattoo protection backed by dermatologists
When it comes to protecting your tattoo from ink fading UVA and UVB rays, you can’t argue with the science and research that goes into La Roche-Posay Cooling Water. Their sunscreen is backed by over 90,000 dermatologists worldwide, and it’s been specifically tested and approved for use on people with allergies and sensitive skin. Not to mention it’s the recipient of multiple awards, and it’s one of the most trusted and well reviewed sunscreens on Amazon. If that doesn’t instill confidence in you, I don’t know what will.
• Goes on like melted butter
Yeah this stuff is expensive, but it becomes more apparent why when you actually apply it to your skin. La Roche-Posay Cooling Water comes out of the tube as a cream, but once it touches the skin it quickly softens and spreads like melted butter. It also absorbs and dries very quickly without any greasy or oily residue left behind.
• A little bit goes a long way
Due to the texture and consistency of this sunscreen I find that you don’t need to use much of it to cover a lot of ground. If you’re applying it to a large tattoo or sleeve you’ll find that a small dime sized amount will spread much further than you think. I suggest starting small and using more if needed. You probably won’t.
Art of Sport – Skin Armor SPF 50
Protect your tattoo like a champ with Art of Sport Skin Armor sunscreen. This broad spectrum SPF 50 sunscreen provides excellent protection against harmful UV rays that seek to fade and destroy our precious tattoos. Art of Sport is a relatively new player to the skincare market (founded in 2018), but their products have quickly built themselves a solid reputation for quality and performance. Aside from their sunscreen, some of my favorite AOS skincare products include: deodorant, bar soap, body wash, lotion, and face wash. Their products not only impress when it comes to quality and performance, but they are also very reasonably priced — which is always a good thing.
What I like about Art of Sport Skin Armor sunscreen:
• It’s very lightweight and non-greasy
Applying sunscreen to tattoos shouldn’t be something that we dread doing. But considering the fact that many sunscreens on the market leave the skin feeling heavy and greasy, it doesn’t surprise me that most people with tattoos opt to forgo sunscreen altogether. My favorite thing about Art of Sport sunscreen is that it has a very lightweight, non-greasy consistency that basically vanishes on the skin once it dries. If you hate the way most sunscreens feel on the skin, AOS sunscreen is certainly worth a look.
• It lasts all day
Since Art of Sport’s products are designed with athletes in mind, their sunscreen is formulated to withstand the rigors of hard physical activity. This means that it holds up really well against sweat, water (waterproof), dirt, oil, and grime. I find that one application in the morning is enough to keep tattoos safe and protected all day.
• It doesn’t leave any white residue
Nobody wants to go about their day covered in the chalky white residue that’s often left behind by shitty sunscreens — especially if the white residue is obstructing others from seeing our tattoos. Thankfully Art of Sport sunscreen doesn’t present this problem. Once it’s applied, it is quickly absorbed into the skin and dries to a clear, matte finish. No greasiness, oiliness, or white residue left behind.
• A little goes a long way
Not only is Art of Sport Skin Armor sunscreen very reasonably priced, but a bottle of this stuff has some serious longevity to it. While mileage will vary depending on the size of your tattoo and frequency of use, I find that just a quarter sized amount of this sunscreen is enough to cover a full sleeve with ease. That’s because it’s silky smooth consistency allows it to be spread very easily and evenly. I suggest starting with less product than you think you need, and adding more if needed. It might surprise you how far a little bit of this stuff will go.
INK – Tattoo Sunscreen Spray SPF 50
Fight the fade while improving the vibrancy and clarity of your tattoos with INK SPF 50 tattoo sunscreen. INK sunscreen is designed to protect tattoo fade with a powerful dose of SPF 50 while all-natural ingredients moisturize the skin and help tattoos appear more vibrant. If you’re unfamiliar with INK, they specialize in a long line of premium tattoo products that are designed to protect against fading, make tattoos appear brighter, and promote healing. Like all of INK’s products, their tattoo sunscreen contains natural and organic ingredients and is completely free of toxins, sulfates, phthalates, parabens and fragrance. It’s also vegan friendly, cruelty free, and reef safe.
What I like about INK Tattoo Sunscreen Spray:
• It contains skin moisturizing ingredients
While most sunscreens only serve their primary purpose of protecting the skin from UV rays, INK sunscreen is designed to be different. Aside from it’s primary job of protecting the skin and keeping tattoos from fading, it’s also full of moisturizing ingredients that help boost tattoo color and vibrancy. Here’s what’s inside:
- Vitamin E – A fat soluble compound that protects and effectively reduces UV damage to the skin. It also has moisturizing and healing benefits, and it even strengthens the outermost layer of the epidermis — helping the skin lock in moisture.
