Getting a tattoo, although a permanent decision regardless, can yield all sorts of different results as the years go by. Some of the tattoos that look coolest in the short-term may end up changing drastically over time. And this can be really frustrating if you weren't prepared. Luckily, there are some
tattoos that look better with age, and tattoo artists know exactly what they are. Getting a tattoo is a complicated enough decision without thinking about what will happen to the design 10, 20, or 40 years from now. But you're getting a piece of artwork on your living and changing body, so thinking about how aging might affect your tattoo is actually really important.
If you talk to a
tattoo artist about it, they'll likely be able to advise you on what will and won't look good, based on experience. Unfortunately, some of the trendiest tattoos are the most difficult to keep up over time. "There are two main reasons some tattoos age better than others: the size of the tattoo and long-term sun damage," Jordanne Le Fae, of Jordanne Le Tattoos, tells Bustle. But other little variables, like line-thickness and tattoo color, also end up making a difference.
Here are seven tattoos that actually look better as you age, according to tattoo artists.
Tattoos That Were Cared For Properly At The Beginning
One of the biggest indicators of a tattoo that will age well is how you care for it in the
immediate aftermath of getting it done. It may seem annoying to have to be so careful for a bit, but your future self will thank you.
"Aftercare plays a crucial part in a tattoo aging well,"
Tyson Weed, custom tattoo artist at Divinity Tattoo in Phoenix, AZ, tells Bustle. "First, you have to allow the tattoo to heal properly. If a tattoo is allowed to heal properly there’s no need for a touch up." So if you follow your tattoo artist's instructions word-for-word, you're more likely to have a tattoo that looks amazing through the years.
Tattoos In Places With Little Friction
When it comes down to it, tattoos are a little bit like real estate. The location really matters. "'High Friction Zones' tend to fade super fast," tattooist
Adam Villani, tells Bustle. "Think hands, feet, and other areas that come into a lot of contact with friction [...] it really depends on your lifestyle." So think about what sports you do and clothes you wear before you get the tattoo done.
If you can't decide, there are some sure-fire spots for long-lasting tattoos. "[The longest-lasting tattoos are] on flatter, less abused areas of the body like the flat of the forearm, upper arms, shoulders, back and thighs,"
Toby Gehrlich, tattoo artist at Red Tree Tattoo, tells Bustle. "These areas can usually withstand the test of time." Get whatever you want wherever, but know these spots will likely age the best.
Tattoos That Stay Out Of The Sun
Spending time in the sun is fantastic. And having a tattoo doesn't mean you have to avoid the sun altogether. It does, however, mean you should protect the tattoo itself from sun exposure in order to ensure it looking best as the years go by.
"The sun definitely takes some years off your tattoo, and if you are a frequent sunbather or cannot commit to putting sunscreen on your tattoos, you should probably stick to areas of your body that don't typically see the sun," Villani says. "[...] Beyond the initial couple weeks, the sun can still dramatically fade tattoos over time. It is so important to keep sunscreen on tattoos that are exposed to the sun." So, while your artist may give you a time period where sunscreen is most important, try to be as vigilant as possible forever, regardless.
Black And Greyscale Tattoos
Touchups can always be made, but if you want your original tattoo to be a sure-fire hit through the years, you should be careful about what colors you choose. And the best tattoo palettes are black or greyscale, according to Villani.
"You can never go wrong with black and greyscale tattoos," Villani says. "Black ink lasts better than any color ever will [...] Bright and vibrant colors look great at first, but tend to fade the quickest. This is often why
watercolor tattoos are frowned upon. They tend to not always last the test of time." So, if you and your artist are brainstorming a design, remember to consider color as part of the equation.
Tattoos With A Bold Design
Minimalist tattoos are gorgeous. But the tattoos that tend to look the best as time goes by are ones with bolder designs. Both the size of these tattoos, plus the thickness of the lines, makes them especially long-lasting.
"Bold black text and
American Traditional tattoos still look badass when they fade," Villani says. "It's kind of like how distressed jeans look cool [...] This may seem excessive for most people, but planning how a tattoo will look as it ages will be a fist bump to yourself in the future." If text or traditional tattoos aren't exactly up your alley, you can ask your tattoo artist if you can incorporate darker lines or more negative space into your design.
Tattoos On The Right Layer Of Skin
Going to the right tattoo artist is crucial. Most artists tend to agree that if you're going somewhere that's cheaper, you'll be skimping out on important quality features. And one of these little details you might miss is actually a really important factor in whether or not your tattoo ages well.
"The appearance of tattoos aging depends on [...] your artists' skill," Villani says. "Tattoos lay in the dermis of the skin, which is only one millimeter thick. Ensuring the needle hits this one-millimeter layer is requires precision. If your artist goes too deep, then the ink will blowout, and what originally looks like clean lines, over time (not a very long time) will look sloppier." To make sure your tattoo quality is what you want, make sure you do a good amount of research beforehand.
Just as important as it is to get a bold enough tattoo if you want it to withstand the test of time, it's equally important to get a larger one. Your tattoo doesn't need to cover an entire body part, but it be big enough to not fade in on itself, and allow room for touchups.
"If the tattoo has small, tight intricate details, they will be lost with time as the cells change and move," Gehrlich says. "When the design is larger, there is more room for displacement and allows the design to still be readable." As your skin ages, your tattoo will change. Getting a larger design may help you prepare for the way it will look later on.
Almost all tattoos can be touched-up, or even
removed, so getting a tattoo that will look equally amazing through the years is not necessarily a requirement of choosing a design. Still, if you're considering how aging will affect things, it's important to understand that certain factors like color, lines, and location do matter in the long-run.