Micro Tattoos, Are They Worth the Hype? We Found Out So You Don’t Have To


Upper Chest Eye Tattoo with Ornate Patterns | selftattoo.com
Upper Chest Eye Tattoo with Ornate Patterns

Around five years ago, micro tattoos started making the rounds across international media and the net as a trend to look out for.

Ever since then, countless articles have been dedicated to tracing the relationship between the style and the likes of the rich and famous. This, in spite of acknowledgment to the artistry of the technique itself.

Micro Paper Airplane Arm Tattoos with a Trailing Line and the Word "Love" | selftattoo.com
Micro Paper Airplane Arm Tattoos with a Trailing Line and the Word “Love”

Regardless of the method, it is apparent that micro tattooing has entered the mainstream consciousness. To this day, its popularity has yet to show signs of fading.

Whole tattoo shops have made names for themselves out of tattooing such small designs.

Three Black Micro Control Symbol Tattoos Representing Forward/Rewind and Pause | selftattoo.com
Three Black Micro Control Symbol Tattoos Representing Forward/Rewind and Pause

However popular they might be, though, there doesn’t seem to be much concise information about micro tattoos out there.

That’s why we’ve decided to shed some light on the question: are micro tattoos worth the hype that surrounds them or just another absurd trend that’s destined to eventually die out?

Micro and Detailed Single Rose Tattoo on Sternum | selftattoo.com
Micro and Detailed Single Rose Tattoo on Sternum

What’s Special About Micro Tattoos?

This form of tattooing consists of designs that can go from the minimalistic to the intricate. Said designs are achieved with finer than usual single-needles and always confined to small areas of skin. This allows for greater attention to detail.

The work of tattoo artists such as Jefree Naderali, with his realistic style, are prime examples of just how precise micro tattoos can get.

Wrist Tattoo of a Detailed Compass Rose with Cardinal Direction Marks | selftattoo.com
Wrist Tattoo of a Detailed Compass Rose with Cardinal Direction Marks

You can also appreciate them for their practicality. Micro tattoos are perfect to be kept hidden in plain sight, and perhaps also perceived as less of a monumental step than a full sleeve for most beginners.

A middle ground of sorts wherein the hands of an expert, you can get complex designs without committing to a lot of space.

Micro Black and Grey Camera on Inner Ankle | selftattoo.com
Micro Black and Gray Camera on Inner Ankle

Nevertheless, do not be fooled by their size. Micro tattoos can take just as much time to finish as their bigger counterparts.

Single Needle Tattoos

As a byproduct of technological advancement in the tattoo industry, special equipment intended for micro tattooing is more available than ever.

When creating micro tattoos, a needle with a single tip, known as a one-round lighter (1RL) is usually the instrument of choice.

Close-Up of Multiple Tattoo Needles | selftattoo.com
Close-Up of Multiple Tattoo Needles

Because it is traditionally used for shading, it allows the artist to achieve greater detail. Moreover, single-needle tattoos don’t penetrate the skin as much as your average needle does.

This means they are more prone to change and become distorted over time, although this is also what gives them their delightful subtle appearance.

Consider this a reason to look for micro tattoo artists who also apply bold accent lines to their designs.

Aging: Micro Tattoos Worst Enemy

Tattoos are deposits of ink below the epidermis, the primary layer of the skin. When tattooing takes place, a needle (or several, depending on the style) pierces through the dermis.

Diagram Illustrating the Process of Tattooing | selftattoo.com
Diagram Illustrating the Process of Tattooing

Through this process, ink is deposited deeply enough so that it won’t be disposed of by your body’s natural process of shedding skin. Believe it or not, at any given hour, the average human sheds between 0.03 and 0.09g of skin.

You may say your immune system is constantly trying to fight off the ink as if it were an infection. Inevitably, ink will get absorbed and dispersed. This is what makes tattoo lines look thicker and faded over time.

Outside elements such as exposition to the sun doesn’t help much when trying to preserve tattoos either.

Upper Back Tattoo of a Bird in Flight | selftattoo.com
Upper Back Tattoo of a Bird in Flight

Where does this leave micro tattoos? Admittedly, at a disadvantage when compared to larger designs with bold lines. There has to be enough space between strokes.

Several Faded Finger Tattoos | selftattoo.com
Several Faded Finger Tattoos

Otherwise, as explained before, after a couple of decades the dark lines of a small tattoo will seemingly merge. Creating that dreaded stain-like appearance people fear so much when thinking about getting tattoos in the first place.

Forearm Tattoo Mirroring the Latte Art | selftattoo.com
Forearm Tattoo Mirroring the Latte Art

To put it bluntly, at best, micro tattoos will always require more touch-ups than your average traditional tattoo.

Worst-Case Scenario?

Upper Chest Red Lipstick Kiss Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Upper Chest Red Lipstick Kiss Tattoo

Generally, those opposed to micro tattooing tend to have a special qualms about the technique: its contested longevity.

After all and understandably so, considering the elevated rates of professional tattoo artists (a necessity when it comes to micro tattooing), people expect not only beautiful but long-lasting pieces.

Micro Sailboat Wrist Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Micro Sailboat Wrist Tattoo

While avoiding tattoo placement in body parts exposed to the sun or high friction will help preserve a piece, if color is in the mix, a tattoo will change more dramatically in the long run.

Simple Daisy Flower Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Simple Daisy Flower Tattoo

Some argue micro tattoos fade beyond recognition after some years. There’s no shortage of testimony online by people who swear their small tattoos promptly disappeared after a couple of months.

Hand Tattoo of Musical Notes Intertwined | selftattoo.com
Hand Tattoo of Musical Notes Intertwined

Most reported cases involve tattoos placed on feet or hands, where high friction happens. However, according to science, after going into the dermis, further than the uppermost layer of skin, a tattoo might fade but never truly disappear.

Micro Tattoo of a Rose with Stem and Leaves | selftattoo.com
Micro Tattoo of a Rose with Stem and Leaves

So, is it any wonder why this is such a popular style?

Admittedly so, the ability to trace complex designs in a reduced area seems like a great artistic feat on its own. Perhaps there’s also beauty in having a piece that you know is more delicate and prone to change over time.

Single Floral Finger Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Single Floral Finger Tattoo

Right now you might be wondering whether micro tattoos are worth it in the long run. As it stands today, micro tattooing is a style that can undoubtedly provide beautiful results.

However, just as the delicate appearance it projects, we can’t stress enough how this technique requires special care.

Side of Finger Black Moustache Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Side of Finger Black Moustache Tattoo

Either way, if you are willing to put extra work into maintaining your tattoo in optimal condition and seek the help of an experienced artist to create a design that better suits you; there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go for it.

Molecule Wrist Tattoo | selftattoo.com
Molecule Wrist Tattoo

A Recent Phenomenon?

Interestingly, and far from what renewed media attention may lead you to believe, single-needle tattoos (a popular micro tattooing technique) have been around for at least four decades.

The rise of the style mirrors that of the trajectory of Mark Mahoney’s career.

Geometric Tattoo with Shapes, Symbols and Roman Numerals | selftattoo.com
Geometric Tattoo with Shapes, Symbols and Roman Numerals

Adept to the black and gray style with the single-needle since the 80’s, Mahoney is considered a pioneer. A living testament to the unexpected length of the technique’s history.

He steadily gained recognition with his specialty: black and gray designs which resembled the appearance of a drawing made by hand.

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