Is it normal for a new tattoo to look faded?

Is it normal for a new tattoo to look faded?

Is it normal for a new tattoo to look faded? As your new tattoo heals you may worry if it is fading away or losing ink. A tattoo can look a little strange during the healing process and you may worry if what you are seeing is normal. 

A healed tattoo will look less bright than when it was fresh. This is because a layer of skin has grown over it as it heals. This is normal. A new tattoo can look dull and faded as the skin regenerates. After 8 weeks it should have reached final colour. If it’s still faded you can fix it.


If you have a thorough understanding of the tattoo process you will know what to expect as your tattoo heals. You will also know when something has gone wrong which has resulted in a faded tattoo, and how to fix it.

Tattoo Healing Stages – The 3 stages of healing a tattoo

Tattoos go through 3 stages of normal healing. It’s important to understand that a tattoo is a wound to your skin so your body goes through stages of healing it.

TATTOO HEALING STAGES
Stage 1 [days 1-6]
Healing plasma is released by the skin
The tattoo may be red and swollen but that should improve quickly

Itching may start around day 4

Scabs may start to form but it’s important to know that not all tattoos scab, especially if covered with a dressing film

Stage 2 [days 7-14]
Flaking starts. Thin layers of the new tattoo may start to peel off and it will probably look dull and even scabby at this stage.
Stage 3 [days 15 – 28]Your tattoo is still healing for up to a month. It may still look dull at this stage.

However, if a good month has passed and the ink still looks faded then this probably indicates a problem with the tattoo that needs fixing.

fresh tattoo revealed after burn

As skin regrows the tattoo fades a little. A burn reveals the bright ink under the skin. Source Reddit

My tattoo still looks faded after it’s fully healed. Why?

If you have given your tattoo a good 1 to 2 months to heal and it still looks faded, this may indicate an issue with the tattoo itself.

There are several reasons why your new tattoo can look faded. It’s important to know that a faded tattoo can be fixed.

The main reasons that a new tattoo can look faded are:

1 – A Tattoo Artist using cheap or inferior inks

The brightness and saturation of a tattoo very much depends on the quality of the ink that was used.

If a tattooist uses cheap inks they just don’t contain as much saturated pigment as a higher quality ink.

In this case, a tattoo can look like it’s a few years old and weather-beaten immediately after being done.

Always make sure you go to a Tattoo Artist who doesn’t cut corners and who uses high-quality equipment.

2 – The Tattoo Artist didn’t implant the ink into the right layer of skin

A Tattooist has to implant the ink into just the right skin layer for it to hold well. Too deep and you will get blowouts. Too shallow and the skin will grow, slough off and take the ink with it. You will end up with a scratchy, patchy tattoo with bits missing. 

[Note – This is the origin of the word “scratcher” for an unlicensed and untrained tattooist}

This is often an issue for tattooists who haven’t been tattooing very long and haven’t got skilled at making sure the tattoo is going into the right skin layer.

How hard do I press when tattooing

The Tattooist needs to implant the ink into the correct layer, the Dermis, to ensure that your new tattoo won’t fade.

3 – The ink wasn’t saturated enough

If the Tattooist doesn’t saturate the ink well enough into the area, this can result in patchy and non-saturated colour that quickly looks faded.

This can often be the result of working too fast. If you have areas of colour or black that have gaps and holes in them this is likely what has happened.

4 – You picked or scratched at the tattoo

If you have scratched at the area of the tattoo as it was healing then you can scratch the pigment out. This will result in a patchy and light tattoo.

Tattoos can be infuriatingly itchy but you need to control the urge or you may end up with a tattoo that needs fixing.

faded finger tattoos

Finger tattoos often fade away and need retouching. Photo electricalivia.tumblr.com

5 – You chose a tattoo location that doesn’t hold ink well and often fades

The truth is that some locations on the body hold ink better than others.

The following locations are notorious for needing to be retouched regularly.

  • Hands
  • Feet
  • Side of finger
  • Side of wrist
  • Back of the ankle
  • Elbow

You may find that your cute tattoo on the inside of your finger looks amazing when first done, but after a few weeks, it may have pretty much faded away.

You may see a tattoo you like but bear in mind that the tattooist will have photographed it when it was new. It may not look the same when healed.

