Vol.2, No.4

Tattoo fading and distortion

Fading and distortion of tattoos, though normal for older tattoos, is not something that you want your new tattoo to do.

Tattoo on arm
Photo Credit: Cindy England
Tattoos are more popular today than they were 15 years ago but, unlike many things, are still applied using the same technique as was used then. The only things that have really changed are the quality of the inks and the styles that are created. However, no matter how high the quality of the ink being used is, there will always be fading and distortion at some point in time.

Fading and distortion of a tattoo will happen at different ages of the tattoo and for different reasons. Distortion of the art includes the widening of the lines. This is also called feathering or bleeding. Quite often this is caused by poor ink quality, the use of a homemade tattoo gun or a single needle or pin being used. Distortion may also occur if the area the tattoo is in is either traumatized (scraped, burned, etc.) or sudden stretching of the skin. This will deform the entire tattoo, not just the actual lines.

Fading of tattoos is a natural occurrence. As with photographs that are not cared for properly the pigment in the ink of your tattoo will also fade. There is really nothing you can do keep this from happening. You can increase the length of time that your tattoo lasts however it will eventually fade.

Another cause of fading is exposure to bright sunlight. Bright sunlight will prematurely fade the pigments of the ink and increase the speed of the aging of your skin cells. Using a sunblock with a high SPF rating will help protect your tattoo as well as the rest of your skin. Use of a lotion or moisturizer containing Vitamin E will also help as the vitamin E is important to healthy skin cells.

Most often the cause of premature fading is the lack of care for a new tattoo. Many people either do not realize how important this care is or completely disregard the tattoo artist’s advice. New tattoos are not only very delicate but very easy to abuse as the skin has been traumatized tremendously. Caring for your new tattoo is easy as long as you can follow a few rules:

Always wash your tattoo daily with a mild soap. You can use a soft cloth or use your fingers and hand. Washing it will not only remove any dirt and germs but will also remove any old ointment from the area. Once it has been washed and rinsed pat it dry - do not rub it!

Let your tattoo dry after washing it for 10 - 15 minutes. This gives the skin a chance to ‘breathe’ and is very healthy for the healing skin. Once it is dry apply ointment to the tattoo evenly and gently. Apply ointment when the skin, and any scabs, are dry. Do not apply the ointment too often as this can also cause problems.

Never pick the scabs! The scabs are there to protect the damaged skin and removing them will cause a longer healing time, thicker skin layers around the picked scab and bleeding out of the ink (some of the ink will bleed out with the blood).

Do not scratch your tattoo when it itches. It will itch as that is a natural thing when skin is healing. Plain, un-scented lotion can ease this as can patting the tattoo gently.

Do not use a lotion, cream or ointment that contains aloe or vitamin E on your new tattoo. These will be fine once it has healed but may lead to loss of color and longer healing times. Never use Vaseline or petroleum jelly on your new tattoo.

With the right care of your new tattoo you can expect the color to last for many years. Fail to follow the right instructions for your new body art will lead to not only fading and distortion but to disappointment as well.