Getting a new tattoo is always exciting, especially if it’s a color tattoo. It looks great on you, and you can carry your message on your skin with pride. But tattoos fade over time, and your amazing tattoo will eventually be reduced to nothing but dull, indecipherable etching.
So, it’s not surprising to wonder how to keep tattoos vibrant, and how can you do it without much hassle?
To keep your tattoos vibrant, you need to pick a good artist, avoid watercolors, and prioritize black, gray, and red ink over others. Pay great attention to aftercare. After it’s healed, keep yourself clean, hydrated, and avoid the sun. Try shaving, exfoliating, tattoo brightening lotions, and use 30+ SPF sunblock.
Understanding what makes a tattoo fade faster before you get tattooed is the key. Being completely informed before you jump in can save you from touch-ups and color rejuvenation sessions for years.
All tattoos will fade, but this article will tell you how to keep them bright for years before it happens.
What Causes a Tattoo to Fade?
You can expect tattoos to stay in good condition for about 5 years. After that, tattoos will gradually fade and become illegible. It won’t go away completely, but the tattoo will be too blurry or faded.
Even in those five years, you’ll notice your tattoo slowly losing its luster. If you have a color tattoo, it’ll fade faster. So, what are the reasons that cause your tattoos to fade?
I’ll cite the most common reasons for tattoo fading here.
- Unskilled artist
- Sun exposure
- Ignoring aftercare
- Skin type and condition
- Over exfoliation
- Tattoos on thicker skin
- Color choice
An unskilled artist is the biggest reason for your tattoos to fade, and not look bright in the first place. If an artist isn’t deft enough to inject the ink into your skin well enough, the pigments will fail to hold. Also, botched lining, and damaging the skin unnecessarily will cause the tattooed skin to heal slower and badly. You’ll end up with a tattoo that might look okay in the short term, but will lose all vibrancy and detail within months, if not weeks.
Additional Read: How to become a tattoo artist
Aging is an inevitable cause of tattoo fading. As the skin cells die and regenerate, your tattooed skin slowly sheds off the pigmented skin. Over time, the pigments will lose their properties or get absorbed. So, no matter what, your skin won’t hold a tattoo forever.
Exposing your tattoo to the sun can cause it to fade faster. Tattoo ink is held in your dermis, the second layer of your skin. The sun’s UVA rays can penetrate up to this layer and cause the ink to break down.
If this happens, the white blood cells will flag the ink pigments as foreign bodies and carry them away. The UVB rays released by the sun cause sunburns, which achieve the same results much faster by damaging your dermis layer. Extensive damage will cause the ink to leak out or be destroyed.
Not following aftercare instructions can lead to early tattoo fading, and worse. Tattoos will take time to heal after the procedure. Not taking proper care will delay the healing, and cause scarring, infections, and scabbing. Health risks aside, all of these will cause your tattoo to not hold, become warped or lose vibrance.
Skin Type and Condition
Your skin type and condition matter greatly when it comes to tattoo fading. In the aftercare stage, your skin can heal slower, exposing you to risks longer than others. Also, lighter skin tones will absorb light easier, so tattoos will fade faster on these skin types due to sun exposure.
If you don’t keep your tattooed skin clean, then it will fade faster. Unclean skin has a greater chance of forming infections, allergic reactions, and other issues than can warp the skin or attack the pigments. Oily skin will naturally exfoliate faster and cause your skin to shed tattoo ink pigments.
Exfoliating can be good for your tattoos, as it gets rid of dirt, grime, and dead cells from your epidermis layer. But over-exfoliation can damage your skin and breach the epidermis. It can throw off your natural chemical balance and damage your skin’s ability to hold moisture. All of these can damage your tattoo’s integrity and cause it to fade.
Rubbing against clothing, movement, or friction against surfaces will cause a tattoo to fade faster. Friction causes stress on your epidermis layer, and it affects the tattoo ink. Daily and frequent friction will slowly affect your tattoo and cause it to fade faster.
Smoking isn’t good for your tattoos. Smoking increases collagen production in your body, which increases skin elasticity. Increased elasticity will cause your tattooed skin to sag. The result would be a stretched tattoo, reducing the integrity of your tattoo.
