- Permanent tattoos can eventually fade.
- Proper aftercare and avoiding the sun can keep your tattoo from fading, however.
- We’ve outlined 14 parts of your body where tattoos fade, including the fingers, hands, and feet.
Permanent tattoos, as the name suggests, are meant to be permanent. But alas, all tattoos will fade as the years go by, without exception, says Lorena Lorenzo, a Toronto-based tattoo artist.
However, there are certain factors that’ll make your tattoo fade faster, like sun exposure and friction, Lorenzo adds.
Therefore, if you’re considering a tattoo and worried about it fading too fast, it’s important to think carefully about where on your body you get it.
Why do tattoos fade?
Certain tattoos are designed to fade, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.
When you get a permanent tattoo, the artist is supposed to insert the ink into the inner layer of your skin, or the dermis. “If an artist doesn’t insert the ink deep enough, the tattoo may fade faster,” says Nashville-based tattoo artist Dave Shurman.
If a tattoo is applied correctly, a person’s lifestyle can fade the design faster.
For example, spending a lot of time in the sun or wearing tight clothing that rubs regularly against the tattoo can fade it more quickly, Shurman says.
Other changes in your skin, like stretching from weight gain or pregnancy, will also fade a tattoo, says New York-based dermatologist David Kim.
And the last thing to consider is the color: “Colors closer to your skin tone will appear to fade faster because there is less contrast,” Shurman says.
So, if you have light skin and you choose a peach-toned tattoo, it may not be noticeable for long and the same goes for darker skin and brownish ink.
Where a tattoo is most, and least, likely to fade
Given all the factors that can influence a tattoo’s longevity, both Lorenzo and Shurman agree there are certain parts of the body where a tattoo will fade faster due to friction that you can’t really prevent or avoid. Places like hands and feet are prime examples.
Areas more likely to fade
- Creased areas, such as your elbows, neck, or armpit area
- Any areas exposed to the sun more frequently
Areas less likely to fade
These areas, depending on your lifestyle, may not fade as fast:
- Upper thigh
- Back of neck or behind your ears, if you have long hair
- Any areas exposed to sunlight less often
How to prevent a tattoo from fading
Shurman encourages people to be aware that their tattoo(s) eventually need a touch-up. That said, taking certain steps can help your design last longer.
First, choose an experienced tattoo artist who will apply your tattoo properly. Read customer reviews and review an artist’s portfolio of tattoos before making an appointment.
Shurman suggests asking the artist if you can see photos of tattoos that have already healed so you can be sure they were applied well. “Tattoos can look great when someone first applies them, but I’ve seen them fade within a few weeks or months of application,” he says.
It’s also crucial to follow your tattoo artist’s instructions for taking care of your skin, especially during the healing phase, which can last two or three weeks.
Even after the tattoo heals, moisturizing the tattooed area with an oil-based lotion every day can help it last longer by helping your skin retain its elasticity so the design doesn’t stretch.
And for days when you’re spending any time in the sun, wear sunscreen on the tattooed area — Shurman recommends at least SPF 15.
What else you should know before getting a tattoo
A bit of planning can go a long way in preventing tattoos from fading — and keeping you safe from potential medical complications.
Research suggests that tattoos can result in potential health risks, such as allergic reactions or skin infections. Kim encourages seeing a trained tattoo artist who practices in a sterile environment and educates you about how to properly care for the tattoo.
Tattoos may cause disease flare-ups in people with skin conditions such as psoriasis or vitiligo. People with eczema may notice extra irritation if they get a tattoo. “If you have these conditions, check in with your medical provider before getting a tattoo,” Kim says.
Similarly, experts recommend pregnant people and those with heart disease, blood clot disorders, and suppressed immune systems should talk to a doctor before getting a tattoo due to the increased infection risks.
If you’re getting a tattoo for the first time, Lorenzo recommends being aware of which areas of the body are more painful. Choosing a less painful area for your first tattoo, she says, can ease you into the process and create a more positive experience, especially if you hope to get more tattoos later.
Several factors contribute to how quickly a tattoo fades, including the artist’s technique, your skincare routine, and your lifestyle.
You may not be able to completely prevent your tattoo from fading, but taking care of it and tweaking your lifestyle can help it look great for years to come.