Whether spontaneous or well thought out, tattoos are always fun. They’re new, beautiful and exciting. But, what about when the dust settles, can tattoos fade?? There are always going to be plenty of naysayers, griping about the appearance down the road. Skin ages and changes, and so will a tattoo. Many say that getting them isn’t worth it because it won’t look good once it’s faded and old. This doesn’t stop most, but it can cause some to wonder if they’re making the right decision. 

Can tattoos fade? In short, yes. Tattoos can and will fade – sadly, there is nothing anyone can do about it. However, even if you can’t stop it completely, there is plenty you can do to minimize and slow the effects of fading. 


There are many different reasons tattoos fade, and therefore, there are many things we can do to prevent it from happening too fast. From providing it with adequate protection to paying attention to which designs go on which parts of your body – there is much that can be done. Read on to discover how to best preserve your tattoos. 

Why Tattoos Fade

There are many ways a tattoo will fade, but some are more severe and problematic than others. Overall, there are so many things to think about that it can get overwhelming. There may be little things that you forget about or do without thinking. Go through this list and try to keep them all in mind as you live with your tattoos. 

Sunlight

The sun will fade your tattoos faster than anything else. Everyone knows that a fresh tattoo needs to stay out of the sun completely until it’s healed. Beyond this though, many people tend to slack off on sun protection. 

It’s not that a tattoo can never see the sun. It’s just important that you be mindful of how much it gets and always wear sunscreen if they are to be exposed. Even ten or twenty years down the road, your tattoos need to be protected in the sun. Just because the ink is old, doesn’t mean it’s immune to fading. 

Low-Quality Tattoo

If your tattoo is low quality, to begin with, you’re going to experience faster aging and fading. Low-quality ink, for example, won’t hold as well and may be more susceptible to things like the sun. 

Similarly, a tattoo that isn’t applied properly won’t last as long, either. If the ink isn’t deep enough or the artist doesn’t add enough, it will fade faster. 

These things are easily avoidable by doing your research and selecting only the best shop and artist you can find. 

Friction 

Another thing to consider with your tattoos, both young and old, is the amount of friction they experience. Most friction will come from tight clothing. As the clothing rubs against the tattoo, the ink may fade faster if this is a common occurrence over time. 

It’s not that you need to wear nothing but baggy clothes for the rest of your life. Especially for tattoo collectors, this would be bad news. But, it’s important to be aware of the effect that constant friction can have on a tattoo. Consider balancing the amount of tight clothing you wear over your tattoos.

Sweat

Sweat is not something anyone can avoid, but it does wear on tattoos. The amount of sweat you deal with will depend on the climate you live in as well as your individual lifestyle. 

Hands and feet are already less than ideal locations for a tattoo, and these areas often experience more sweating than the rest of the body. 

If there is another place you tend to sweat a lot for whatever reason, consider avoiding a tattoo in that area as well. 

Smoking 

Smoking decreases the production of collagen in your body, which is what helps the skin maintain its elasticity. Low levels of collagen and poor elasticity can lead to a loss of pigmentation. 

Of course, smoking is bad for your health in general, but it may also have an effect on your tattoos specifically.

Over Cleansing

While you certainly want to keep yourself and your skin clean, too much cleaning is going to be detrimental. Over cleansing with a solution that contains detergents and foaming agents will dry your skin out in no time, which will damage the tattoo. 

Over cleansing can also lead to over-moisturizing if you do them together all the time. This will also have an adverse effect – so be sure to balance the number of products and substances you put on your tattoos. 

How to Prevent Fading

One of the biggest things you can do to keep your tattoos looking fresh is to protect them from the sun with a combination of coverage and sunscreen. However, there are many other measures you can take to prevent the fading that can happen for other reasons. 

One of these is to take care of it properly. This begins with aftercare. Follow your artists aftercare instructions to the letter and don’t change anything. The instructions will be specific and they will be deliberate. If you have questions or concerns about anything they’ve instructed, bring it up with them before doing anything about it. 

Even once the tattoo is healed, however, you still need to take care of it. Many people don’t think about the real commitment that comes with tattoos. They know they are committing to the design, but they forget that they’ll need to always take good care of it if they want it to maintain its appearance. 

It’s true that too much cleanser and moisturizer are bad for a tattoo (and skin in general) but you don’t want to leave it dirty and dried out either. At the end of the day – If you take care of your skin in general, your tattoos will stay bright and healthy longer. 

Color

Another important factor in fading is color. In general, all colors will fade faster than black and grey. If you’re really worried about fading and maintenance, stick to black and grey. If you do want color, try to put the color pieces in more fade-resistant areas. There are five spots that are notorious for fast fading, no matter what you do: 

  • Palms
  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Elbow
  • Inside of upper arm

If you really want a tattoo in these spots, it may be best to put the color elsewhere and keep the black and grey here. If there are areas of your body that you know are more prone to sweating, you might want to avoid color in these areas as well.

When it comes to color, you also want to pay attention to which colors are used. Lighter colors and shades will fade much faster than darker ones. Pastel and water-color styles will also fade much faster due to the lighter, more delicate way of shading. 

Bold, dark, and bright colors will hold for longer. The more saturated and punched in they are, the better. Water-color tattoos can be beautiful – just know that you will be in for more maintenance as time passes. 

Do Tattoos Ever Fade Completely? 

If tattoos can continue to fade even after so many years, it’s valid to wonder if they will ever fade away completely. The answer is no, they won’t. As you age, they will – slowly – continue to age with you. When you are very old, your first tattoo might look like a blur or a blob if you don’t ever get it covered or worked on. 

This is normal, and you’ll see a lot of these tattoos on older people. This is a reason some are against tattoos, but it shouldn’t put you off. The tattoo was beautiful in it’s prime, and it meant something to you at the time – maybe it still does. 

Can You Touch up a Faded Tattoo?

If you don’t want to let tattoos get to the point of blurry illegibility, touch-ups are a good way to go. Most people will go in for a single touch up within a year of each tattoo. After that though, many don’t think about it. 

And you might not have to think about it for several years. If you take the proper precautions, treat your skin well, and the tattoo was done with quality ink by a talented artist – you’ll be good for a long time. However, you will eventually notice it fading. 

When this happens, many will opt to have it covered or perhaps even removed. There is another option though – you can have the original tattoo touched up. Your artist can go over the tattoo and simply freshen up the design without changing it. Enough work can have the image looking brand new again.

While a tattoo is a permanent decision, you’re not 100 percent locked into the original design, and there are ways to combat the effects of time and aging. Touch-ups and cover-ups can’t undo a tattoo, but they can improve and change it to better accommodate what you want or to fix the mistake of an artist.