Whether you are already inked or are thinking about getting a tattoo, tattoo longevity is definitely something you need to consider. While tattoos are permanent, their vibrancy and clarity are not.
There are many factors that impact how a tattoo will age and fade. Considerations such as placement, tattoo style, and how you look after your ink all play a role in what it will look like in five to 10 years.
Here is what you have got to know about tattoo longevity and what causes a tattoo to fade so that you can help your ink stay crystal clear for as long as possible:
What Is The Lifespan Of A Permanent Tattoo?
Permanent tattoos last forever! This is because, during the tattoo process, the ink is placed on the dermis layer of the skin where cells called macrophages are. These cells hold onto your tattoo ink and pass it on to future generations of cells, keeping the ink in place.
So, why do tattoos fade?
Rejection From The Body
Ink is still a foreign system, so your body works hard to break the ink down. Plus, your skin regenerates. As new skin cells replace old cells, some of the tattoo ink will get flushed out, too.
As we age, our skin also changes as elasticity and collagen decrease. This can impact how tattoos look and contribute to fading ink.
The sun also plays a huge role in the lifespan of a permanent tattoo. According to dermatologist, Dr Nicolas Kluger,
“Excessive sun exposure, either just after tattooing or chronic, repetitive and unprotected sun exposure of the tattoo during the life of the bearer,”
This is one of the main factors that can accelerate the aging process of a tattoo.
Tip: The world of temporary tattoos has grown so much over the decades. If you are unsure about the tattoo you want to get, take it for a test drive! Get a temporary tattoo so you can get a better understanding of how it looks and works in your desired placement.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to mitigate tattoo fading and hold off the effects of aging.
What Is The Best Tattoo Style For Longevity?
If you are still deciding what tattoo you want and longevity plays a factor in your decision, do not go too small and or highly detailed.
“Avoid small/micro tattoos and excessive small details, as they will anyway fade away and/or become blurry within years,”Stories and Ink
This is because less ink is used in this style of tattooing, which results in a short fading process. Also, when you do not leave space in between details, over time the elements can merge, creating a faded blob.
Due to their strong dark lines and minimal fine details, traditional American tattoos tend to age well.
Watercolor tattoos may look beautiful when you walk out of the tattoo studio, but this style is prone to fading.
“Because they don’t have as much ink in them as traditional tattoos, watercolor tattoos are not as durable and tend to fade over time,”Certified Tattoo Studios
How Do I Keep My Tattoo Looking New?
There are a few things you can do before and after you get inked to help prolong the life of your tattoo:
Choose A Professional Tattoo Artist
Getting tatted by an experienced artist can go a long way to helping your tattoo age well. If tattoo ink is not placed in the correct skin layer, your body can break down the particles quicker.
“…poor tattoo artists can insert ink too shallow into the skin, or not pack as much ink into the area as needed in order to maintain a solid color base,”Authority Tattoo
Also, choose a tattoo artist who specializes in the style of tattoo you want. They will be able to advise you on what design elements will work and what won’t, what would cause your tattoo to fade faster, and the best placement for your tat.
You are way more likely to walk out of the tattoo studio with a design you truly love.
Tattoo blowout (when ink spreads out from the initial point of placement) is also more likely to occur when getting tattooed by someone inexperienced.
Protect Your Ink From The Sun
The UVA and UVB rays of the sun are extremely damaging to tattoos as they speed up the ink breakdown process. To reduce the fading powers of the sun, cover up your ink when you go out and if your tattoo is exposed, always lather on the sunscreen.
However, only put on sunscreen after your tattoo has healed completely.
“The only products that should touch your tattoo [while it is healing] will be on the list of aftercare instructions provided by your tattoo artist — and are unlikely to include a sunscreen,”Refinery 29
Take The Right Aftercare Steps
Infections can seriously damage the look of your tattoo as it prolongs the healing process and can displace the ink. Lessen the chance of a new tattoo infection by looking after your fresh ink.
Your tattoo artist will leave you with a list of aftercare instructions to follow which will include washing and moisturizing your tattoo regularly.
You are also going to want to stay away from the gym and out of bodies of water during the healing process. Exercise equipment as well as lakes, the sea, pools, and hot tubs are full of bacteria that can wreak havoc on your open skin.
