I’m sure almost every tattooed person has at some point heard the age old question, “but how will you like it in ten years?” Well, the chances of you liking it are a lot better if the tattoo is still looking like you got it last month. So here you are with your brand new tattoo: the colors are vibrant, and the contrast is sharp and beautiful. So how do we keep it that way? As tattoos age there are a few natural things that will happen which are unavoidable, however, a knowledgeable tattoo artist will hopefully tell you how to make this aging less noticeable; your job is to heed their advice and take those two minute precautions none of us want to make time for!

As time moves on, so will the ink in your tattoo…that’s right, the ink in your tattoo will migrate, move, and settle. Those fine lines and sharp edges will blur over time, the colors will fade (especially the lighter ones) and the tones will shift, but how do we slow this process and protect our precious body art? When first discussing your tattoo concept with your artist, if the artist says “you really need to go bigger,” listen to them – they’re likely telling you those fine lines and sharp edges are going to get lost and bleed together on that two inch compass in a matter of years, if you’re lucky! If you want your tattoo to remain legible in five years , sometimes you should either drop some detail or increase the size, and if you’re getting text keep it big and bold, or that ‘e’ might look like an ‘o’ after year three. Fortunately, while the settling of ink is unavoidable and to be expected, there is much you can do to preserve the contrast and color of your work rather easily with a few simple precautions.

First and foremost – the sun is the worst enemy of any tattoo! Even if you want to tan, throw some sunblock on that art – the higher the SPF, the better. SPF 15 is not the same as SPF 50. Your skin has cells called melanocytes which react to UV light by secreting melanin and sending it to the surface to protect you from the sun’s damaging radiation. The melanin is what gives you that golden tanning glow and protects you from sun burns, however, it is at the highest surface of your skin to protect the deeper layers of tissue and as such will tint your tattoo. If sun exposure has already become a problem you can also try bleach free skin brighteners, or a skin treatment with melanocyte inhibitors which will get your cells to pump the brakes on tyrosine production, the amino acid which makes up melanin. These and AHA exfoliators, which flake off the top layer of skin, can help reduce the dulling of color caused by sun exposure and tanning.

So we now know how to prevent and even to some degree reverse certain dulling effects, but there are two crucial things that you have to remember with tattoo longevity. One, be careful with it while you’re letting it heal. How you heal for the first seven days has a significant impact on how good the tattoo will look as time passes, so start it off by healing well. If you can reduce the amount of stress on your freshly tattooed area for the duration of the healing process, you will increase the longevity of your tattoos clarity and contrast by leaps and bounds. The second thing to always remember is, you get what you pay for. If you want crisp, tight, lasting lines and colors, you are going to have to do some research on your artists and pay them what they are worth. And remember, take three minutes to throw some sunblock on that fresh piece of art you dropped a pretty penny on, and make it really last! Happy healing.