6 Surprising Things That Happen To Tattoos As You Get Older

by Lauren Schumacker

Deciding whether or not to get a tattoo or any other form of body modification is a personal choice that often (but not always) comes along with quite a bit of preparation, thought, and consideration. But for all the thought about what kind of tattoo you want to get, where you think the tattoo should go, who should be the artist to ink you, and how you need to prepare for and then care for your tattoo, there might not be quite as much thought about some of the more surprising things that happen to tattoos as you get older. At least, not beyond the fact that, unless you have them removed successfully, they'll age as you do.

Although you might not think that it's worthwhile to overly stress about the ways in which the aging process or other decisions you make over the course of your life might affect the way your tattoo looks — and in some ways, you'd be right — it's still probably useful to spend at least a little bit of time thinking that through if you think that you want to get a tattoo. Many tattoos can touched up and there are plenty of things you can do to care for them over the course of your life to keep them looking the best that they can, so you might not want to let that completely dissuade you from getting that tattoo you've long-wanted. Knowing about some of the other things that can happen to your tattoo as you age, however, especially things that you maybe wouldn't have thought to consider, can help you make an even more informed decision and enable you to know what you might want to expect or keep an eye out for later on down the line.


They'll Change

If you really think about it, the idea that your tattoo will likely change over time probably isn't as surprising as you initially thought, but some people might not have really ever considered that their tattoo would look any different than the way that you've always envisioned it. Lyle Tuttle, a big-name tattoo artist, told the San Jose Mercury News that as your skin changes as you age, so too will your tattoos. They can stretch and sag as your skin does, wrinkle, of course, as your skin does, and sometimes even become a less clear, blurrier image.


They'll Fade

Fading can happen as you get older too. Authority Tattoo noted that the majority of tattoos will likely fade at least a little bit over time, as you age, but that the extent to which a tattoo will fade is based on a number of different things. Though you don't have complete control over how much or how little your tattoo will fade, taking good care of it can help.


They Can Hide The Effects Of Sun Damage (Like Skin Cancer)

Because the ink of your tattoo can disguise your skin, you need to think about where you're going to place a tattoo, as well as how you're going to care for your skin where your tattoo is located (and elsewhere, honestly) long-term. In an interview with HuffPost, Dr. Marie Leger, MD, a dermatologist at Weill Cornell Medicine, said that there have been some cases in which tattoos covered up some skin cancers. That is probably one of the reasons as to why it might not be a great idea to get a tattoo over a mole.


Bigger Tattoos Can Handle It Better

Alex Passapera, a tattoo artist from Rising Dragon Tattoos, told Romper in a past email interview that though you might think that smaller tattoos would age better, it's actually larger tattoos that tend to age better than smaller tattoos because the smaller tattoos will be more impacted by blurring and other aging processes.

So while you might not want to let that be a deciding factor, if you thought the opposite was true and were using that as your motivating reasoning, it's definitely worth knowing.


Your Skin Gets Drier, Which Can Negatively Affect Things Too

As your skin ages, it tends to get drier. In an interview with WebMD, dermatologist Dr. Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, MD said that lower levels of cell renewal, less oil production, and time spent in the sun can all make your skin drier as you get older. This is especially important to pay attention to if you have a tattoo, however. Refinery29 reported that tattooed skin needs hydration, regardless of whether the tattoo is new or very, very old. Make sure you're using something that hydrates and nourishes your skin. Talk to your dermatologist or tattoo artist for recommendations.


What & How Much They Mean To You Might Change As Well

Many people choose to get tattoos because they mean something to them, but others just decide to get something because they've decided that they want to get a tattoo. Both of those reasons are perfectly valid. But, generally, you can probably expect that your tattoos will mean something to you at some point in your life. In an interview with Teen Vogue, tattoo artist Sue Jeiven said that tattoos that you get without a meaning will likely get meaningful over time. Plus, that meaning that you thought you understood when you got the tattoo could change as your life does. These things aren't written in stone, even though the tattoo itself can be fairly permanent.

Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.