What Do Tattoos Look Like On Old People?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 9, 2020
    Last Updated: November 10, 2020

Many people who get tattoos when they’re young are met with the “think of what it will look like when you’re older” argument from their parents. Although you may have shrugged off these arguments, you probably do wonder what your ink will look like in ten or twenty years — and beyond.

This guide explains what tattoos look like when you’re older and details the factors that influence tattoo aging (and how you can prevent it).


What Your Tattoos Will Look Like When You’re Old

Tattoos change with age for various reasons. This section first details what happens to tattoos as they age. The second section identifies the factors that influence tattoo aging and explains how you can address them to keep your ink looking youthful.

How Tattoos Change With Time

Although tattoo ink is technically “permanent,” it does fade with time. As your tattoo ages, you will notice that the colors become less vibrant. Lighter shades, like whites and pastels, are especially susceptible to fading. However, darker hues like blacks and greys will also gain a washed-out appearance with time.

This fading can cause lines that once looked clear-cut and well-defined to gain a fuzzy appearance. More intricate tattoos will lose their clarity. This is especially problematic with smaller tattoos, and it may become difficult to identify what they depict. Touch-ups from a skilled tattoo artist can help redefine lines and provide fresh clarity.

It’s not only tattoos that change with age. The underlying body changes, as well. As people get older, the metabolism slows down, leading to weight gain, especially in fat-prone areas like the abdomen. This can cause tattoos in these areas to stretch and gain a distorted appearance.

Additionally, the skin changes as it ages. Collagen gives skin its plumpness and elasticity. As people get older, collagen production slows. This results in first, fine lines, and later, deeper wrinkles and sagging. If a tattoo is on areas that develop lines, the tattoo’s appearance will change as well.

At the end of the day, though, what does it matter? Your tattoos will have been with you through the good times and the bad. They make you look interesting and show people glimpses of the spontaneousness and fun you’ve had at one point or another throughout your life.

Do you think older people care what their tattoos look like when they’re 80? No way. They’re more concerned about the things that are truly important at that point in life.

Do you think this guy cares how his tattoos have aged? Nope. Oh, and he still looks interesting and awesome.

Factors That Impact Tattoo Aging

Understanding the factors that impact tattoo aging allows you to take preventive steps to keep your tattoo looking fresh. Take fading, for example. To avoid this, opt for tattoos in darker hues that are less prone to fading.

Friction

You can also help prevent fading by avoiding placing tattoos in areas prone to a lot of friction, like your feet (which always have shoes and socks rubbing against them). The constant contact can further deteriorate color.

Sun Protection

Beyond this, sunscreen is essential. The ultraviolet rays of the sun break down the pigment in the tattoo ink. As you get older and the tattoo experiences more sun exposure, it will appear more faded. Always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 when you’re out in the sun. Ideally, stay in the shade when UV rays are strongest, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

My favorite and most recommended sunscreen for using on tattoos is EltaMD UV Sport Sunscreen Lotion.

This broad-spectrum sunscreen has all of the attributes required for not only protecting your tattoo amazingly well, but also for helping to keep it bright and vibrant. It’s suitably strong at SPF 50 and is water and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

Most importantly, EltaMD is extremely tattoo-friendly and doesn’t contain any fragrances, oils, or parabens.

Overall Skin Health 

You can also take steps to preserve your skin and keep it taut so that the underlying “canvas” for your tattoo becomes less susceptible to aging. Try to maintain a healthy weight to avoid the weight gain that can cause skin — and tattoos on the skin — to stretch. A healthy diet and regular exercise will help prevent excess pounds with age.

Regularly moisturizing your skin and your tattoo will also help to prevent both from succumbing to aging. Moisturizing prevents dryness and flakiness, keeping your tattoo’s colors looking vibrant. Combine daily moisturizing with weekly exfoliating. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells and reveals the more vibrant and youthful skin underneath.

Anti-Aging Defense

Finally, there are steps you can take to preserve your collagen as you age and prevent the wrinkles, fine lines, and sagging that can otherwise impact your tattoo’s appearance. If you smoke, quit now. Smoking negatively affects collagen synthesis and cellular turnover and is a primary cause of premature skin aging.

Sun damage is another culprit for skin aging and can cause fine lines, wrinkles, and sunspots. When you apply your SPF, you are not only keeping your tattoo’s colors from fading — you are also protecting the skin underneath.

The Final Word on Tattoo Aging

Tattoo aging is inevitable. You can help prevent it by taking the steps above and getting your ink done by a qualified, experienced, professional tattoo artist. A pro will use high-quality inks that are less susceptible to the impact of aging and time.

Still, expect your tattoo to change over time. That doesn’t mean it’s going to get “bad” with age, though some tattoos do age better than others. Taking preventative steps can help, but embracing the fact that your body (and your ink) will invariably change is a healthy perspective when it comes to your body art.