Why Is My Tattoo Not Holding Color?

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

Getting a tattoo is a significant investment, both in terms of time and money. That’s why it’s essential to understand what happens to tattoos as they age, including why some tattoos may not hold color. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why tattoos may not retain their color and what you can do to prevent this from happening.

The Science Behind Tattoo Color Retention

The pigments used in tattoos are usually made of iron oxide, titanium dioxide, or other metal salts. These pigments are inserted into the second layer of skin, called the dermis, using a tattoo machine. The color of the tattoo will appear bright and vibrant immediately after the tattoo is finished, but over time, the color may fade or change due to various factors, including sun exposure, skin aging, and the type of pigment used.

Why Tattoos May Not Hold Color

One of the most common reasons tattoos may not hold color is due to the type of pigment used. Certain pigments, such as those made of iron oxide, are more likely to fade or change color over time. Additionally, tattoos that contain lighter pigments, such as yellow or white, are more susceptible to fading as they are less resistant to fading than darker pigments.

Sun exposure is another common reason why tattoos may not hold color. The UV rays from the sun can break down the pigments in the tattoo, causing them to fade or change color. This is especially true for tattoos located on areas of the body that receive frequent sun exposure, such as the arms, legs, and chest.

Another factor that can contribute to color loss is the aging of the skin. As we age, our skin naturally becomes less elastic and more prone to damage. This can cause the tattoo to become blurred or fade, and it can also cause the tattoo to lose color.

How to Prevent Color Loss

Protecting your tattoo from color loss is an important part of maintaining its beauty and longevity. Here are some key steps you can take to prevent color loss in your tattoo:

Protect Your Tattoo from the Sun

Exposure to the sun is one of the main culprits of tattoo color loss. The UV rays in sunlight can cause the ink pigments in your tattoo to break down over time, leading to fading and loss of vibrancy. To protect your tattoo from the sun, you can take the following steps:

  1. Avoid direct sunlight on your tattoo: Try to keep your tattoo covered or shielded from the sun whenever possible. This is especially important during peak hours when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  2. Wear protective clothing: If you’re going to be spending time outside, consider wearing clothing that covers your tattoo. This can help to shield your tattoo from the sun’s rays and prevent color loss.
  3. Use sunscreen: If you can’t keep your tattoo covered, make sure to use a high SPF sunscreen on the tattooed area. Look for a sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and reapply every two hours or as needed.

Choose the Right Placement

The placement of your tattoo can also affect its longevity and susceptibility to color loss. Areas of the body that experience a lot of rubbing or friction, such as the hands or feet, are more likely to experience color loss over time. To minimize color loss, consider these placement tips:

  1. Avoid high-friction areas: Try to avoid placing your tattoo in areas of the body that are prone to rubbing or friction, such as the hands, feet, or underarms.
  2. Choose a protected location: Areas of the body that are naturally protected, such as the upper back or the chest, may be less susceptible to color loss over time.

Take Care of Your Skin

Proper skin care is also important for preventing color loss in your tattoo. Healthy, well-moisturized skin can help to maintain the vibrancy and longevity of your tattoo. Consider these skin care tips:

  1. Keep your skin well-moisturized: Moisturize your tattooed area regularly to prevent dryness, cracking, and color loss.
  2. Avoid harsh soaps and chemicals: Use gentle, fragrance-free soaps when washing your tattooed area to prevent irritation and color loss.
  3. Follow aftercare instructions: Follow the aftercare instructions provided by your tattoo artist to ensure proper healing and minimize the risk of infection, which can lead to color loss over time.

What to Do If Your Tattoo Has Lost Its Color

If you’ve noticed that your tattoo has lost its color over time, don’t worry – there are steps you can take to restore its vibrancy. Here are some tips on what to do if your tattoo has lost its color:

Consider a Touch-Up Session

If your tattoo has only lost a small amount of color, a touch-up session with your tattoo artist may be all that’s needed to restore its vibrancy. During a touch-up session, your artist can add fresh ink to the faded areas of your tattoo to bring back its original color.

Try Tattoo Brightening Products

There are a variety of tattoo brightening products on the market that can help to restore the color of your tattoo. These products work by exfoliating the skin and removing dead cells that may be masking the vibrancy of your tattoo. Look for products that are specifically designed for tattoos and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.

Try a Skin Brightening Treatment

Skin brightening treatments, such as chemical peels or microdermabrasion, can help to remove dead skin cells and improve the overall appearance of your skin. These treatments can also help to restore the color of your tattoo by removing any buildup that may be causing it to look dull or faded.

Protect Your Tattoo from Further Damage

To prevent further color loss in your tattoo, it’s important to protect it from the sun and other environmental factors. Avoid direct sunlight on your tattoo and wear protective clothing or sunscreen when spending time outdoors. Follow proper aftercare instructions to ensure that your tattoo heals properly and maintains its vibrancy over time.

In some cases, extensive color loss may be a sign of a deeper issue, such as an infection or an allergic reaction to the ink. If you have concerns about the health of your tattoo or the extent of its color loss, consult with your tattoo artist or a dermatologist for further evaluation and treatment options.

When to Seek Medical Attention

In some cases, color loss can be a sign of an underlying skin condition or infection. If you notice that your tattoo is not retaining its color, it’s essential to seek medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Itching or burning sensation
  • Redness or swelling
  • Discharge or pus
  • A feeling of tightness or hardness in the tattoo

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s essential to see a doctor as soon as possible, as you may need treatment to prevent the spread of infection or further skin damage.


While tattoos are a permanent form of art, it’s important to understand that they are not immune to the effects of time and environmental factors. By taking proper care of your tattoo and being mindful of potential issues, you can help keep your tattoo looking as vibrant and colorful as the day it was done.

When getting a tattoo, remember to choose a reputable and experienced tattoo artist, as well as to do your research before getting a tattoo to ensure that you understand what to expect as your tattoo ages. With the right care, your tattoo can be a beautiful and meaningful expression of who you are for a lifetime.

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