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When Does a Tattoo Start to Fade

This is a bit of a trick question. The reason being, is that a tattoo “fades” to the naked eye within days of application. This occurs because as the skin heals, the top layer dies and new skin forms to take its place. During this period the epidermis typically has a faded appearance. However, this is a natural part of the tattoo healing process and as the peeling subsides and the dead skin falls away the design will once again look crisp and fresh. Still, it won’t have that same deep dark tone as it did when your tattooist put his/her gun away.

Anyone who has received a tattoo already knows this. But what you want to know now, is when can you expect a tattoo to fade in the longer term. Let’s have a look.

What to Expect When it Comes to the Timeline (for Fading) of a Tattoo

A Tattoo Will Fade Faster When You Don’t Maintain Care

Most people follow aftercare for their tattoo within the weeks and even months of getting it done. However over time this attention to your tattoo begins to subside. The sooner this happens the sooner it will fade.

A tattoo that is poorly maintained can begin to experience some very slight fading after the first year. A tattoo that receives the appropriate care may not experience noticeable fading for many years – even a decade! The standard falls somewhere in the middle of that.

The key, is to understand the things that cause a tattoo to fade. These include the following:

– Poor initial care (from the moment you leave the shop)

– Excessive sun exposure

– Poor overall skin care

– Poor overall nutrition (yes, diet can have an impact!)

– Continuous friction

– Excessive weight gain (view more)

For greater insight into the above, please reference our guide to the six things that cause a tattoo to fade, which includes instructions for how to prevent it from happening.

What to Do When You Notice Fading

If you’ve followed aftercare instructions and you notice concerning fading (beyond what we discussed in the introduction) within 6-months then go see the tattooist right away. It may be the result of shoddy work, and they may need to do a touch-up for you. Potential for this concern can easily be mitigated by carefully vetting a tattoo parlor before booking an appointment. Quality work won’t fade so quickly, even when you slip-up (somewhat) on aftercare within the first 6-months.

Otherwise, any fading you experience will occur after years of living your life (taking sunny vacations, etc). At this point you can simply decide when it’s time to bring some life back to the tattoo. If the original artist is still available, then they will be more than happy to perform the touch-up at their hourly rate. If the original artist is not available, you will need to ask around to find studios who don’t mind touching up an previous artist’s work. Professional tattoo studios (view locations) will be more than happy to accommodate your needs.