Why Your Tattoo Is Fading and How to Stop It

Bodily changes that have seemingly nothing to do with your skin — weight fluctuation, pregnancy, and large-scale body building, for example — can also affect your tattoos. “These rapid volume and mass fluctuations cause the skin and underlying ink to stretch and then relax when the mass shifts back,” Fincher says. “This leads to distortion or disruption of the tattoo.”

Do tattoos on certain body parts age better than on others?

If you’re very concerned about how your next tattoo may age, you may want to rule out certain areas of your body. Some body parts are more susceptible to age-related changes, such as loss of elasticity, stretching, or sagging, according to Fincher; thus, so are the tattoos on those body parts. “Shoulders and ankles have tight skin, and the skin does not sag and become as loose over time, unlike the upper arm or abdomen,” he says.

The thickness of certain areas of skin can play a part in a tattoo’s longevity, as well. “Tattoos on the palms and soles don’t tend to last as long because the skin is thicker compared to other parts of the body and the tattoos tend not to go as deep,” says Wesley, who explains that that the stratum corneum — the outermost layer of skin — is much more dense in these areas, so when it renews or sloughs over time, the tattoo often fades.

The most crucial determination of which body parts make for the least-mutable tattoo canvases, however, may be how much sun exposure they get. “Areas of the body that have had more cumulative UV light damage over someone’s lifetime will also often have less dense collagen and more mottled pigmentation, resulting in poorer skin quality in general from photoaging,” Wesley says. The result: faded, discolored, and less-taut tattoos.

What kind of products can help a tattoo age well?

Needless to say, the first line of defense against unwanted changes to your tattoos is sunscreen. “Sunscreen helps prevent the breakdown of collagen over time and thus helps maintain elasticity,” he says, adding that it can help prevent freckling and hyperpigmentation, too. 

Wesley is on the same page. “Sun protection is a vital component in keeping tattoos looking their best,” she says. “Sun damage leads to poorer skin quality — less dense collagen, wrinkling, mottled pigmentation  — and also results in tattoo color fading more quickly.” A scientific advisor for Arbonne, she recommends the brand’s AgeWell Moisture Restoring Cream With Broad Spectrum SPF 15 Sunscreen, which features hydrating hyaluronic acid, barrier-boosing ceramides, and omega fatty acids. For a similarly nourishing sunscreen with a higher SPF, we like La Roche-Posay Anthelios Melt-In Milk SPF 100.

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