- Coconut oil – Derived from the dried kernel (meat) of mature coconuts, this oil moisturizes the skin and even promotes healing. It’s also known to reduce inflammation and also contains antimicrobial properties that help protect the skin from bacteria.
- Aloe vera – Cultivated from the leaves of a evergreen perennial plant, aloe vera contains antioxidants, vitamin A and C, and is highly anti-inflammatory. It’s known to soothe the skin, reduce redness, and even help moisturize.
• It’s quick and easy to apply
If I haven’t already made it clear — I’m a big fan of spray on sunscreens. Not only are they much quicker and easier to apply than their liquid counterparts — but they are also a hell of a lot less messy. And if their is one thing that I know to be true about sunscreen it’s this: people are far more likely to apply it if it’s quick, easy, and convenient to use.
• It’s lightweight and non-greasy
If you’ve had enough of sunscreens that leave the skin feeling heavy, greasy, and oily, I suggest you consider trying this INK Tattoo Sunscreen Spray. It exits the bottle as a very lightweight mist that makes protecting large or small tattoos quick and easy. But the thing I like most is that it dries very quickly and doesn’t leave any residue behind. Aside from the UV protection, you can’t even really tell it’s there at all. That’s definitely a big plus in my book.
Alba Botanica – Sensitive Sunscreen SPF 50
When it comes to using sunscreen, it’s important to remember that not everybody’s skin is the same. That’s why I chose to include this Sensitive Sunscreen from Alba Botanica on this list. It’s not only excellent at protecting tattoos from harmful UV rays, but it’s also designed to be safe and gentle for people with sensitive skin. If you take a look at the ingredient list you can clearly see that this sunscreen is a lot different than most. That’s because it’s absolutely full of all-natural ingredients that are extremely beneficial for the skin — and free of the crap that’s not. Bottomline: If you’re looking for a tattoo sunscreen that’s great for sensitive skin, I highly recommend you consider Alba Botanica Sensitive Sunscreen.
What I like about Alba Botanica Sensitive Sunscreen:
• Skin beneficial ingredients
There is definitely something different about Alba Botanica sunscreen and that becomes very apparent when you read the ingredient list. It’s full of ingredients that help nourish, hydrate, and moisturize the skin — and it’s free of the crap that we should avoid. Here’s a closer look at what’s inside:
- Avocado oil – An excellent source of fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. It contains natural UV blocking properties and is also highly moisturizing and healing.
- Aloe vera – Helps soothe and calm the skin when applied topically. It’s also full of vitamins and antioxidants, and is a natural anti-inflammatory.
- Tea tree – Contains anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that reduce skin redness, irritation, and swelling. It also helps protect the skin from bacteria due to it’s antibacterial properties.
- German chamomile – Contains anti-inflammatory properties that soothe swelling, redness, irritation, and discomfort. It’s also commonly used in hair and skincare products for it’s ability to moisturize and hydrate.
- Ginkgo biloba extract – derived from the leaves of the ginkgo biloba tree that’s native to China. It provides a bunch of benefits for the skin including: antioxidant protection, skin soothing benefits, moisturizing, and it even helps fight the signs of aging.
- Panax ginseng – Derived from a plant that’s native to China, panax ginseng is an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation, boost skin hydration, smooth rough skin, and even reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Glycerin – A liquid that’s derived from plants and is commonly used in lotions and skincare products for it’s ability to attract moisture to the skin and lock it in.
• Spray applicator
Alba Botanica utilizes a very convenient spray applicator for this sunscreen and I’ll be the first to tell you — it makes application on tattoos a hell of a lot easier. Hands and fingers don’t get greasy or oily, and it’s much more convenient for people on the go. With just the press of a button the applicator covers the skin in a very lightweight mist that isn’t greasy or oily, and it dries very quickly. It’s also worth noting that the spray is powered by air and doesn’t use potentially harmful propellents.
• Reasonably priced
Aside from it’s excellent UV protection for tattoos and it’s long list of natural ingredients, one of the things that I like most about Alba Botanica Sensitive Sunscreen is that it’s very affordably priced. When it comes to purchasing skincare products, I’m usually in the “you get what you pay for” camp. This sunscreen however proves that sometimes you get more than what you pay for.
Thanks for checking out my list of best SPF sunscreens for tattoos. If you found this article helpful, check out my list of best tattoo ointments, salves, and lotions for healing and aftercare. As always, if you have any comments or questions feel free to drop me a line in the comment section below.