Do All Tattoos Fade?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on June 04, 2023
    Last Updated: June 5, 2023

All tattoos fade at one point or another. However, tattoos will fade at different rates depending on several factors, including include sunlight, ink quality, body placement and aftercare habits.

Just as you will age over time, your skin and everything within it will also change – including your cherished tattoo.

All is not lost, however. By listening to our advice, you’ll be much better prepared to combat the evils of time and keep your tattoo looking clearer and crisper for as long as possible.

What Factors Fade My Tattoo?

The good news is that not all tattoos deteriorate in the same way or at the same speed. How you treat your tattoo will affect its longevity. It’s important to realize that your habits now will affect the quality of your tattoo years down the line.

Poor Aftercare

How you treat your artwork in the days and weeks following your tattoo appointment will affect how it looks once it’s fully healed.

Follow proper tattoo aftercare with these steps:

  1. Keep the wrap applied for as long as your tattoo artist advises
  2. Gently clean the area with unscented soap and lukewarm water two to three times daily
  3. Let the tattoo air dry to avoid towel fabric and bacteria getting stuck in the open wound
  4. Keep the area moisturized and uncovered to speed up healing

Your new tattoo is an open wound and will produce scabs as it heals. Pulling scabs away instead of letting them fall off when they’re ready is a common reason for fading and discoloring. It’s important to leave things to happen naturally during the healing process to minimize problems further down the line.

Sun Exposure

Exposure to the sun can fade tattoos because the ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight triggers a process called photodegradation. This process can break down the pigment particles that make up tattoo ink, causing them to fade or change color. The UV rays penetrate the skin and reach the tattoo ink particles, which are located in the dermis layer of the skin. The energy from these rays causes the ink particles to fragment into smaller pieces.

The body’s immune system then identifies these fragmented ink particles as foreign bodies and works to remove them. This causes the tattoo to appear lighter or faded over time. Consistent sun exposure speeds up this process, leading to quicker fading of the tattoo. Therefore, it’s recommended to protect tattoos from the sun by using sunscreen and wearing protective clothing where possible.

For tattoos that are still healing, applying sunscreen is discouraged and instead you should keep your tattoo out of direct sunlight until the area has completely finished scabbing and peeling.

The sun can do a lot of damage to your tattoo over the years

Sunburn is especially damaging to your skin. Sunburnt skin will inflame and shed layers faster than non-burnt skin. This exposes your tattoo to the elements more because there will be less epidermis to keep it protected.

Tattoo Technique

The quality of a tattoo is, in large part, the artist’s responsibility. Tattoo artists deposit ink below the top layer of your skin — the epidermis — into the second layer — the dermis. The cells of your dermis hold the ink in place permanently. 

However, if you’ve selected an ill-trained artist or someone too inexperienced, they may not penetrate deep enough into your skin. If a tattoo artist deposits the ink into the epidermis and not the dermis, your tattoo will fade quicker. Your epidermis cells will shed and regenerate much faster than those in the deeper layers, causing ink to dislodge over time.

Type of Ink

Here’s the deal about tattoo ink — there is nobody to regulate it. The components of tattoo ink are varied, and just like any product, there are some companies that make ethical, healthy, long-lasting products and others that do the exact opposite. A poor quality ink can break down prematurely and cause premature fading.

Color also makes a difference. Generally, lighter colors fade faster than darker colors, especially whites, yellows, greens and reds. Choosing rich, pigmented colors or sticking to black and gray is your best bet for a tattoo that lasts as long as possible without fading.

As you can see here, dark colors hold up much better than lighter ones

Placement on Your Body

If you’ve placed your tattoo somewhere where it’ll rub against clothing or other parts of your body, it’ll fade faster. Just like pants fade where your legs touch, your tattoo can deteriorate as a result of friction.

Between the fingers, inside the arm, or any place where your clothes constrict will be more prone to fading.

Natural Aging Process

The skin over your tattoo is what determines the quality over time. It’s like a screen protecting the image. Just like a window that isn’t properly cleaned and has scratches, the screen of your skin can obscure the tattoo.

As you age, the elasticity of your skin changes, meaning your tattoo will usually show signs of fading when your skin begins to change.

Moisturizing often and taking care of your skin can mitigate the problem. A good moisturizing lotion will help to lock in moisture and nutrients to keep the tattoo looking more vibrant for longer.

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.

Don’t worry, though – tattoos can still age great as you get older; they don’t all turn into unrecognizable blurry smudges, partly due to great advancements in tattoo inks in recent years.

General Health

Maintaining good overall health can significantly affect the longevity and vibrancy of your tattoo. Proper nutrition and hydration play a crucial role in skin health, directly impacting your tattoo. Eating a balanced diet rich in vitamins, particularly vitamins A, C, and E, helps promote skin rejuvenation and repair, maintaining the clarity of your tattoo. Hydrating adequately ensures skin elasticity and can prevent your tattoo from developing a faded or blurred appearance. Regular exercise also boosts your circulatory system, ensuring that your skin gets adequate nutrition for optimal function.

Importantly, avoiding excessive sun exposure, smoking, and drinking, all known to speed up skin aging and impair healing, can prevent premature fading and maintain the longevity of your tattoo. Therefore, good health habits are essential for tattoo maintenance.

Touch It Up

If time hasn’t been kind to your tattoo, all is not lost. Take your worn-out ink to a good tattoo artist who should be able to touch up the area and revitalize it back to possibly even better than it originally looked!

No Such Thing as an Ageless Tattoo

If you’re on the fence about getting a tattoo, checking out a gallery of faded and aged tattoos might be useful for testing your resolve. Tattoos will never look perfect forever, but then, nothing does. Going into your tattoo session knowing this will prevent disappointment afterward, but know that you can prevent your tattoo from fading.

Take care of your ink with proper aftercare, moisturized skin, reduced sun exposure and a quality artist, and it’ll last longer. Treat it poorly, and it’ll show.

Remember, time is on your side, and tattoos don’t fade to nothing overnight. As long as you’re careful and treat your skin right, your tattoo should look great for meany years to come.

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