How to Protect Your Tattoo and Keep It From Fading, According to Experts

Repeat after me: Sunscreen is your friend.


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If you're looking to get a tattoo or have already gotten one, you know that taking care of your ink is non-negotiable. Not only will proper aftercare protect your tattoo from infection, but the right long-term care will ensure it stays looking its best. The thing is, while tattoos theoretically last forever, they can fade over time. So to help you out in your fight against tattoo damage, we tapped two experts to get their best advice and pro tips on the dos and don'ts of caring for your tattoo.

Keep reading for how to protect your tattoo and make it last longer, according to tattoo artists.

Tattoo Aftercare

The first few days after getting a tattoo are very important as the treated area will essentially be an open wound, so you need to protect it from irritation and infection. As such, keep the area clean and protected from external factors, such as water, irritating skincare products, or physical friction.

"After the bandage is taken off, let the tattoo breathe for a day or two," says Los Angeles-based celebrity tattoo artist and founder of WOO Skin Essentials, Dr. Woo. "Keep it out of direct sunlight, only wash it with fragrance-free cleansers, and after 24 to 36 hours, apply a light coating of the WOO After/Care Moisturizer once or twice a day."

Also, your tattoo will likely peel or flake — but don't pick at it. Apart from the potential risk of infection, this could cause scarring and lead to your tattoo being altered. Instead, let your skin do its thing and nurture it with moisturizer and sunscreen throughout the process.

Tips for Long-Term Tattoo Care

Wear sunscreen daily.

"For long-term tattoo care, keep your tattoo moisturized, avoid direct sunlight while healing, exfoliate, and use sunscreen to preserve color," says KVD Beauty's global director of tattoo artistry, Miryam Lumpini.

So, say it with us: Sunscreen is your best friend. Hopefully, you're already wearing sunscreen every day to prevent skin cancer and visible signs of aging, but it's also important to use SPF on your tattoos to prevent them from fading.

Simplify your skincare routine.

While you should think of tattoo care as your regular skin care, Dr. Woo says to avoid going overboard with skincare products. "Less is more," he says, adding that moisturizing is his biggest tip for keeping tattooed skin healthy.

Practice healthy habits.

For a more holistic approach, Lumpini says to keep your skin healthy from the inside out. "[This] can be influenced by diet, stress levels, and overall mental and physical health," she adds.

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How Tattoo Placement Affects Its Longevity

Both experts confirm that the location of your tattoo will likely affect how it's going to age. "Hands, feet, and inside the mouth are probably the worst places to get a tattoo because of skin's texture and its constant exposure to water and products," Lumpini says.

Dr. Woo also says that areas that crease often, like the elbows and knees, are prone to fading. And, while he acknowledges that hand and foot tattoos are popular, he tells his customers that maintaining tattoos in those areas is tricky.

If you want your tattoo to have a better chance of looking fresh in the long run, consider getting one in a spot that can hold ink better. For example, Lumpini suggests the chest, arms, legs, and stomach as better options for long-term brightness.

Other Factors That Can Affect a Tattoo's Longevity

"Color, lines, and shading can all affect how long a tattoo will look sharp," Lumpini says. However, she adds that it largely depends on the techniques the artist uses, the quality of ink, and tattoo supplies."

"Any professional tattooist should be able to handle the best execution of a tattoo," Dr. Woo says. That said, we cannot stress enough how important it is to do your research and find a tattoo artist who knows their way around a tattoo gun and who you feel comfortable with.

Bottom Line

If you have any concerns about how a tattoo will look after a few years, talk it over with your artist. Depending on your desired outcome, you may decide to make a design a little bigger so the lines are more clear or either add or remove shading. Artists recommend consultations before diving into tattoos so you can discuss all this, so make sure to get all your questions answered.

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