What Happens To Your Tattoo In The Sun & Why Experts Say You Should Protect It

If you're a total sun bunny and have a tattoo or two (or seven) on your body, then hopefully you're religious when it comes to sunblock. What happens to tattoos in the sun isn't a pretty thing, especially if you're not into the weathered sailor look when it comes to your ink.

A plethora of different things can alter the look of your tattoo as the years pass, but according to the experts, nothing is more damaging than UV rays. While you might not put a lot of thought into that one tat you got on your wrist seven years ago while you're enjoying mimosas on a sunny patio, the reality is the sun might be causing the ink in your tattoo to break down and lose its shape, color, and vibrancy. The end result will be an image you didn't sign up for when you first walked into a parlor way back when.

You don't need to necessarily lay out on a beach or worship at the alter of a tanning bed to ruin your ink with the sun. Things like walking around a cloudy day without having your tattoo covered or sunblocked could do just as much damage. Below are eight things that happen to tattoos in the sun — read on and learn how to protect your precious ink. 

1. UV Light Makes Your Ink Fade

[Embed]

Do you love how crisp and detailed your awesome tat is? If so, in order to keep it in that condition you need to keep UV rays away from your ink. "The sun does fade your tattoos," says Alana Robbie, a tattoo artist of 13 years in an email to Bustle. "UV rays from the sun are absorbed and break up the pigment particles in your tattoo. These are passed into your blood stream. Laser tattoo removal is basically a hyper strong/fast version of this. Sunblock can keep your tattoos looking newer over time if you regularly expose your skin to lots of direct sunlight."

2. They Can Change Colors

[Embed]

Chances were that before getting your tattoo, you were very specific on what colors you wanted when brainstorming with your artist. Don't make all that preparation moot by leaving your ink in the sun. "Tattoos exist under two layers of your skin, which acts as a sort of transparent filter over the tattoo. Meaning the darker your skin gets from the sun, it will change/mute the appearance of the colors in your tattoo," Robbie explains.

3. It's Totally Exposed

[Embed]

 "After getting a brand new tattoo, the area of skin is essentially a raw open wound with no protection over the recently inserted ink. Therefore, any sun exposure on the area is going to be detrimental to healing," retired tattoo artist Dan Hunter warned in Tattoo Authority, an online resource for artist and tattoo lovers.

4. It Could Heal And Crack

[Embed]

Tanning an old tattoo isn't a good idea, but letting UV rays hit a new one is just bad news. "A fresh tattoo is very sensitive to the sun and you could have a burn or UV reaction when exposing a healing tattoo to the same amount of sun that would not damage your intact skin," Robbie advises. Having even a light burn on top of your new ink can cause it to peel, blister, and crack, which could make it heal poorly.

In the end, it's a smart idea to cover up your tattoo when it's exposed to the sun. Whether you hide it with clothes or heavy sunblock is up to you, as long as it's protected. 

Images: @heartshapedtattoos/ Instagram

Must Reads