Everything You Need To Know About Tattoo Touch Ups

Flower Wrist Tattoo @melikegunes.ink

Are you feeling a little bit embarrassed about the state of one of your tattoos?

Perhaps you got it a decade ago and the colors have faded and the lines aren’t as defined anymore. You don’t have to get a whole new tattoo to cover it up, and you don’t need to get laser tattoo removal, either. Instead, you can do a tattoo refresh. 

What Is A Tattoo Refresh? 

The intenseness of the colors, the crisp lines, and the tiny details are what separates a great tattoo from a tattoo that looks like it wasn’t done by a professional. However, even the most well-done tattoos fade after a few years. 

Statue Hand Tattoo @jo_ink__

You don’t have to just accept a faded tattoo. A refresh basically means getting tattooed over your initial inking. Doing this can change small imperfections in your design to make it look as good as new. 

“Unlike getting a new tattoo, a touch up usually involves adding small details or a bit of color to the existing ink. They’re typically quick jobs that don’t require you to spend much time under the tattoo gun,”

Authority Tattoo

This process isn’t only for older, faded tattoos. Tattoo touch ups are also done after a new tattoo has healed and didn’t come out exactly as desired.  

Small Crescent Moon Ankle Tattoo @tattooist_moonsun

When Should You Touch Up Your Tattoo?

For a new tattoo, you have to wait until your ink is completely healed. You can tell when your tattoo is fully healed when there are no scabs, and the texture of your skin under your tattoo is the same as the skin surrounding it. This can take around two to six months. 

“Your tattoo can be retouched only when it is fully healed. In case of an infection or injury, you might have to wait for more than 12 months so that the skin can fully regenerate and the body can restore the immune system,”

Saved Tattoo
“We” Micro Matching Tattoos @wildgardenstudio

Fever and chills, fluid oozing from the tattoo, prolonged swollenness, and redness that doesn’t go away are all signs that your tattoo isn’t healing properly and could be infected. In this case, visit your doctor. 

For older tattoo touch ups, you can choose when you want a refresh. When it comes to getting a tattoo touch up due to fading, a lot depends on how you take care of your tattoo.

Protecting your ink from the sun is a sure fire way to push back the date of your tattoo refresh. The sun’s UVA and UVB rays cause major damage to tattoos. 

Word Forearm Tattoo @ddingdong_tat2

“UV rays from the sun are absorbed and break up the pigment particles in your tattoo. These are passed into your blood stream. Laser tattoo removal is basically a hyper strong/fast version of this. Sunblock can keep your tattoos looking newer over time if you regularly expose your skin to lots of direct sunlight,”


The color of your tattoo also makes a difference to your tattoo refresh. White ink tattoos fade the fastest, so you would need to get that touched up sooner than a black ink tattoo. The lighter and brighter the color, the quicker it will fade. 

White Ink Flower Bicep Tattoo @ezra_gilberg

How Much Does A Tattoo Refresh Cost? 

This depends on the tattoo artist. If the touch up is for a recent tattoo and you go to the same tattooist, it may be free of charge. However, this grace period obviously expires after six months to a year or you change to a different tattoo artist.

“If time has passed, they may charge their usual hourly rate or a reduced fee since they originally inked you. If you go to a new artist for a touch-up, expect to pay the typical hourly rate or a set fee for the work if it’s a small job,”

Mountains And Ocean Waves Ditch Tattoos @ton_tatt8

How Long Does A Refreshed Tattoo Take To Heal? 

Touch ups usually heal a lot quicker than a full tattoo. This is because during a refresh, only a few details need to be redone. However, if you’re choosing saturated colors over a large area, this can extend the healing time. The more ink used in your design touch up, the longer the healing process will be. 

According to Lucky Devil Tattoo Co. the healing time for tattoo touch-ups is two to four weeks.

“Since every skin is different, the healing time varies from one client to another. The healing time is also affected by your tattoo size and design – the smaller and simpler the tattoo, the faster the healing.”

Dagger And Flower Tattoo @claritycreature

Does A Tattoo Refresh Hurt?

When it comes to tattoo pain, there are a lot of factors to consider. First of all, tattoo placement. If your tattoo is on an area with thin skin, without a lot of fat or muscle, and close to the bone, on average it will hurt more. This is because there is less to cushion the blow of the needle.

Secondly, if you’re well prepared for your appointment, slept well the night before and eat a good meal beforehand, the experience will probably be more pleasant. 

Watercolor Flower Collarbone Tattoo @flowerdal_rim

But, thinking that a touch up is a lighter prick of the needle is false – if your initial tattoo was painful, most likely the touch up will hurt, too. 

With that being said, a touch up isn’t the same as getting a full tattoo as the process of a touch up is way shorter. So, the tattoo pain won’t build up. 

Crescent Moon Back Tattoo @bymosler

Tattoo ink is a foreign substance in your body, so your body does break it down naturally. While your tattoo will last, it won’t last in its fresh, original state.

However, you do have some control over the length of time between getting your tattoo and when a touch up is needed. The better you look after your ink, the further that refresh date can be pushed back.

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