Tattoos on a Thicker Skin
Thicker skin such as the soles of your feet and palms can be hard to pierce through. The ink may not reach the dermis layer properly. If the ink is stuck in the epidermis or outermost layer, it will fade aggressively in response to aging, friction, and sun exposure.
The colors used on your tattoos impact their vibrance and lifetime greatly. Watercolor, for example, is very popular nowadays. But it fades very fast and will require multiple touch-ups. The colors you choose for your tattoo will also decide how fast it will lose its brightness.
I’ve listed the colors that are used in tattoos here, ranked in order of fading.
White ink is in vogue right now for its delicate and subtle appearance. However, it’s the fastest fading color, only staying longer on pale skin. UV fades nearly just as fast, and it also looks like scarring without UV lighting.
Yellow fades very fast and is ill-suited for darker skin types. Orange has a similar fading rate and can look muddy over time. Green fades just as fast, and lighter shades seem invisible over time.
The lighter the shade of purple, the faster it will fade. The same holds true for blue. But blue lasts much longer than most colors if you’re using a deep shade.
Red, black, and gray all have similar fading rates. These are the most durable ink colors across all skin types.
Now that you’re aware of the causes of fading, how do you keep your tattoos safe? Well, it starts at the very beginning.
How to Keep Tattoos Vibrant with Minimal Effort?
If you don’t want to deal with expensive and painful tattoo cover-ups or color rejuvenation sessions, you have to plan accordingly. Keeping your tattoos vibrant begins when you think of getting a tattoo.
Preparing and planning can keep your tattoos vibrant. Here are some things you can do before you get to help its vibrance.
- Finding a great artist. They can make sure that your tattoo turns out great with minimal trauma to your skin. They can also provide great aftercare advice that can help you maintain your vibrancy better.
- Use black, grey, red, and deep shades of purple and blue. Avoid using white, UV, yellow, orange, and green tattoo ink. Especially if you don’t have very pale skin.
- Avoid the use of watercolor inks in your tattoo.
- Do not get tattooed in places where your skin is thick.
- Get your tattoo on collarbones, shoulder blades, inner arms, or calves.
- Don’t drink alcohol before getting tattooed.
Once you’ve gotten tattooed, follow aftercare instructions to the t. Don’t skip out on moisturizing and keep your tattooed skin clean. Focus on the healing process so that the tattoo comes out looking as impeccable and vibrant as possible.
If you’ve already gotten a tattoo, and want to keep it vibrant, you can maintain it routinely. It isn’t much of a hassle and mostly revolves around basic hygiene and skincare. Here are the things you can do to keep your tattoo vibrant for as long as possible.
- Keep your skin clean. Wash the tattooed skin with soap. Don’t vigorously rub the tattooed skin. Gently wipe or dab the water off.
- Hydrate yourself. Maintain your electrolyte balance and drink a healthy amount of water every day. Water does wonders for your skin.
- Moisturize your tattooed skin. Any over-the-counter lotion will work. You don’t need any specialty tattoo lotion, but using coconut, grape-seed, tea tree, and vitamin E oil can help.
- Don’t wear tight clothing, or clothes that rub against the tattoo. Try to keep the tattooed skin as bare as you can. Go for loose and soft clothing.
- Stay out of the sun as much as possible. Use SPF 30 or above sunscreen when you have to go out in the sun.
- Don’t smoke.
- Exfoliate your tattooed skin. You can use an exfoliating mask or a machine. Don’t overdo it, once every two weeks is just fine. If you have oily skin, then don’t exfoliate more than once a month.
- Shave the body hair on your tattoo. Removing the dead skin and hair will let your tattoo shine through.
- Use tattoo brightening balms or lotions.
Following these steps can help you keep your tattoos vibrant for years to come. You might have to get your tattoo touched up a little if you’ve used lighter colors. But the touch-ups will be minimal.
Everyone wants to know how to keep tattoos vibrant without hassle. The key is to plan, know what’s problematic, and avoid them. Caring for your tattoos will make them look brand new even after six years.
All you have to do is put in a little effort each day, and over time it’ll have a compound effect far greater than touch-ups.