Colors That Are Likely to Fade Fast
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All tattoos fade over time. Sun, aging and the natural cleansing process of your skin make the fading of even the best ink inevitable. However, not all tattoos—nor tattoo colors—are created equal, and with forethought, diligence, and common sense, you can keep your tattoo looking fresh for a lifetime.
Black and black-based colors such as grey fade the least. In general, the darker the tattoo, the fresher it will look 5, 15 and 45 years after it’s first inked, so if you’re ambivalent about color, or can’t decide between two or three colors, then go with the darkest option that still makes you happy.
Alternatives to Dark Colors
If you’re crazy about color, look for designs that offer maximum contrast: that way, even when the colors fade, they’ll still pop in comparison to one another. A tattoo with subtle gradations in color can fade into an indistinguishable mess over time, and while there are ways of keeping it crisp, you might be better off with a less nuanced tattoo.
Does the Type of Ink Used Matter?
Many skilled artists use different types of ink for different effects, or mix their own, and there is no general consensus on which brand of ink holds color best. However, there is a world of difference between a skilled artist and an unskilled one, so always use an experienced and respected professional.
How to Keep Your Color
When your artist tells you what not to do after you get inked, listen to him. Your tattoo can get wet, but it shouldn’t be exposed to water for longer than a few minutes, so no long baths, hot tubs, or saunas. Salt water and chlorine are even worse: they can actually draw ink out of your skin during the first week or two after getting inked.
Once your tattoo has passed its introductory phase, its biggest enemy will be the sun. Cover up when possible, and when it’s impossible, use a strong sunblock to protect your ink. Sunlight will lighten your tattoo over time (as it will with any artwork), so keeping your tattoo safe from the sun will lengthen the time between touch-ups.
If you have a detailed tattoo that’s fading, go see your tattoo artist about a touch-up. Most designs—especially those with multiple colors—require touch-ups every few years. If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo now, then while you’re looking for a tattoo artist, ask about their policies on touch-ups. A number of artists offer free touch-ups or give discounted rates to people whom they’ve inked.