Why Does My Tattoo Look Blurry?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 6, 2020
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

You’ve had your enormous tattoo for two years, or maybe a little longer. At first, the tattoo held its color and shape, and it looked great. Now, it doesn’t look so great anymore. 

You don’t know why but lately the tattoo has started to fade in spots, while in other areas it just looks strange. It even looks like the tattoo has slightly moved.

Blurriness in tattoos is a common problem, and the source of the problem might not be your tattoo itself. The cause of your tattoo’s blurriness might originate in your environment, or it could also be the area of your body that you’ve chosen to have tattooed.


What Causes a Blurry Tattoo?

Now that you’ve had your tattoo for a little while, say a couple of years, you’re probably not quite the same person you were when you got the tattoo in the first place. Maybe you’ve moved to a different part of the country with a different climate. Maybe you’ve put on weight or had a child or two

Whether you’ve just gotten one tattoo, or you’ve taken the plunge after the first one and gotten several more, remember that even the most meticulously cared-for tattoo can blur or fade over time. Any of the following things can cause a blurry tattoo: 

Tattoo Placement 

A good tattooist will tell any client, but especially a novice client, that some areas of the human anatomy take a tattoo better than others. 

Tattoos on some regions of the human body don’t hold up well over time, mainly due to friction or constant exposure to the elements. You should know beforehand that tattoos in or around the following areas of the body are susceptible to fading:

  • All regions of the hands and feet
  • The shoulder blades
  • The interior of the mouth

If you’re tattooing a problematic area, just be prepared to deal with it.

One area on this short list is much more challenging than the others. Even so, just because tattoos in these areas are prone to fading doesn’t mean a qualified tattooist can’t work with these areas. 

If you’ve got your heart set on a nice palm tattoo, be aware that tattoos in this area are prone to fade, and be ready to take steps to mitigate it. Know that tattooing one of these areas is going to be more painful, and the aftercare is going to be more involved. 

Poor Or Inconsistent Aftercare 

 Like so many other tattoo problems (cracking, fading), the number one cause of long-term blurring in older tattoos is poor or inconsistent aftercare

You need to follow your tattooist’s aftercare instructions to the letter, and make sure to ask questions if there’s anything you’re not sure about. After you go home, take care to maintain your aftercare regimen consistently. 

Apply a tattoo lotion at regular intervals, and after the tattoo has completed the healing process, make a non-scented and non-oily moisturizing lotion, a regular part of your daily personal hygiene regimen. 

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan-friendly 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.

Early in the healing process, avoid exposure to direct sunlight, and avoid working out or any other physical activity that might cause you to sweat. It’s best to wear light, loose-fitting clothes.

Tattoos can become especially blurry over the years if they’re poorly looked after

Low-Quality Ink Or Needles

Your tattoo is just a localized skin wound that your body is working to heal. Using low-quality ink or needles that contain less pigment and more chemicals is likely to leave you with a faded tattoo a couple of years down the road. 

As your tattooist injects ink into your dermal layer, your body’s white blood cells spring into action and begin attacking the new pigmentation because it’s perceived as an intruder. Lower quality ink is going to have a more challenging time surviving an onslaught from your body’s immune system.

If you’re a first-timer, don’t be afraid to interrogate prospective tattooists about the inks and other materials they use. If they quote you a price that seems unreasonably cheap or just too good to be true, it’s a red flag that they’re using subpar materials. 

Specific Colors Are More Prone To Blurring And Fading

Brighter colors are inevitably going to stand a greater chance of blurring or fading as the years pass, although it’s not unheard of for darker colors to blur also. Make sure you talk with your tattooist about the chances of blurring and fading in the long term.

Tattoo Size

The smaller the tattoo, the more likely it’s going to look blurry as it ages. This is because when a detailed image is packed into such a small area, there’s much less room for error, and even very minor degradation or blurring is going to appear more prominent on a smaller tattoo.

Tattoo Blowout

In rare cases, a phenomenon called tattoo blowout can cause a tattoo to take a blurry appearance. A blowout occurs when ink isn’t inserted into the ink correctly; either it’s injected at the wrong angle or the wrong depth. This causes the ink to spread further afield, making the area look blurry or smudged.

Repairing A Blurry Tattoo

Unfortunately, there’s no way to fix a blurry tattoo without giving the tattoo a touch-up or cover-up. If you’re stuck with a tattoo that’s become stretched or blurry, most likely your only option will be to cover the old tattoo and start over. 

Preventing Tattoo Blurring

The good news is that you can avoid all of these problems by taking some time to think about the future. For example, while that massive stomach tattoo probably sounds like a killer idea at first, think about what were to happen if you were to gain or lose weight. If you’re a woman, do you plan to have children later on? 

If you’ve settled on a tattoo with a lot of fragile, vivid colors or you’ve chosen to tattoo an area of the body that you know is prone to fading, make sure that you’ve talked at length with your tattooist about the future implications for aftercare and possible touch-ups later down the line. 

Conclusion

Taking the time to do your research and ask your tattooist the right questions before the needles come out will help you avoid the embarrassment of a blurry tattoo a couple of years from now. By taking these simple precautions, you can have a tattoo that’s as long-lasting in depth and beauty as it is in permanence.