There's nothing more exciting than a new tattoo. There are so many things to know about the healing process when it comes to taking care of your ink right after you get it to keep it looking healthy and vibrant!
But what about a few years down the line when you start to notice your tattoo looks a little faded in need of a touch-up, then what? Tattoo fading is natural but there are things you can do to prevent it from ruining your art.
What Causes Tattoo Fading?
One of the best ways to help stop our tattoos from fading faster is to know what things cause it to happen in the first place. There are a number of reasons that your ink looks faded.
Exposure to the Sun
Prolonged exposure to the sun can be super harmful to the longevity of your tattoo. UV rays from the sun will penetrate the skin and essentially break down the pigments in the tattoo. Once those pigments are damaged, the tattoo will ultimately appear much lighter and less vibrant than it once did. Sun exposure without any protection like tattoo sunscreen will only make this process happen even faster.
Not Following Tattoo Aftercare Instructions
Taking care of your new tattoo is crucial to making sure that it stays happy and healthy over time — antibacterial soap to keep it clean, moisturizer or cream to keep it hydrated (stay away from ointment!), saving the tight clothing for when you’re healed, and fighting the urge to pick off scabs and succumb to scratching are all easy ways to help make sure your tattoo heals properly. Any damage like infections or ink pulling that happens in those first few weeks and months after new ink will make your tattoo more susceptible to fading over time. You don’t want your tattoo to look faded after a week. There are a lot of resources available to provide the best care instructions options for your tattoo, and some are confusing. Read our dermatologist reviewed guide to tattoo aftercare, your ink will thank you in 20 years.
Having an Amateur Tattoo
Quality ink and artistry will only benefit you and your tattoo in the long run. Low ink quality ink can affect the longevity of your tattoo, which can lead to faster fading. The FDA doesn’t regulate tattoo ink, so make sure your artist is reputable and delivers high quality ink. Review opinions from trusted sources on what should - and shouldn’t - be going into your body as your research ink.
If ink isn’t delivered deep enough into the skin, the odds of it fading out faster are a lot higher than if the tattoo is done properly by a professional. This is because tattoo ink is only permanent when placed in the dermis layer of the skin. The cells in the epidermis layer renew too quickly and would result in a tattoo that may only last a few weeks.
The dermis layer cells actually pass the ink particles on to new cells when they die, allowing a long lasting and permanent tattoo. While getting a low quality tattoo from your friend might be funny at the time, don’t be surprised if you can’t see it in 5 years. Long story short, always go to an experienced, professional tattoo artist.
Over-Cleansing or Exfoliating Your Skin
Scrubbing off layers of skin from your tattoo routinely will not keep it looking fresh and can make it fade faster. If you over cleanse, you are removing the protective layer of skin away too much which can cause a lot of irritation. Irritation can lead to more damaging effects to tattoos.
This is because when your skin is irritated or wounded, an immune response is often triggered, similar to what happens when you scrape your skin or get a small cut. Cells like macrophages and fibroblasts flood to the site to try and heal whatever is causing harm or irritation. As mentioned before, this causes a cell renewal rate that is too rapid and can potentially be the cause of a faded-looking tattoo.
We know how beautiful and meaningful tattoos can be, so it is key to keep it gentle when cleansing or exfoliating the tattoo area.
Friction on the Tattoo Over Time
Just as we previously mentioned, irritation makes tattoos change more and much faster. Friction is when there is too much rubbing from clothing, rough surfaces, and harsh products. It’s like rubbing off the layer of skin that is protecting your tattoo.
While there is not much to do about this reason, it is important to note because it is a key contributor to tattoo fading. Aging skin changes properties and can lose some elasticity, which can cause the ink in your skin to change and fade. This is why it is especially important to use tattoo care products that will help the longevity of your ink while keeping the sensitive skin around it happy and healthy. Keep reading to discover exactly how aftercare affects your tattoo.
How Long After Getting My Tattoo Will it Fade?
Right after your tattoo session, it will look really bright and vibrant. After a few days, these effects might start to dim a bit because your skin has started to get used to the ink. It will still look great as long as you take care of it and let it heal properly.
Your tattoo will naturally fade over time. For some people, it can take only a couple of years for them to start to notice that the ink doesn’t look as strong anymore. For others, tattoo fading won’t be noticeable for decades.
If you plan on getting tattoos when you’re young, early 20s-30s, you might not see faded tattoos until you’re well into your 50s! Proper care and upkeep of your ink can help slow this process down pretty significantly, but we aren’t going to lie and say your tattoo will never fade. It is completely natural and normal to see this over time. As for how quickly tattoos fade, there are some factors that can make it worse for some.
Black & Grey vs Color Tattoos
Black and grey tattoos tend to last a bit longer than color. They will look more vibrant for a longer amount of time. This is especially true if the color tattoo is light or watercolor. White ink will fade the fastest. While black & grey might look less faded over time, again all tattoos will most likely fade at least a little at some point.
How to Prevent Your Tattoos from Fading Faster
We all want to know how to keep tattoos from fading. These 6 suggestions are all things that you can use in your day-to-day routine to prevent faster tattoo fading.
1. Take Care of Your Tattoo When it’s New
A properly healed tattoo is the easiest to maintain. There are a lot of stages to tattoo healing and it takes dedication and patience. But if the tattoo is not properly cared for and healed, the odds that it is going to change and fade much faster are high.
And why not create a great aftercare routine right from the get go? Taking care of your ink from the beginning will ensure healthy habits and longevity.
2. Think About Tattoo Placement
When it comes to choosing the perfect placement of your tattoo, consider areas of your parts of the body that experience the least friction. For example, tattoos on body parts like your palms feet will likely experience way more more friction, than say, a tattoo on the back of your neck. Shoes and socks can potentially cause fading over time, since your feet may constantly have something rubbing against them. Think back to the section on irritation, and how it can cause premature tattoo fading. No, thanks! Think about how often your tattoo will experience friction over time, whether it’s skin-to-skin contact or skin-to-material contact, like the sock example.
3. Wear Protective Clothing and Products Outside
We aren’t the first people to tell you that protecting your skin from the sun direct sunlight is really important for the health and youth of it. But we want to emphasize that the sun really does damage your tattoos at all stages of its life, from the healing stage to 30 years later. Wearing sunscreen at the very least, if you can keep it covered with loose closets or some form of covering that would be ideal. That can be a big challenge so do your best to always reapply sunscreen as much as you can! A tattoo-friendly, daily mineral-based SPF made with clean ingredients can truly add years to your tattoo’s vibrance.
4. Avoid Smoking (or Just Don’t Do it At All)
Smoking is bad for you. This is not news. But smoking can make your tattoo look really faded and dead as well! Smoking reduces the collagen production in the body - which is what makes the skin more elastic. If your skin elasticity is reduced, your ink has high chances of bleeding out.
5. Moisturize Your Skin Regularly
Hydrated skin has a better chance of staying regular and less irritated. When your skin is well hydrated (and happy) it will look much fresher and less dry and cracked. Using balms and lotions that are unscented and organic and help ensure you aren’t using harsh chemicals that actually dry the skin out.
6. Stay Hydrated & Healthy
Skin health can be affected by a lot of things - which can impact the appearance of your tattoo over time. Drinking water every day is a great place to start when it comes to skin health. Plus it’s just great for your overall health. Exercising and having a balanced diet sounds elementary to say but it really does make a difference in keeping your skin looking and feeling good!