Black Tattoo Turning Grey After Healing

  • Written By Dan Hunter on October 12, 2019
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

Getting a tattoo can be a lot of things to different people. It can be casual, for decorative purposes or have a deep meaning, or all of the above! Regardless of a person’s reasons, however, tattoos are permanent and important.

This is why many new tattoo wearers get upset or panicked when they notice that their black tattoo has begun to turn gray. They fear that it didn’t turn out right, and they’ll have to carry something less than perfect on their skin. This isn’t always the fault of the tattoo artist, though.

Reasons for your black tattoo turning gray are:

  • Regular healing – nothing to worry about
  • Exposure to UV rays
  • Low-quality Ink
  • Friction
  • Sweat
  • Scabbing over the area

How the Healing Process Turns a Tattoo Gray

Since the skin goes through trauma when your new artwork is adorned on your body, there’s no single part that is at a healthy stage immediately. This includes your new black tattoo. As the healing process takes shape, a new tattoo healing and turning gray is very common.

Over a few weeks, the new tattoo will form a scab, like any other wound. This scab is just a layer of dead skin, however, and will flake off on its own once the tattoo site is fully healed. The only scarring left behind will be the tattoo itself.

Even so, as the scars begin to heal, the appearance of your tattoo is distorted as the skin pigmentation changes. Such graying is normal, and once the healing process is fully complete, your black tattoo will reveal its dark, rich appearance once more.

It should be noted, however, that it’s likely your tattoo will never appear quite as vibrant as it was the second you left the tattoo artist’s chair. The tattoo you saw then was fresh with no skin covering the dark pigments.

After healing, that same tattoo will now have several layers of skin protecting it from outside elements, meaning the vibrancy and sharpness will have visually toned down slightly, and your tattoo may look slightly lighter.

A Closer Look at the Healing Process

Tattoos are carried out by puncturing the skin with needles and injecting ink and pigment into the skin’s deep layers. This pigment is what will be used to form the desired image.

Contrary to popular belief, the artist isn’t drawing on the skin. Instead, the needle rapidly punctures the epidermis. Tiny drops of ink are deposited in the skin’s layers with each needle prick. It takes up to several thousands of these tiny needle pricks to form an image.

These needle pricks are essentially just several tiny injuries in the skin, and so, the body treats it like any wound. The immune system immediately sets out to fix the injury, and also to fight the foreign bodies — ink particles — deposited inside it, which is carried out by macrophages.

Macrophages Aren’t Infallible

Blood cells called macrophages are sent out and engulf the ink particles left in the skin. Not all these macrophages successfully capture the ink particles and take them to the liver to be excreted, though. Some of the ink molecules will remain in the dermis, and hence, your new tattoo remains visible.

Reasons Why a Black Tattoo Might Fade

A black healing tattoo turning gray is perfectly natural and isn’t necessarily something to worry about. Most tattoos will darken again once healed, but some will remain lighter, and this is completely natural.

A black tattoo turning grey can also happen for several other reasons, any of which may be relevant to your situation. If they aren’t and you’re still concerned about the quality of your tattoo, the best advice would be to speak to your tattoo artist.

Exposure to UV Rays

Ultra-violet rays are bad enough for the skin as it is. When it comes to tattoos, it’s even more the case. It’s very important to remember to wear sunscreen when you’re going to be in the sun. Exposure to UV rays will speed up the aging process of your tattoo and fade your ink very quickly.

Always wear sunscreen to protect your new tattoo, and avoid tanning beds altogether in this period. UV rays and tattoos certainly don’t mix, so avoid them to preserve the color and vibrancy of your tattoo.

Low-Quality Ink

The contents of the ink being used is very important. Although there are no FDA regulations on tattoos, some states have specific regulations.

Heavy metals and chemicals can do a number on the quality of your tattoo. This means that your tattoo will also fade faster. However, a quickly fading tattoo is the least troubling danger of using low-quality ink. Skin infections and other skin-related issues can be caused by low-quality ink, so don’t cheap out!


If you get your tattoo on a body part that sees a lot of friction, your tattoo will be prone to fading. The constant rubbing leads to the wear and tear of your skin in that location, which you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t have a tattoo.

The appearance is distorted because the new layer of skin is brand new and hasn’t been subjected to the elements; hence, it has a different pigmentation. Don’t worry; there isn’t a problem with your tattoo!

Due to skin to skin and skin to clothing friction, tattoos in the following areas are prone to fading:

  • Fingers
  • Armpits
  • Thighs
  • Ankles


Apart from the added moisture, which is bad for a healing tattoo, sweat is slightly acidic. This means that it can irritate the already irritated tattoo site. This moisture and irritation can cause a tattoo to heal improperly, and this will lead to a faded tattoo.

Tattoo artists take sweat into consideration when choosing a tattoo site. To ensure a longer tattoo lifespan, it’s best to have your tattoos based away from any of the major sweat gland accumulations.

Healing Scabs Over the Tattooed Area

Sometimes, tattoos only appear faded because the skin is trying to heal and is scabbing over. This is an entirely regular occurrence and should not be cause for any alarm.

The fading will only last a couple of months as there’s a fine, dead layer of skin over the site. This will naturally flake away over time and reveal your fresh and vibrant tattoo.


It’s normal for new tattoos to fade as they heal since the top layer of skin is healing and scabbing, distorting the appearance of the tattoo. It will usually return to near-normal with due time! However, remember that some of the responsibility falls on you to make sure that your tattoo doesn’t fade.

Make sure to use the right ink, avoid UV rays, and get your tattoo on parts of your body that aren’t prone to sweating or excess friction. Using a good moisturizing lotion regularly can also be great at keeping the area hydrated, helping to visually boost contrast and vibrancy. A constantly dry tattoo will usually look dull and lifeless, so give it a bit of moisture once in a while.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.​ Click here to buy from Amazon.

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