How Long Do Tattoos Last? Plus Tips to Make Them Last Longer

Tattoos aren’t exactly cheap, and if they are, you likely don’t want them applied to your skin permanently. However, even the priciest tattoos can end up fading over time, begging the question – how long do tattoos actually last?

While tattoos do, in fact, last a lifetime, age, placement, and other factors can play a role in how quickly they fade. Luckily, there are specific steps you can take to reduce the amount of fading that contaminates your tattoo.

Keep reading to find out how long a tattoo lasts before fading, why they fade in the first place and other important info regarding tattoo longevity. ‘

How Long Before a Tattoo Begins to Fade?

There is really no “one size fits all” answer when it comes to how long before a tattoo begins to fade. That’s because everyone’s circumstances are different, and the timeframe can change depending on many factors.

We also have to look at the type of “fading,” as tattoos will appear faded in the few weeks following application. This is not actual fading, though.

Tattoos appear extremely bright and vibrant when they’re first applied. However, after the healing process, they can seem less radiant. It’s not that your tattoo has faded. The top layer of your skin has simply healed with new skin, resulting in a subtle change that some may label as “fading.”

The colors, details, and designs should still be impressively luminous, though. This is especially true if you follow proper post-tattoo care instructions. If you did not, your tattoo might have more noticeable changes. If you’re unsatisfied with the way your tattoo looks once healed, you can discuss the situation with your tattoo artists.

Fading over time, though, is 100% normal. Although tattoos last forever, they can lose their spunk long-term. Most tattoos will begin to fade around the 10-year mark. Again, many variables such as age, tattoo placement, the color of the ink, and sun exposure can speed up the process.

Why Do Tattoos Fade?

There are many reasons why tattoos fade after some time. Here are some of the top causes of fading.

1. Inadequate Aftercare

The first thing you can do to ensure your tattoo doesn’t prematurely fade is to follow the aftercare instructions provided by your tattoo artist. Inadequate aftercare will not allow for proper healing, resulting in adverse effects on your tattoo – including undesirable fading.

2. Sun Exposure

The sun’s harmful UV rays are damaging to your skin as it is; but did you know excessive sun exposure can also cause hurried tattoo fading? UV rays break down the pigments of your tattoo, causing it to lighten.

3. Over-Exfoliation

Exfoliating your skin is beneficial, but not when there’s a tattoo placed in the same spot. Exfoliation will cause the tattoo to break down ever-so-slightly, eventually causing fading.

4. Long-Lasting Friction

Exfoliation isn’t the only type of “friction” detrimental to tattoos. We also need to look at overall friction. For example, those who wear rough and hardy uniforms for work or athletes that wear rugged jerseys that rub against the skin. Excessive and long-lasting friction can pose a threat to the longevity and vibrancy of your tat.

5. Extreme Weight Gain/Loss

If you’ve put on or lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time, your skin’s elasticity will be impacted. This can result in the pigments breaking down on your tattoo, causing a noticeable fading.

6. Light/White Colors

The color you choose for your tattoo can also cause speedy fading. Light colors and white tattoos fade faster than black or those that utilize darker, more robust shades like dark purple, blue, gray, etc.

7. Lack of Artist Experience

An experienced tattoo artist will be able to ensure that your tattoo is applied correctly, ensuring it does not fade prematurely. Most tattoos done by a professional will last up to ten years and beyond, especially when well taken care of post-application.

8. Aging

Much like rapid weight gain or loss, the skin loses elasticity when you age, which causes tattoos to fade. Unfortunately, this is an unavoidable situation that occurs to everyone.

Which Parts of the Body Fade Quickest?

Where your tattoo is located also significantly affects how quickly it fades. Areas with a thin layer of skin commonly used and exposed to the sun will fade quicker. For example, the hands, feet, and abdomen.

Areas where the skin is thicker, and there is less exposure to the elements are less prone to tattoo fading. Such locations include the ribs, back, and thighs.

What Can You Do to Prevent Tattoos from Fading?

Knowing that your tattoo can and will fade eventually can be devastating. After all, you likely spent lots of money on your tattoo and chose the design because you loved it or it meant something to you.

Before you start to panic, understand that there are many things you can do to prevent your tattoo from fading.

1. Perform Proper Aftercare

Start on the right foot with proper aftercare. Follow the instructions from your tattoo artist. They list everything you need to do to ensure proper healing and a tattoo that ends up in tip-top condition. Such instructions may insist on using balms, lotions, foam soaps, and other suggestions.

2. Reduce Sun Exposure

There is no way to avoid the sun entirely (and you shouldn’t, as Vitamin D is good for you!). But being safe is the key. Wear sunscreen (especially on top of your tattoo) or cover your tattoo with a bandaid or article of clothing.

3. Eat Well and Stay Hydrated

This might sound like you’re getting tips from your doctor on staying healthy, but it’s a great way to combat tattoo fading. The health of your skin plays a significant role in how your tattoo looks. So, keeping up with a well-balanced diet and being adequately hydrated will ensure your skin stays in peak condition while fending off aging. It’s a win-win for you and your tattoo.

4. Avoid Exfoliating the Area – But Moisturize!

If you’re an avid exfoliator, your skin will thank you. Your tattoo, on the other hand? Will not. Tattoos should not be exfoliated. So, refrain from exfoliating the skin that houses your tattoo.

That doesn’t mean that area of your skin shouldn’t be touched by any type of product, though. Using moisturizers regularly over the tattoo (and your entire body, for that matter) will ensure your skin is nice and hydrated, reducing the chance of rapid fading.

5. Choose a Different Area for the Tattoo

A tattoo on the hand might sound cool, and a belly tat might seem adorable – but both of these locations are more prone to fading.

It’s time to rethink where your tattoo will be placed. Opt for places of the body that have thicker skin and won’t be exposed to the elements as often. For example, the thighs, biceps, and back are all great choices – and tattoos look amazing in these spots, so you can’t go wrong.

6. Protect the Tat from Friction

Friction is a major no-no for tattoos and will cause fading eventually. With that in mind, protect your tattoo when you know it will be bothered. For example, you can cover it with a bandaid or a wrap before a basketball game if it’s in an area where the jersey or shorts will rub.

7. Go With Darker Colors

Darker colors last longer than light colors. While a sprinkle of light colors here and there won’t be too big of an issue, you should avoid going for a tattoo that’s made up entirely of bright colors or pure white shades.

8. Spend More For Quality

“You get what you pay for.” This is a phrase that can be used in all areas of life, especially when it comes to a tattoo. While a cheap tattoo might sound great to your wallet, it won’t be a good lifelong decision. Save up a little more money to get a better tattoo with an experienced artist – you won’t regret it, even ten years down the line when it’s still standing strong.

Can a Tattoo Artist Touch Up a Tattoo that Has Faded?

Is your tattoo looking lackluster? The best way to bring your faded tattoo back to life is to go in for a professional touch-up.

Most professional artists stand by their work and offer free, minor touch-ups within a specific timeframe (or for life). Others may charge a fee for touch-ups, especially if it was not their work to begin with.

Regardless, you can feel confident that your faded tattoo doesn’t have to stay a faded wreck. A touch-up will be like a breath of fresh air for your tat, making it look good as new.

Final Words

Tattoos fade over time, but most will easily last ten years without any signs of fading. However, certain variables can cause tattoos to fade quicker. Taking the proper precautions, like adequate aftercare, reducing sun exposure and friction, and staying healthy and hydrated, will keep your tattoo looking vibrant for longer. Consider a touch-up from a professional tattoo artist when your tattoo finally bites the bullet.