You know that feeling once your tattoo has healed and you can finally show it off to the world? Yeah, we love it too. But as time goes on, just like you, your tattoo ages. With age and exposure, your ink can start to look dull and blah.
If your tattoo has faded and you want to revive it, or if you're trying to prevent your tattoo from fading, try out these tips. This way, you’ll be ready to revive that old tattoo and learn how to make tattoos look new.
1. Set Yourself Up for Success
Some of us are comfortable enough to just walk into a shop and pick something off a sheet of flash in a tattoo shop. But many of us spend a good amount of time and mental energy dreaming up our first or next tattoo. It can be a big commitment financially and physically — something that’s well worth putting proper care into.
Everyone’s skin is different, so our tattoos lose vibrancy in different ways and over different periods, but some wear and tear will come with age. As our tattoo appointments approach, how we set ourselves up can really affect the long-term boldness of our ink.
How To Set Yourself Up for Success
When it comes to getting a tattoo with lasting vibrancy in mind, the devil is in the details, and a little preparation in advance can go a long way.
When it comes to healing a tattoo, the little things matter, so we want to do everything we can to limit anything standing in the way of proper healing. This means starting with a clean sleep environment. Before your appointment, clean your room, and change all your sheets, pillowcases, and other bedding.
Dirt, pet hair, and bacteria all accumulate as we spend hours sleeping in our beds each night. This might seem like small stuff, but in the critical first weeks, these physical irritants can all delay healing by disturbing scabs and peeling skin, potentially causing loss of vibrancy and color, leaving you with a prematurely faded piece.
Wear loose-fitting clothing to your appointment and stick with looser fits throughout the healing process. Tight clothes can make an uncomfortable process even more uncomfortable as well as encourage sweating — an environment that bacteria love to grow in.
You’ll also want to skip out on the pool, beach, and hot tub during these early days. Dryness, irritation, excess moisture, and chemical exposure can all affect the ultimate vibrancy of your tattoo.
How Long Should I Be Worried About This Stuff?
The most critical phase of the healing process lasts about two weeks to a month, depending on the size, amount of color, shading, detail, and location of your tattoo.
The good news is you’ll only need to be hyper-vigilant about these details during that period, so your dog doesn’t have to sleep in the other room forever. But definitely make sure you are fully healed before skipping out on these practices.
2. Exfoliate Your Tattoo
An exfoliator will remove the outermost layer of skin, which is all dead cells anyway. That just leaves new, healthy skin below. Don’t worry about scrubbing off any of your ink, it is deposited much much deeper into the skin than that surface layer.
What to Use
You can use a physical exfoliant which includes scrubs, terry cloths, brushes, mitts, loofahs, and other sponges. There are also chemical exfoliants that dissolve the dead skin cells rather than rubbing them away.
How Often Should You Exfoliate Your Tattoo?
You should apply an exfoliant about twice a week to ensure you get the most out of your products. Over-exfoliating your skin, any skin (not just the tattooed parts), can cause more harm than good. These issues include:
- Red and irritated skin
- Extra shiny skin
- Flaking and peeling
- Acne and inflammation
Make sure that your tattoo is completely healed before starting a regular exfoliating schedule. Check out our article on how to heal a tattoo for more information.
3. Use Moisturizer on Your Tattoo
While proper hydration of your tattoo is necessary right after you get a tattoo, it is still just as important to keep up with over time. Moisturized skin is more elastic and hydrated, which both help with the looks of your older tattoo.
What to Use
Choosing the right moisturizer or tattoo balm for your tattoos can be confusing because there are so many options and opinions on the subject. The best things to look for in your moisturizer are all in the ingredients list.
Avoid ingredients like:
- Metals such as Aluminum
- Long words with “- thanolamine” at the end
- Mineral oils, a byproduct of petroleum
- Synthetic fragrance
These all contribute to skin irritation, dryness, rash, and other uncomfortable skin conditions. Look for ingredients to find the best lotion to keep tattoos bright. These include ones that are all-natural and certified organic. Some beneficial contents to look for are:
- Shea and Cocoa Butter to heal and seal in moisture
- Glycerin to draw water from the air and bring it to the skin
- Vitamin C which brightens the skin
- Vitamin A provides moisture to support skin repair
Always do your own research into these products to find the best lotion to keep tattoos bright!
How Often Should You Moisturize Your Tattoo?
As a good rule of thumb for all skin, not just tattoos, you should use moisturizers or tattoo enhancers on your skin at least twice a day. Morning and night, but especially after you have showered or cleaned your skin because it is the most vulnerable once it's been stripped from cleansers.
Some areas of your body that see more wear and tear, like elbows, hands, knees, or anywhere that sees a lot of sunlight, should get a little more attention in terms of moisturizing. We would all rather have our tattoos looking vibrant instead of ashy. Your tattoos will stay vibrant for years to come, all you have to do is take a few minutes out of your day to moisturize.
4. Keep Your Skin Clean
Clean tattoos are happy tattoos. Keeping your tattoos clean is definitely needed right after you get a tattoo to avoid infections and bacteria which can ruin your ink. Once your tattoo is healed, you still have to keep up with your cleansing routine.
