Did you just get back to Vancouver from vacation in a warm and sunny climate? If so you’re probably glowing, vibrant, and ready to keep the party going by getting a new tattoo. There’s only one concern – you’re tanned. Typically that’s a great thing, but you’re worried about it impacting the integrity of your up and coming tattoo. Can you get a tattoo on sun tanned skin? Or do you have to wait until it has faded? The latter would be a bummer, especially if you intend on maintaining the tan by spending your spring and summer days on the patio and local area beach. Fret not, because you’re probably in the clear. But first, here’s what you need to know.

What You Need to Know Before Booking a Tattoo Appointment When You’ve Been Tanning in the Sun

Moderately Tanned Skin is Fine

A tattoo needle goes through 1/16th of an inch of your skin. That may not sound deep, but the needle actually penetrates through five sublayers of the epidermis, the dermal layer, and also the top layer of the dermis. A sun tan on the other hand, occurs in the skin’s outermost layer, the epidermis. In other words, your tattoo takes root under the tanned layer of the skin which means that you can go ahead and book your appointment for whenever you like.

A Different Story for Sunburned Skin

A second degree sunburn typically penetrates the skin’s outer layer and damages the layer (the dermis) beneath. It goes even deeper for third and fourth degree sunburns, which often require treatment from a dermatologist or physician. A second degree sunburn (or worse) can take weeks to heal, which means that you must wait until it has healed before you get tattooed. Not only will a second degree (+) burn impact the integrity of the tattoo, it can negatively impact the healing process.

What about more common first-degree sunburns? These are the least harmful superficial skin burns that make your skin red, dry, and slightly painful to the touch. These typically take 3 to 6 days to heal, which is how long you should wait before scheduling your tattoo appointment.

Maintaining Your Tan..After Getting the Tattoo

Remember above where we stated that you probably intend on maintaining your golden sheen? That’s fine, but you cannot do so over the part of your body where you got the new tattoo. You should keep the tattoo out of the direct sun for three to four weeks. If you plan on laying out on the patio, poolside, or on the beach, be sure to keep the tattooed area completely covered during that period. But even once the three to four week period has passed, you will want to minimize sun exposure for three to six months. That means wearing an SPF 60 sunscreen (absorbs 98.3% of harmful UV rays) over the tattoo. This can be a challenge for those who get large works of body art, but it’s a small price to pay for the investment you made.


If you’re still concerned about the depth of your tan but still want to get a tattoo right away, schedule a consultation with a tattoo studio today. A professional tattooist with inspect your skin to identify potential complications and will advise/proceed accordingly. If located in the Greater Vancouver area, book your tattoo consultation at our downtown tattoo shop as soon as you finish reading this.

Written By:

Sleight of Hand

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