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“What will that look like when you’re older?” for many of us, this was our parents’ first argument to dissuade us from getting tattoos. It was right up there with, “how will you explain that tattoo to your grandchildren?”

Of course with tattoos becoming a staple of mainstream society, there’s a whole generation of kids ‘mirin their grandparents’ ink.

Still, while the concern for the acceptance of tattoos fading, there is still the question of how the tattoo looks as it ages. We’ve all heard the warnings that tattoos fade over time, or that changes in your body will ruin the design. But are they true?

Today, our Downtown Toronto tattoo shop answers your questions about how tattoos age.

Does Aging Change How My Tattoo Looks?

Our bodies change a lot as we go through life. The signs of ageing are evident upon our skin. Wrinkles, sagging and loosening skin. Add in the wear and tear of the years, and you can expect some changes over time.

A tattoo is part of your skin, any significant deterioration that happens to your skin affects the ink. Generally, the change is slow and the better care you take of your skin, the better the tattoo’s appearance remains.

The location of your tattoo changes how much the tattoo wears over time. Somewhere like the upper leg, which is usually covered and has a lot of friction will receive more wear than somewhere that is usually unrestricted.

The size of the tattoo is another factor here. Having lots of small lettering or tiny, intricate details leaves more chance of distortion. The small changes in your skin can, over the decades, change the appearance of these smaller details. A large tattoo with bold lines and design is less likely to experience as noticeable distortion.

Will Changing Body Shape Affect My Tattoo?

People often have concerns about how weight loss/gain or putting on muscle will affect their tattoo. We urge people not to worry before going on that diet or pumping some iron. Only a dramatic change in body shape might cause a noticeable difference.

Rapid weight loss can cause sagging skin or change the shape of your body. In most cases, weight loss won’t affect the tattoo much – with the exception of smaller details. The other possible distortion is if sagging skin causes an overlap on a tattoo.

Following a safe, healthy diet is the best approach. These diets have a slower, but sustainable pace. That means they avoid rapid weight loss as well as large fluctuations in weight gain and loss. In addition to being a healthier approach, this helps to preserve the appearance of your tattoo.

For aspiring bodybuilders, it takes substantial muscle gain to distort a tattoo. You’re unlikely to see a significant change, even during bulking season. If this is a big concern, you may feel better choosing a forearm tattoo, or inking another area where muscle gain is slow.

Will My Tattoo Fade With Time?

The most notable change in a tattoos appearance comes from wear and tear over a lifetime. As your skin ages, your tattoo ages with it. Although the ink will never completely disappear, over time your tattoo will begin to fade. How quickly and how much, depends on care.

Faded Tattoo

Does Ink Colour Affect How Fast Tattoos Fade?

The colour and quality of tattoo ink change how soon a tattoo begins fading. Blackwork tattoos maintain their appearance longer than colour. As a rule, the brighter the colour the faster it fades. Still, even with bright reds and whites, this fading takes years to occur.

Watercolour tattoos have a reputation as the tattoos that fade fastest. Realistically, the style has become popular so recently, that this belief is unproven. Although, the brighter colours suggest fading will be more noticeable than with a greyscale tattoo.

Still the biggest determining factor in how a tattoo ages is how well it’s cared for.

How to Slow or Avoid Tattoo Fading?

A well-cared-for tattoo will take years to show noticeable fading. Some of the biggest factors in how long it takes revolves around what you do when you first get the tattoo. We take a look at what you can do to slow or prevent tattoo fading.

Aftercare

Following your tattoo aftercare plan is essential to preventing premature fading, and extending the life of your tattoo. How you care for your tattoo over the first week has the biggest impact on the ink’s appearance throughout its lifespan.

Moisturizing

Tattoo ink is part of your skin. So, what’s good for your skin is good for your tattoo. Moisturizing helps to maintain your skin health and retain its appearance as you age.

Sunscreen

Wear sunscreen. The sun’s rays are damaging to your skin. In the USA alone, there 4.3 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year. Wearing sunscreen is one of the simplest steps to prevent this.

But it’s not just your health that’s at risk. The sun speeds up the ageing process of your tattoo. Sunscreen can help reduce this effect. As well, it’s best to avoid exposing tattoos to direct sunlight for extended periods.

Is Tattoo Fading Reversible?

Even with the best care, all tattoos eventually fall victim to time. After years or decades, the ink starts to fade. Some people like how this adds character to the tattoo. But, that’s not for everyone. To bring back the vibrancy of the original, only a tattoo touch-up reverses fading.

A touch-up tattoo artist tattoos over the existing design. They touch up areas that have faded or been distorted. Depending on the appearance, they may tattoo over the entire tattoo, or add small details and colour to restore or improve upon the initial design.

Before After Tattoo Touchup

Before & After of a Tattoo Touch-Up

So How Will My Tattoo Look When I’m 40?

It depends on the tattoo type, how you care for it, and when you get it. A fine line tattoo typically begins to lose its definition after about 15 years. Bigger, bolder lines maintain their look for longer with proper care. At 40, many people will still have their tattoo in great shape, but if not, a touch-up is a great solution.

To book a touch-up tattoo in Toronto & Vancouver and keep your tattoos looking great year after year.