If you don’t keep your skin clean, the area can get a build-up of dead skin cells, dirt, oil, and sweat. Seems like no big deal, but these build-ups could give you infections (dermatitis), scaly skin, acne, and hyperpigmentation (dark spots).
Infections can occur on new tattoos, but if you aren’t properly cleansing, it can ruin your healed ones as well. Dark spots over your tattoos can distort the art and make it look really dull and old, even if it's not. Using the right cleanser can help revive tattoos and keep them fresh.
What to Use
Antibacterial soaps and cleansers for sensitive skin or are gentle on the skin are the best to use for your tattoos. These products usually avoid harsh sulfates, which actually dry out your skin. Always read the ingredients label to double-check!
How Often Should You Wash Your Tattoo?
Ideally, you should try to wash your skin about once a day. We know, we know… that isn’t always in the cards. As long as you are showering or cleansing your tattoo once every few days, you should be alright!
5. Always Use Sunscreen
Sun damage is one of the top causes of a dull-looking tattoo. There are both UVA and UVB rays that damage your skin. UVA penetration makes skin age and sag prematurely while also fading ink. UVB rays give you damage to the top layers of skin and cause sunburns and blisters, which can lead to infections. Once a tattoo has been sun damaged enough, there is not much you can do to revive it, so prevention is the key when it comes to the sun.
Remember, tanning beds are another source of UVA and UVB rays, so consider limiting your sun exposure. Avoid direct sunlight, especially UV rays, especially on healing tattoos and sensitive skin.
What to Use
Use a non-nano mineral sunscreen that is at least SPF 30! If your skin is on the fairer side, go with SPF 50 to make sure you have good coverage. Avoid sunscreens with a lot of additives and chemicals, and look for those with all-natural, moisturizing ingredients.
How Often Should You Apply Your Tattoo?
Easy answer. Anytime you will be exposing your skin to the sun, you should be wearing sunscreen. Try to put it on for about 20-30 minutes before going outside to allow the product to soak into the skin.
6. Prioritize Overall Health
Maybe one of the coolest parts of getting tattooed is having a living, breathing piece of art on our bodies for life. It changes its appearance as our bodies move and our skin stretches, as we catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, as we see it in sunlight or moonlight.
But to keep this living, breathing piece of art at its most vibrant, it's important to prioritize overall health.
How Can I Prioritize Overall Health?
This may seem like basic stuff, but proper diet and exercise affect our skin health, and a happy tattoo thrives in happy skin.
Carving out time to exercise and eat well can improve overall skin health, improving circulation, elasticity, collagen levels, and skin strength. Drinking plenty of water helps to keep our skin hydrated and moisturized, promoting a more healthy complexion and vibrant tattoo.
This may be obvious, but smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your overall health, skin health, and tattoos. Smoking constricts blood vessels and reduces blood circulation to the skin, making the skin appear duller.
It slows collagen production, which reduces skin elasticity — a potential factor in a tattoo that lacks its day-one luster. Like regular smokers who have stained fingers, smoke can also cause discoloration and yellowing of your tattoos.
7. Choose a Professional Tattoo Artist
Many of us have friends or know local artists in the area who might be getting their start in the craft of tattooing. Of course, every artist needs to start somewhere, but one of the best ways to ensure a tattoo that maintains its vibrancy in the long term is to seek out a professional and start the process with the best tattoo work possible.
Professional tattoo artists often spend several years in their apprenticeship. During this time, they learn how to properly apply tattoos to the skin so they appear vibrant while also causing minimal trauma to your skin.
They learn how to create designs that work on paper and look great on your skin, not just on day one but for the long haul. And they will also be educated in proper aftercare.
How Can I Find a Professional Tattoo Artist?
Tattoos are highly personal, and everyone’s taste is unique, but there are plenty of resources to help you find a professional that works in a style you love.
One of the best ways to find a professional is through a recommendation by a friend or family member. You could also bite the bullet and ask the person at the coffee shop whose tattoos you admire where they get their work done.
Otherwise, social media is a great option to discover new artists. Artists typically post the work they are proudest of or styles they are most interested in onto their profiles, so seek out artists you connect with before reaching out to collaborate on your new piece.
Make sure to check out reviews online to ensure you are working with someone reputable. Again, one of the best ways to combat fading and keep that fresh tattoo look is by starting with a professionally applied vibrant tattoo in the first place.
8. Touch-Ups and Cover-Ups
In extreme cases of damage and dullness, you can always get your tattoo retouched or even covered with a new design. Having fresh ink put over your tattoo can bring it back from the dead! Or you can see it as an opportunity to switch it up and add a completely new piece over the damaged area.
Make sure that if you do decide that your tattoo is too far gone to revive, you are consulting with a skilled tattoo artist with cover-up & touch-up experience. It’s important to note that not all artists will feel comfortable touching up other artists’ work, so make sure to hold onto contact information for any artists you’ve worked with in case you need a touch-up down the line!
Once you have gotten your new ink, always follow the proper aftercare instructions!
Bring Your Tattoos Back from the Dead and Make Them Look New
We know that sometimes the immediate care after a new tattoo is taken more seriously than once it has healed. But if you want to keep your tattoo looking vibrant and fresh, you have to make sure that your tattoo care is a lifelong routine. If you haven’t been, now is the perfect time to revive your tattoo and start a tattoo skincare schedule!