How to Keep Tattoos Looking Fresh

  • Written By Dan Hunter on July 5, 2021
    Last Updated: July 6, 2021

Tattoos are supposed to last a lifetime. With this in mind, you should think about how you’re going to look after your new artwork. This comes in handy if you should ever need to add details to the ink. A properly looked after illustration should match the new details without making the design look forced.

Caring for your ink not only keeps the risk of infection at bay but also keeps your new piece looking its best. The first few days before the wound is fully healed are crucial.

Start With a Quality Tattoo

One of the best ways to ensure your tattoo is going to look the part for longer is to make sure you get it done at the best place possible. In these situations, preventative measures are better than trying to fix something later on. 

If you go to a backstreet tattoo artist, your risk of infection and complications increases, which affects your art’s appearance from the start. An infected wound affects how the ink heals into the skin, and the final illustration may end up looking like nothing that you and your artist envisioned.

Go to your chosen qualified, insured artist and get your designs right first. If you’re unsure of any allergies, ask your tattooist to do a patch test somewhere hidden. If you’re allergic to the ink, your art won’t look fresh. It’ll probably be sore, flaking, swollen and red—right out of the shop.

Follow Aftercare Instructions

You might be tempted to go against the advice of your tattoo artist for whatever reasons, but don’t. If it has dressings, resist the urge to rip them off and show off your ink until it’s safe to remove them. 

Scabs will form over the tattooed area—this is your body’s natural defense and you must leave them alone. Difficult as this might be when it gets itchy or feels rough, don’t pick the scabs. For one, you’re risking infection by reopening the wound.

This tattoo is scabbing quite heavily, so will probably peel away in larger flakes

You might also accidentally pick off the ink that hasn’t settled into your skin yet. Don’t compromise your tattoo with unsightly scarring before it’s even healed.

Rethink Your Placement

Tattoos on creases, skin folds, or heavily-used body parts like your fingers can fade faster. For example, if you have ink on your elbow, the inside is very likely to fade because of the wrinkles on the skin constantly moving. 

Again, if you get your tat done in a crease, it’ll heal differently from one on exposed skin, such as on the upper arm. This is because the ink won’t settle into the skin as well because it’s constantly being disturbed. 

The joints are the worst places to get your ink. There’s too much activity. It’s also very painful to get work done in these areas. The skin on joints is also rougher and harder, and that doesn’t make for good skin canvas.

Why Avoid Friction

Increased friction triggers the formation of new tougher cells to replace the damaged ones. This is how calluses are formed. When inked cells are rubbed too much, new uncolored cells will be formed and the tattoo will lose some of its hues.

The friction doesn’t have to be pronounced to affect your ink. Get your art done in the areas that won’t be exposed to too much movement. Fading will occur even if the friction is mild and caused by clothe motion. 

This type of friction is very slow, though. After a few years, however, it all adds up to reduce your tat’s vibrancy.

After the Ink

Right off the bat, you’ll not live to see the ink fade into invisibility. There are a couple of well-documented mummies, that are well over 1,000 years old, with their mods intact. 

What will happen if you don’t look after your tattoo is that it may end up looking blemished and aged—a long shot from the eye-catching art you left the tattoo shop with. Reclaiming the tat’s lost glory involves another painful do-over that’ll cost you a few extra bucks. 

To avoid this, begin the aftercare process with your tattooist-recommended ointments and moisturizers immediately the wound is ready for attention. That should be around the time the artist recommends you take off the dressing.

What to Do

After removing the dressing, wash the wound with antiseptic soap and warm, distilled water, and apply a recommended moisturizing lotion. This is to keep the area hydrated and stop it from drying and flaking over. Petroleum jelly is regularly suggested, but it’s neither necessary nor beneficial.

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.

Repeat this process every day for about seven days.

What Not to Do 

For the first two weeks after inking:

  • Avoid swimming or prolonged immersion in water (showers are ok)
  • Wear UV protective clothing
  • Avoid sunbeds or fake tan
  • Wear loose clothing to avoid irritating the wound
  • Keep your tattoo out of direct sunlight where possible

Avoiding the Fade

There are two main culprits behind post-healing fading:


The effects of sunlight on your ink are two-fold:

  • UV rays bleach colors
  • Sunburn

Sunlight hastens the disintegration of colors. This is why clothes fade when they’re exposed to the sun for too long. This is the same principle behind tattoo fading. Avoid overexposure to the sun or apply sunscreen on the tat every time you can’t.

Sunburn kills skin cells, triggering new ones to be produced. When a tattoo is sunburnt, some of the colored cells are replaced as the skin heals, reducing the illustration’s vibrancy.


Maintaining a fresh-looking tattoo begins with your choice of artist, with high-quality pieces lasting longer. You also have to take good care of the fresh wound to ensure that the ink heals into the skin in the desired manner. After the ink is healed, keep it from direct sunlight and it should keep its beauty for decades.

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