Why Does Tattoo Ink Turn Green And Blue?

Nothing beats the look of a fresh tattoo. The colors are vivid and saturated, even on a greyscale tattoo, to create a masterful work of art on the skin.

When a person gets a fresh tattoo, they hope that this tattoo will stay that vivid forever. No one gets a tattoo of a vibrant, colorful flower hoping it will fade to nothing.

However, adding ink pigment to skin is a tricky business. Even with all of our modern innovations, there’s a limit to what our bodies can handle over time.

A natural part of the aging process in a tattoo is that it will turn green or blue. This only happens with black ink, and it only happens over a long period of time.

If you’re considering getting your first tattoo, or you have many but are starting to notice the pigments fading, it’s normal to wonder about the longevity of your ink.

Let’s dive into the details of why black ink can fade to green or blue over time, and what you can do about it.

Is It Normal For Tattoos To Turn Green?

Yes, it’s normal for tattoos to turn green.

Like we said before, this will only happen with black ink tattoos. The reason is that your body will slowly absorb the ink over time.

Black inks are made with a combination of various pigments. Some of the more common pigments used are dark greens and blues.

The green and blue pigments are some of the last to be absorbed by the body, so they’re the ones that show through even after some of the other pigments have been absorbed and gone.

This is a natural part of the aging process of a tattoo. Just like the tattoo may stretch, fade, or change shape as your skin changes with time, it can also start to appear green.

How Long Until Tattoos Turn Green?

If you’re worried about your tattoos turning green, the great news is that this doesn’t happen quickly. It won’t even happen in the first few years of your tattoo.

Generally, black ink tattoos take decades to turn green.

In those decades, you’ll probably notice several other changes in your tattoos and in your skin in general.

Age affects every part of our body. Your skin will start to get loose, which can distort your tattoo. You may also develop age spots, or skin irritations such as dry skin.

Many of these changes that take place on our skin are a direct result of how much time we’ve spent in the sun.

In the next two sections, we’ll review some ways that you can help mitigate the effect sun has on your tattoos.

Are Some Placement Areas Better To Prevent Green Tattoos?

There are definitely some areas of your body that are “better” to tattoo than others. This is subjective and depends entirely on how much you care about the longevity of your tattoo.

Some people know right when they’re getting a tattoo that it’s never going to look the same. They get a tattoo understanding that with time, it will fade and distort, and they don’t care.

If you’re one of these people, then tattoo placement won’t make a big difference for you.

However, many people who get tattoos want to cherish them for their entire lifetime. They want to keep it looking nice, saturated, and true to the original design.

If you’re one of those people, then you’ll want to consider your tattoo placement a little more deeply.

The areas of the body that are most susceptible to tattoo changes are stomach, back, neck, hands, and feet. You’ll also notice that tattoos on your inner lip or tongue will fade quickly too.

Each of these regions has different reasons for fading. Some of them are:

  • Stomach, back, and neck: These areas tend to be most affected by skin sagging that comes with age. They’re also very reactive to weight changes, so if you have significant weight loss or gain, you’ll notice a difference in your tattoos in these areas.
  • Hands and feet: These areas get a lot of “wear and tear” so to speak. Feet are almost always covered in socks and/or shoes. This means that a piece of fabric or material is constantly rubbing against the skin. For the same reason that this causes some men to stop growing leg hair below their usual sock line, this will affect the longevity of tattoos in this area. Hands are washed several times a day and put to work, which breaks down the skin more and causes the ink to fade more quickly.
  • Inner lip and tongue: These parts of the body tend to absorb the ink faster to make new skin. As the ink absorbs, the tattoo will fade. So you may notice that tattoos in these areas will fade very quickly – sometimes even in just a few months.

Another big consideration in placement is how much sun you’ll get. Hand tattoos also tend to fade faster because they’re on one of the parts of your body that’s most exposed to the sun.

There are some things you can do to keep your tattoos looking fresh for a longer period of time, though. Let’s explore some of those options below.

How Can I Make My Tattoo Stay Black?

If you’re really worried about your tattoo turning green with time, there are some ways you can help prevent this.

These are also great to do in general for your tattoo. Not only will they help prevent your black ink turning green, but they can keep your color ink more vivid and help your skin be healthier overall.

Try some of our recommended tips for preventing that annoying tattoo fading below:

  1. Use Sunscreen: This may seem like one of those things you’re always being nagged about by your parents, but it’s good advice. Most people underestimate the effect direct sun exposure has on our skin. Applying a high-rated sunscreen, usually at least 50 SPF, not only keeps your skin healthy, but will help protect your tattoo from sun fading.
  2. Use Lotion: The type of lotion is up to you, but one of the top tips to keeping your tattoo looking vivid and fresh is to keep it moisturized. There are plenty of moisturizers and lotions specifically targeted towards keeping your tattoo fresh. A good idea could be to put a layer of coconut oil on top. This can help lock in the moisture for a longer period of time.
  3. Touch-Ups: Tattoo artists don’t just create new ink, but they revitalize old tattoos as well. If you’re no longer in touch with your original tattoo artist, simply call around to local shops and ask about booking a touch-up session.

Is There A Black Ink That Doesn’t Turn Green?

Most of the black inks that are fading to green today were made with old technology. Now, there are modern inks designed to prevent this kind of fading to green.

The only problem is that the modern inks are new. Given that tattoos take decades to turn green, we don’t have any way of knowing how effective the new inks will be at preventing this.

The good news is that tattoo artists are aware of this problem, and the tattoo community is working to create inks that don’t fade to green.

With the older types of black ink, we already know for a fact they’ll fade to green. With the new inks, there’s a chance they won’t. So we recommend trying the modern types of ink for your next tattoo.

Will My Color Tattoos Change Color?

Luckily, the only color that turns into a different color is black. As we mentioned before, this is because black ink is made up of many other pigments to create that shade of black.

There are several different types of black ink, each made using different combinations of pigment to reach a different shade or hue. This will also determine whether your tattoo fades more green or blue.

With a color tattoo, your color ink is exactly the pigment it was made with. Your pink tattoo won’t suddenly turn blue, because there isn’t any blue in it.

You can still expect some normal fading to happen over time. Color ink tends to fade more drastically than black ink in the first several years of a tattoo.

If you’re worried about your colors fading, simply try our list of tips above for keeping your tattoo looking fresher longer. This won’t just help prevent black ink from turning green, but it will help your color ink stay vibrant too.