As tattoos age, the ink will fade in the sunlight and tends to spread out underneath the skin. When tattoos are new, they look as though they might have come out of a high quality printer onto photography grade paper, but as the days and years wear on, our tattoos start to look like soggy newspapers that have been left out in the rain. The colors are no longer bright and vivid, the lines become blurred, and sometimes we receive dermal injuries which can lead to scarring over an image. In extreme cases, such as road rash from a motorcycle accident, entire sections of a tattoo could be erased.
A lot of people have questions about touching up old tattoos, as well as how to keep them from aging and fading in the first place. One of the biggest enemies of tattoo longevity is the sun. In order to make your tattoo last as long as possible without needing a touch-up, you should always wear sunscreen over the design. Without sunscreen, the ultraviolet rays can lead to damage and fade your tattoo; once the damage is done, there is no way to reverse it without going back for more ink to brighten the faded spots. Another tip for keeping your tattoo fresh and vivid is to use moisturizer over the design, especially during the healing process. However, if your tattoo is past the point where sunscreen and moisturizing can have any benefit, then it might be time for a touch-up.
It’s not uncommon for the ink of older tattoos to spread out and for colored inks to run together under the skin. It typically results in a washed out kind of appearance that makes it look like an old t-shirt that’s been put through the laundry too many times. Fine details have been obliterated, the colors are too light, and it has an out of focus look. Luckily, most designs can be fine tuned by an artist. A good artist can make blurred lines bold again; they can bring back shading that has all but disappeared, and they can restore the vibrancy your tattoo once had.
It is also possible that your tattoo has reached the point of no return. The ink could have dissipated and certain lines may have decided to travel the path less taken, making your design something much different than the original. Or you may have sustained a dermal injury that led to scarring and a mutated tattoo. In these situations, a cover up might be in order. These designs use the same basic patterns of the original image, but transform them into something entirely different. It’s probably preferable to go with a cover up if you used a less talented or cheap artist for the original, and as a result, your tattoo ended up wilting like a flower in a vase of salt water.
There are a lot of great ways to transform your time worn tattoo from a rusty old clunker to a remodeled dream. The first step is finding a great artist you can work with; from there, things only get easier. You can decide whether to refurbish the old design or make it into something new and refreshing. Either way, if your faded ink is bringing you down, the best way to solve the problem is with some freshly injected pigment. If you feel like your tattoo needs more color, needs to be larger, or needs added details that have faded over the years, this is all within the realm of possibility, so make an appointment with your tattoo artist and get your tattoo tuned up!