Many things fade over time, like printed photographs, extensively washed clothes and even tattoos. According to Science Focus, even though tattoo needles deposit the ink beneath the first layer of skin so it won’t be shed easily with skin cells, the macrophage cells from the body’s immune system will eventually absorb the ink and disperse it. The sun also breaks down ink molecules, so tattoos that are consistently exposed to UV rays fade more quickly than ones covered by clothes. Cheaper ink used at the tattoo parlor will fade faster than other pricier options, too. Sometimes a tattoo will fade simply because of the hue of colors used, such as a white ink tattoo. Of course, tattoos that are on areas of the body that are considered high traffic areas, such as fingers and feet, will fade faster than ones on the back. Smaller, detailed tattoos usually grow lighter over time, too.

H2Ocean, a body art company in Florida, explained that it’s critical to explicitly follow the aftercare directions. Be sure to diligently reapply the aftercare product, which helps keep the tattooed skin soft and hydrated. It also needs to be kept clean with daily washings. There are lotions designed to help preserve an ink’s color longer. Be sure not to scratch the scabs on a tattoo during the healing process and don’t wear tight clothes over the tattooed skin, particularly during the healing process because they’ll rub on the tattoo. The following slides show just what can happen to tattoos over time and the results are surprising.