Why Do Tattoos Turn Green?

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

New tattoos have very sharp and vibrant colors. However, as the tattoo ages, the ink can appear to turn green. Some ink develops into a bluish-greenish hue after several years. 

People who are thinking of getting a tattoo might wonder if all ink turns green over time and if there is anything they can do to avoid this. 

Not all tattoos and inks turn green, and there are several preventative measures and fixes, too.


The Reasons That Tattoos Turn Green

Here is what you need to know about tattoos turning green over time. 

Which Inks Turn Green?

Not all inks turn green over time. The issue is usually limited to black and blue inks. Brightly-colored inks have other problems related to fading and loss of definition. However, turning green is not one of them. 

Black ink is the most likely to turn green. This change is related to the skin, the type of pigment used in modern black tattoo ink, and the factors such as exposure to the sun. 

How Long Does This Process Take?

Modern tattoo ink is better than ever. Many tattoo professionals will tell you that black and blue ink are the best options for longevity. 

Brighter inks will indeed fade more quickly, and they are especially prone to issues such as overexposure to the sun. 

The process of tattoos turning from black to green takes more than a few years. Though you may notice fading, the ink will not turn green for a decade or more.

And with recent advancements in tattoo inks, your tattoo is now more likely than ever to resist color changes.

What Exactly Happens When Ink Turns Green?

The black ink does not change color as it ages. Instead, it gets absorbed into the skin over time. There is less ink visible when this happens, and the ink that remains is less densely packed. 

The color change due to this process can depend on the pigments used to make the ink. In most cases, with black ink, the resulting hue is green or bluish. 

You might see someone with an older tattoo that is significantly faded and green. Your new tattoo might not look quite as bad as it ages. The reason is that inks used decades ago were lower in quality than today’s inks. As a result, the fading and “greening” won’t be as severe. 

Can You Do Anything to Stop the Green from Forming?

Tattoos of all colors respond negatively to UV rays. When you go outdoors for extended periods, you need to cover the tattoo with clothing or sunscreen rated SPF 30 or higher. SPF 50 sunscreen is an even better option. 

Proper aftercare, such as keeping the tattoo clean and protected from the sun, can help it remain sharper and retain its color for a longer time.

Can You Correct the Fading?

After 10 to 20 years, your tattoo will become less defined in general. Lines may blur, and the color may change. This loss of definition and quality will occur whether you protect your tattoo carefully or not. However, the green hue and blurry lines will take much longer to appear with proper care than without it. 

A tattoo artist can touch up a tattoo to some extent. When doing this repair work, they add ink to the ink that is already there from the original tattoo. Though this type of repair can help, it may not look the same as the original tattoo. 

Factors like the level of detail in the original, the type of ink, and the artist’s skill can all affect the outcome of such touch ups. 

Quality Matters

Quality is essential when it comes to tattoos. Better ink will last longer, and you will avoid it turning green. 

A better tattoo artist may charge more, but they will offer a better overall result that will look better and last longer. 

You want to approach your tattoo as an investment. How it looks in a decade or two will depend on the initial quality and how well you care for it over time. 

All black tattoos will turn green, but you can slow that process with both quality and care. 

Final Thoughts

Black ink can turn green as it ages. Though this is not an immediate concern because of the higher quality of modern ink, a green hue can appear after a decade or two. 

There is nothing you can do to avoid this process because it occurs naturally when the skin absorbs the ink. However, you can delay the process by properly caring for your tattoo. You may also be able to get some tattoos touched up when they start to fade to green. 

However, black ink keeps its definition for longer and does not fade or respond to poor care as quickly as other colored inks. It remains a popular option for simple tattoos, especially if you want to avoid touch-ups for a more extended period.