Why Has My Tattoo Become Discolored?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on March 02, 2023
    Last Updated: April 7, 2023

Tattoos nearly always look glowing and fabulous shortly after they’ve been made, but over time, they can become discolored and lose their original vibrancy and color intensity.

Understanding the causes of tattoo discoloration can help you prevent and treat it, ensuring that your tattoo looks as vibrant as the day it was done.

Causes of Tattoo Discoloration

Sun Exposure

Tattoo pigments can fade and discolor when exposed to the sun for extended periods of time. UV rays can break down the chemical structure of the ink, causing it to lose its vibrancy and color intensity.

To avoid sun-related tattoo discoloration, it is recommended to protect your tattoo by applying a sunblock with a high SPF, wearing protective clothing, or avoiding direct sun exposure when possible.

Touch-Ups and Overworking

Tattoo touch-ups and overworking can also cause discoloration in tattoos. Touch-ups are performed when the original tattoo has faded or the ink has become blurred over time.

However, if the artist uses a different ink or the touch-up is done too soon, it can cause discoloration. Overworking is when the artist adds too much ink to the same area of skin, which can cause the ink to mix and blur, resulting in discoloration.

Ink Quality

Ink quality can also impact the appearance of tattoos. Low-quality ink can cause discoloration, fading, and blurred lines. To avoid this, it is important to only use inks that are safe, sterile, and of high quality. It is also recommended to research the brand of ink being used and to choose an experienced and reputable artist.

Touching the Tattoo with Dirty Hands

Tattoos can also become discolored if they are touched with dirty hands, as bacteria and germs can infect the area and cause damage. It’s important to keep the tattoo clean and avoid contact with dirty surfaces. Wash your hands before touching the tattoo and cover it with a bandage if necessary to keep it protected.

Exposure to Harsh Chemicals

Harsh chemicals, such as chlorine and other substances found in swimming pools, hot tubs, and other bodies of water, can cause the ink to fade and lead to discoloration. It’s important to protect the tattoo by covering it up or avoiding exposure to these chemicals.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes, such as pregnancy or menopause, can cause changes in the skin that can result in discoloration of tattoos. Tattoos in areas that are more prone to stretching, such as the stomach or breasts, may be more susceptible to discoloration in these cases.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions, such as autoimmune diseases or skin conditions, can cause discoloration of tattoos. It’s important to inform your tattoo artist of any medical conditions you have and to consult with a healthcare professional to determine if getting a tattoo is safe for you.

Laser Treatments

Laser treatments, such as laser hair removal or laser tattoo removal, can cause discoloration of tattoos if not performed properly. It’s important to choose a qualified and experienced practitioner to minimize the risk of discoloration.

Natural Aging

As we age, the skin naturally loses elasticity and firmness, which can cause tattoos to stretch and fade. This can lead to discoloration over time, especially if the tattoo was not placed in an optimal location on the body.

Preventing Tattoo Discoloration

Protecting from Sun Exposure

To prevent tattoo discoloration caused by sun exposure, it is important to protect your tattoo by applying a sunblock with a high SPF, wearing protective clothing, or avoiding direct sun exposure when possible. 

Additionally, it is recommended to reapply sunblock every two hours and avoid excessive sun exposure, especially during peak hours of the day.

Proper Aftercare

Following correct tattoo aftercare procedures is crucial in preventing tattoo discoloration. Proper aftercare includes keeping the tattoo clean, moisturized, and protected from environmental factors.

It is recommended to wash the tattoo with a mild soap and water and to apply a light, fragrance-free lotion to keep the skin moisturized. It is also important to avoid exposure to direct sunlight, soaking the tattoo in water, or using products that contain alcohol, as these can cause irritation and discoloration.

Additionally, avoiding picking at the scabs or peeling skin during the healing process is crucial in preventing tattoo discoloration. Scabs form over the tattoo as it heals, and pulling them off prematurely can pull ink away from the area, potentially leaving pits and colorless spots in the skin.

Choosing a Reputable Artist

Choosing a reputable artist is crucial for the longevity and appearance of your tattoo. A reputable artist will use high-quality ink and have proper equipment and techniques to ensure that the tattoo will look vibrant for years to come.

It is important to research the artist’s portfolio and reputation, and to make sure that they follow proper hygiene and aftercare procedures to avoid the risk of infection and discoloration.

Tattoo Discoloration Treatment Options

Touching Up or Correcting a Discolored Tattoo

Touching up or correcting a discolored tattoo involves having the original tattoo reworked by a tattoo artist. The artist will use the same or similar ink to fill in any areas of discoloration or fading.

This process can help restore the vibrancy and color intensity of the tattoo. It is important to choose a reputable artist and to wait until the original tattoo has fully healed before undergoing a touch-up or correction.

Laser Tattoo Removal

Laser tattoo removal is a treatment option for discoloration caused by tattoos that are no longer wanted or have become significantly discolored. The laser breaks down the ink into smaller particles, which are then naturally absorbed by the body.

Multiple sessions may be required to fully remove the tattoo, and the process can cause some discomfort and possible side effects such as blistering and discoloration. It is important to choose a reputable laser tattoo removal clinic and to have a consultation with a trained professional before undergoing treatment.


Tattoo discoloration is a common issue, but it can be prevented and treated with proper care and attention. Protecting your tattoo from sun exposure, properly caring for it during the healing process, and choosing a reputable artist can help ensure that your tattoo remains vibrant and true to its original color.

If discoloration occurs, there are options such as touch-ups or laser removal that can help restore the appearance of your tattoo. Whether you are considering getting a tattoo or already have one, it is important to be informed about the potential causes of discoloration and how to prevent it.

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