If you do suspect that you have a tattoo infection, go to a doctor immediately so that you can get antibiotics. The sooner you get treated, the less damage your tattoo will have to endure. However, you may need to get a touch up down the road.
Skin health is one of the keys to tattoo longevity. So, keep moisturizing even after your tattoo has healed! The more you look after your skin, the better your tattoo will look and age. Moisturizing helps your skin maintain its elasticity which mitigates the effects of aging.
“If your tattoo is looking dull or dry, it could benefit from moisturizing…if your art is on a different part of your body that you don’t regularly moisturize, it’s worth looking closely to see if it’s suffering. Incorporating that step into your skincare routine will help keep your ink vibrant and bright,”Byrdie
You may also want to use some anti aging skin care products on your tattoo, as dermatologist Edgar Fincher, told Allure that retinol can be an effective weapon against tattoo fading.
“These products help remove damaged portions of the skin, can build new collagen, and also remove unwanted pigmentation from the skin. Daily use of these products can keep the skin looking bright, sharp, and reflective — including the tattoo underneath.”
Where Do Tattoos Fade The Most?
Placement does play a huge role in how your tattoo will age. Here are a few areas of the body to avoid if tattoo longevity is important to you:
High Movement Areas
This includes the hands, fingers, elbows, and knees. These areas move a lot, and so can stretch the skin and tattoo ink, speeding up the fading process.
- Hand and Finger Tattoos: 6 Essential Facts You Need to Know
- Think Before You Ink: What You Need To Know About Elbow Tattoos
- Knee Tattoos 101: What You Need to Know Before You Get Inked
Areas of the body that are exposed to the sun often will fade faster as they are almost constantly getting bombarded by those damaging UVA and UVB rays.
High Friction Areas
Think about the places of the body that rub against each other or your clothes. The hip and stomach area rubbing against the waistband of your pants, the inner thighs, and the feet are all examples of high friction placements.
- Stomach Tattoos: What You Need To Know Before Getting Inked
- Hip Tattoos: What You Should Know And Tattoo Ideas
- Think Before You Ink: What You Need To Know About Foot Tattoos
Areas Prone To Weight Gain
The stomach may not be the ideal placement choice for a tattoo if you plan on getting pregnant,
“Even with constant moisturizing during this time, you can still face a warped or blown out tattoo as a result of the skin stretching,”Bustle
What Tattoo Colors Fade The Most?
Black and dark colors tend to stand the test of time, whereas lighter colors can fade at a quicker rate.
“All of the lighter and brighter colors such as pink, yellow, light green/blue etc will always fade faster than the darker colors…The darker and more bold the tattoo ink, typically means they will last longer. Lighter and brighter colors will usually require touching up over time to maintain that color the user is after,”Ink Nurse
This should not stop you from getting the colorful tattoo of your dreams! There are ways to prolong the vibrancy of your color tattoo.
How Do I Keep My Tattoo Bright?
If you are opting for a colorful tattoo, like a watercolor design, chances are you are going to want to keep those colors popping for as long as possible.
To reduce fading and keep your colorful tattoo as vibrant as possible for as long as possible, you can:
- Choose a placement that you can cover easily to protect it from the sun and in a non-friction zone. Some optimal placements include the forearm, bicep or upper arm, calf, or shoulder.
- Keep your tattoo out of the sun.
- Look after your tattoo while it heals to avoid infections.
- Exfoliate your tattoo to remove dead skin cells. Only exfoliate after your tattoo is completely healed and don’t overdo it! Twice a week is fine.
“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.”Mad Rabbit Tattoo
- Pay attention to your diet.
“Consuming antioxidants found in dark berries (blueberries, acai berries, goji berries, etc.) along with carotenoid-rich foods and betacarotene supplements can promote melanin production and help keep your tattoo looking dark/colorful (as applicable) and healthy for years.”Adrenaline Studios
All tattoos fade over time. While longevity is definitely a factor to pay attention to when deciding on a tattoo design and placement, it should not stop you from choosing body art you truly love.
Yes, placement and design do play a part in how your tattoo will fade, but there are other steps that are in your control, too.
Choosing a reputable tattoo artist who is well versed in your desired tattoo style, taking the right steps when it comes to the healing process, keeping your ink out of the sun, and looking after your skin and your health can go a long way in moving back the date of your tattoo touch up.