Tattoo Aging: What Happens To A Tattoo When You Get Old is reader-supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you.

If you have a tattoo, you’ve probably been asked what happens to a tattoo when you get old. Deciding to get a tattoo takes a lot of thought but how our tattoos will age doesn’t always make the list.

The reality is that while your tattoo will look great when you get it, tattoos do age with you. Weight gain or loss, prolonged sun exposure, placement, and dehydration of the skin all come with aging and will impact your tattoo.

If you’re wondering exactly what happens to a tattoo when you get old, you’re in the right place. In this article, we will share with you the most common changes that happen to your tattoos as you age.

3 Changes That Happen as Tattoos Age 

tattoo when you get old

Although it isn’t super important to obsess over how your tattoos will age—you only live once, right—it is a good idea to give just a little thought to the aging process. This is especially true when it comes to placement.

There are also things you can do to prevent some of the obvious signs of tattoo aging. But first, let’s look at what changes you can expect your tattoo to go through as you age. 

1. Tattoo Will Fade 

Fading tattoos is something everyone with a tattoo worries about. As you get older, your tattoo will fade a little over time. How much they’ll fade, luckily, depends on quite a few factors that you and your tattoo artist have control over. If your tattoo artist uses a quality ink that is known for durability, then the fading will be less severe. Also, if you take care of your tattoo, it will look better for longer.

2. Tattoo Will Lose It’s Shape and Change Size 

As you grow older, your skin produces less collagen which means it isn’t as elastic as it used to be. This leads to looser and more wrinkled skin. You can imagine that this will impact the shape of your tattoo, as well as the size. These changes are the least visible on tiny tattoos with simple designs, but they can still become elongated as they stretch. 

If you have a large tattoo placed on an area that is prone to stretching, such as the abdomen area, thigh, sides, back, and lower back, the loss of shape and size will be more visible and significant. Larger tattoos may look bigger as the skin stretches. Therefore, placement is so important as it can impact what happens to a tattoo when you get old. 

3. Tattoo Will Need Extra Hydration 

Your skin loses a lot of moisture as you age, and this definitely has a negative effect on your tattoo. When older, your skin does not renew cells as much as it used to when you were younger and oil production is also less.

Add to that sun exposure and your skill becomes increasingly dry. That being said, keeping your tattooed skin moisturized is something you should do from day one. This doesn’t only keep your tattoo looking vibrant day to day, but it also slows down the fading process. 

Other things to keep in mind about aging and tattoos:

  • There’s a chance that your tattoo can hide skin cancer. If there is a history of skin cancer in your family, you may want to get tattoos in areas where there aren’t any moles and where sun exposure is limited. 
  • Bigger tattoos tend to age better. Although changing shape and size will be more visible on larger tattoos, you will still be able to see most of the design. Smaller tattoos tend to blur and often what once was a butterfly becomes a blob. 
  • Their meaning may change as you age. When you’re young, you may get a tattoo with a specific meaning behind it but it’s likely that what you understood the tattoo to mean, changes as you age or becomes less important to you. Your mindset and ideas when you’re younger aren’t set in stone but tattoos are pretty permanent. 

How Can You Protect Your Tattoo?

We touched on some of the things you can do to make your tattoos look good as your skin changes due to aging, but let’s take a deeper look at how to protect your tattoos. 

Don’t Skimp on Aftercare

When you walk out of the tattoo shop, it is in your hands to take care of your new artwork. The choices you make during the tattoo healing phase will have a lasting impact on the look of your tattoo. 

Following the aftercare instructions your tattoo artist shares with you can speed up healing, and prevent inflammation and inflammation, which will keep your tattoos vibrant for years to come—even into old age. If you have a tattoo with bright colors, correct aftercare is especially important as colors tend to fade faster. 

You should also take care not to overdo it; aftercare can become damaging when done too much. For example, washing your tattoo more than twice a day and moisturizing it every chance you get can have adverse effects. 

Sunscreen is Important

UV rays are a tattoo’s worst enemy. Sun damage can cause premature skin aging, which means your tattoo won’t look as bright as it could. If you expose your tattoo to UV rays without protection, it will get damaged little by little until the damage is significant enough to make your tattoo look dull and faded. 

If you cover your tattoo with sunscreen, you give it a layer of protection that will prevent drying and wrinkling. Always apply a sunscreen of a minimum of SPF30 but SPF50 is even better. 

tattoo when you get old

Drink Enough Water 

You can take care of your skin from the inside out by staying hydrated. When you’re dehydrated, your skin will dry out and this will speed up the aging process which leads to loose skin with wrinkles.

Unfortunately, as you get older, you have to up your water consumption as the skin gets drying with age. You can also moisturize with hydrating lotions to put some moisture back into your skin. 

Stay Active

If you exercise as you get older, your muscles will maintain their tone and your tattoos won’t sag or lose their shape. Staying active will also help you manage your weight, which is great news since you’re more prone to wobbly and loose skin when you lose weight when older. 

That being said, it is unavoidable that you will lose muscle mass as you age, so although exercise and all the other measures above work, they only prevent the inevitable. But that shouldn’t put you off from getting a tattoo—it will only look a little worse for wear later in your life, when you’re young your tats will look beautiful and be a representation of your creative self. 

Some other things you can do is:

  • Go for a touch-up when you start seeing unwanted changes to your tattoo. 
  • Avoid using tanning beds that damage your skin. 
  • Stop smoking as it can dry out your skin and promote faster aging. 

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is you can’t stop the aging process—your body will change as it gets older and so will your tattoos. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to ensure your tattoos stay looking good for years to come. 

Taking care of your skin from the inside out by drinking enough fluids and following a healthy diet will go a long way in keeping your tattoos young as you age. From the outside, following the correct aftercare protocol right after getting your tattoo and continuing to moisturize your skin will also benefit your tattoos.

Oh, and don’t forget the sunscreen! There’s nothing that ages the skin quicker than sun exposure without a protective layer. 

It all comes down to one thing: the healthier you are, the healthier your skin will be and the better your tattoos will age.

Now that we have answered what happens to a tattoo when you get old, it is up to you to decide if you want wrinkles and sagging skin when you’re older, or wrinkles and sagging skin decorated with tattoos. There’s nothing you can do to escape the aging process so why not look cool doing it?

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