Beauty

8 Tattoos That Actually Look Better As You Age, According To Tattoo Artists

Set yourself up for success.

Do your research before you get ink. Some tattoos look better with age.
Shutterstock
Updated: 
Originally Published: 

Tattoos can yield all sorts of different results as the years go by. Some of the tattoos that look coolest in the short-term — white ink and watercolor tattoos, anyone? — may end up drastically changing over time. (Some people, sadly, have to learn this lesson the hard way.) Luckily, there are a few types of tattoos that look better with age, and tattoo artists told Bustle all about them.

Getting inked is a complicated enough decision without thinking about what will happen to the design 10, 20, or 40 years from now. Whether you opt for a full sleeve or a micro tat, remember: You're getting a permanent piece of artwork on your living — and changing — body, so thinking about how aging might affect your tattoo is actually really important.

“Your skin is a giant organ,” Louie Campopiano, tattoo artist at Traditional Tattoo in San Luis Obispo, CA, tells Bustle. “Taking care of yourself by staying hydrated and moisturized will help your skin age so much better. But we are all victims of time and gravity, and as your body changes, your tattoo will, too.”

If you talk to professional tattoo artists about it, they'll likely be able to draw from their experience to advise you on what will and won't look good, as well as things like the best and worst placements. 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," tattoo artist Jordanne Le Fae tells Bustle. But other little variables, like line thickness and color, also end up making a difference.

Here are eight tattoos that actually age well, according to experts.

1

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. Study up, ask your artist how long the tattoo will take to heal, and take special care of your new ink. In addition to wearing sunscreen and avoiding baths, be sure to refrain from peeling, scratching, and re-bandaging. It may seem tedious, 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." In other words, if you follow your tattoo artist's aftercare instructions word-for-word, you're more likely to have a tattoo that looks amazing through the years.

2

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." It’s wise to think about what kind of physical activities and exercises you do and what types of clothing you wear before making the leap.

If you can't decide — or you like to dabble in a little bit of everything — there are some surefire spots to aim for. "[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," tattoo artist Toby Gehrlich tells Bustle. "These areas can usually withstand the test of time."

3

Tattoos That Stay Out Of The Sun

Spending time in the sun can be fantastic — so long as you use a derm-approved SPF. Even though you should avoid exposure to the sun directly after getting a tattoo, you can still catch rays after your ink heals. Just use caution (as in, wear sunscreen and try to cover up) to ensure your tattoo looks good 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." While your tattoo artist may give you a time period where sunscreen is most important, try to be as vigilant as possible — indefinitely.

4

Black And Greyscale Tattoos

Shutterstock

Touch-ups to your tattoo can always be made, but if you want your piece to remain immaculate through the years, you should be careful about what shades you choose — and unfortunately, potentially reconsider that watercolor tattoo you’ve been eyeing. The best tattoo palettes are black or greyscale, according to Villani.

"You can never go wrong with black and greyscale tattoos," he 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." When brainstorming a design, consider color as a crucial part of the equation.

5

Tattoos With A Bold Design

Simple, minimalist tattoos are enduringly popular, but bold tattoos tend to last the longest. You can count both the size and the thickness of the lines as two of the reasons why these tattoos age well.

"Bold, black text and traditional American 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 words or traditional tattoos aren't exactly up your alley, you can ask your tattoo artist to incorporate darker lines or more negative space into your design.

6

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 likely be skimping out on quality. Precision and skill are key in determining whether or not your tattoo will age 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 requires precision. If your artist goes too deep, then the ink will blow out, and what originally looks like clean lines will over time —and not a very long time — look sloppier." Be sure you do a good amount of research on your artist — and their tattoo shop — beforehand.

7

Larger Tattoos

While it’s important to go for something bolder if want your tattoo to last, it’s equally crucial to consider a larger tattoo. It doesn’t need to cover an entire body part, but should generally be big enough to not fade in on itself, and allow room for touch-ups.

"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.

8

Dotwork Tattoos

©Perahke/Moment/Getty Images

Dotwork is when tattoo artists create an image via multiple little dots. Not only are dotwork tattoos unique and versatile (dotwork can be employed on nearly any design), but they’re super long-lasting, too, Campopiano says. “The gaps between the dots create a smooth gradation over time.”

Although dotwork tattoos can technically come in any color, Campopiano recommends black. “It ages and holds the best.” As for the part of the body, he says to avoid places like the palms of your hands and the sides of the feet and fingers as they don’t heal well. Wherever you choose to get your tattoo, consider asking your tattoo artist to use a dotworking method for long-lasting assurance.

Almost all tattoos can be tweaked or even removed, but should you want your tattoo to remain in tact and timeless over the years, be sure to consider factors like color, lines, and location.