6 – You chose a tattoo style that may be prone to fading

Traditionally, tattoos had thick black lines and bright and solid colours because these stand up well over time.

As tattooing as a medium has advanced it’s understandable that tattooists will push the boundaries of what is possible. However, this means that there are some popular styles that can sometimes not heal as well as people would like, especially if done by a tattooist who isn’t well-practised in the style. These can include.

Watercolour Tattoos

Watercolour tattoos can look beautiful, with soft and delicate washes of colour. However, they generally need some black elements to give them graphic punch and hold them together when the watercolour effect fades back. If not done correctly they can look aged and washed out in a few months.

Hyper-realistic detailed tattoos.

Have you seen people being tattooed at conventions with amazingly detailed and realistic tattoos? These amazing creations are often taken from detailed photos of flowers and animals or even portraits.

They almost look like a photocopy. They look amazing whilst they are fresh. However, it’s always a good idea to view them once they are healed.

Often they have lost a lot of their vibrancy and colour. In some cases I have seen, the artist has overworked the skin by using liberal numbing products and working for a long time in one area to get the detail.

This overwork results in a lot of skin trauma and scabbing. This causes the skin to reject the ink and once healed they can look like an old faded photo.

This may not happen in all cases but this is a difficult type of tattoo to pull off technically whilst keeping from damaging the skin and having the ink fade.

How do you fix faded tattoos?

The good news is that faded Tattoos can be fixed. It’s often a case of boosting the colour back up.

Faded Hand Tattoo

Most Tattoo Artists will offer a free retouch. Source badbird.ink

Most Tattooists offer a free retouch if your new tattoo has faded

Most tattooists will give you a touch up for free a few months after they completed the tattoo if any areas need a bit more colour.

However, it’s worth noting that they won’t do this if the fading is due to your aftercare negligence or scratching at the tattoo.

In a studio I used to work in I once saw a woman who had scratched pretty much the whole tattoo off her ankle as it was “too itchy”. She definitely didn’t get a free retouch from the artist who tattooed her.

However, this is a rarity and most Tattooists are happy to sort out any issues with your tattoo for free.

You can recolour the faded tattoo

It’s a simple matter to go back into a tattoo and put more colour into it. This can give the tattoo a “facelift” and ensure that it looks as fresh as possible.

Another coat of ink can make all the difference.

If the fading wasn’t due to something the artist did you may need to pay for this, however.

You can get a cover-up tattoo

If you really don’t like the tattoo, the fact that it is pale and faded works in your favour.

A faded tattoo is much easier to cover with another tattoo.

You can choose another bolder design or go to another tattoo artist and get the faded tattoo covered up easily.

Is there anything else I can do to stop my new tattoo from fading?

1 – Use good aftercare products

To prevent your new tattoo from fading you need to ensure you are using a quality aftercare product.

I highly recommend After Inked as my go-to aftercare product which will help to ensure that your tattoo heals as brightly as it can do and gives you joy for years to come.

After Inked Tattoo Moisturizer & Aftercare Lotion

  • Non-Petroleum based
  • Paraben-Free
  • Fragrance-Free
  • Vegan & not tested on animals

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2 – Keep your new tattoo out of the sun

Sun is the enemy of tattoo pigment. If you expose your fresh tattoo to the sun whilst it’s still healing, you risk damaging and fading the pigment before it has time to heal. This is especially true of colour tattoos.

Keep your new tattoo covered if the weather is sunny. Once healed make sure you use a sunblock product on the tattoo whenever you are outside

INK Tattoo Sunscreen SPF 50+ Stick

  • Protects tattoos from fading with SPF 50
  • Water Resistant
  • Maximum protection for tattoos

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Is it normal for a new tattoo to look faded?

Don’t worry if your tattoo is looking a bit dull or flakey as it heals. Your body is working hard to heal your tattoo and as the skin reforms this can mean that your tattoo looks dull.

Most tattoos will brighten up after about a month.

However, should the worst come to the worst you can get your tattoo retouched and brightened up quite easily and often your tattooist will offer this service for free.

Look after your tattoo as it heals and you should be rewarded with a bright and beautiful tattoo that brings you joy for years to come.

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