The science behind how a tattoo fades over time

Everyone makes such a big deal about tattoos – they warn you to be careful because that ink will be there forever. But if you've had a tattoo for a while now, you might have noticed it doesn't look as fresh and vibrant as it did when you first got it. What gives?

This is especially more noticeable in some areas more than others – but that doesn't make it any less of a bummer. You got that tattoo to be a permanent mark on your body, you don't want it to fade. Unless you do, in which case you should consider laser tattoo removal as a faster option. Curious as to how your ink is fading? Consider these reasons:

Placement matters
It's true, there are certain areas on your body that will cause fading faster than others. Most shops will warn you of this, but it's also basic information you should know before getting a tattoo. Places like lips, feet and fingers are all known for having a shorter life expectancy. Bustle explained that this is because the skin is different than the rest of the body. Your finger for example, sees a lot of action throughout the day. Think of all the activity your hands do on a daily basis. Plus, your fingers are thin and don't have much muscle so it wear down much easier. 

Ink quality makes a difference
The type of ink your artist is using makes a difference as well – there are cheap ink brands out there, explained Skin-Artists.com. Don't get duped into using these. You probably won't be able to know the difference, therefore you'll have to trust your tattoo artist. Do your homework before getting your ink. Read reviews and check out pictures of past work to get a sense of his or her style. 

"The lighter the ink, the faster it fades."

Color of the ink is another factor of quality however. White ink for example, is one hue that looks really cool on your skin, but fades faster, especially if it stands alone, reported another Bustle article.

This is because it was meant to be used as a highlight of darker colors. The general rule of thumb to follow is: The lighter the ink, the faster it fades.

Follow healing advice 
The first month or so after you get a new tattoo are critical for maintaining its appearance down the road, reported Skin-Artists.com. Most artists will explain what you need to do to keep it clean after they're done bandaging you up, but just in case here are a couple of rules you need to follow religiously. 

Maintenance begins the second you get home from getting your tattoo. Don't leave the bandage on for too long – it depends on the size of your tattoo, but the artist will tell you when it's appropriate to take it off so it can breathe. However, it's important to keep the area clean, so before you remove the bandage, wash your hands.

Aftercare is usually a process of keeping the tattoo well moisturized, explained the source. A light, unscented moisturizer should do the trick. In between lotion sessions, avoid picking the scab, otherwise you risk losing your color and could make your tattoo fade faster. Also be sure to wear loose clothing so it doesn't rub the scab as well. And most importantly, avoid submerging your new tattoo in water, especially swimming pools and hot tubs. The chemicals in these can bleach your new tattoo. 

How good will your ink look when you get older? Depends how you treat it now!How good will your ink look when you get older? Depends how you treat it now!

The sun
According to Sharpologist.com, the sun is the number one cause of tattoo color fading. Not only do the ultra violet rays wear down the ink – especially if you don't take the proper precautions protect a fresh ink. If your tattoo is new, you shouldn't put sunscreen on it or your risk infection, so it's best to just keep it out of the sun. Once it's healed however you should be applying lotion every time you know you'll be outside for a long time. The highest SPF is highly recommended. The source also explained that if you don't use sunscreen, you have a higher risk of wrinkling which are more visible on inked skin. So lube up!

Minimize touching 
It's tempting to show off your new tattoo to your friends, but Bustle warned that this causes fading. No one's perfect, and hands get dirty. If you or your friend touches your tat with dirty hands, it can cause infection and lead to discoloration. It's important to wait until the tattoo is properly healed before you play with it too much – or at all. 


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