The permanence of tattoos is, depending on who you ask, one of the best or worst things about the medium. Regardless of your stance on body art, the fact remains that the nature of tattoos is such that once you're inked, you're inked for life. Well, mostly.
It's true that tattoos are definitely a long-term investment. But even though the finished product lives beneath the top layer of skin, where it's protected from the elements, tattoos aren't invincible. Poor healing, bad aftercare and a number of other lifestyle factors can all contribute to rad tattoos fading into bad tattoos.
Tattoos – an art that's skin-deep
So what exactly makes a tattoo tick? Knowing what's actually happening when you get inked – and afterward as well – is important to understanding what you can do to help preserve your art. Popular Science explained that when you get a tattoo, the artist uses a needle to pierce your epidermis, or top layer of skin. The needle goes down to the second layer of skin, your dermis, where it leaves droplets of ink in whatever pattern you choose.
As your outer layer of skin continues to shed, your dermis remains intact, which is why your tattoo will stick with you for years or even decades. Your constantly changing epidermis provides a perfect window through which you can show your tattoo off to the world, while keeping it protected from the elements.
While tattoos are, in theory, permanent, there are still a number of things that can affect the look of your art. Even if the ink itself doesn't actually leave your body, many things can warp, blur or otherwise alter it to leave you with a distorted version of your original design.
If tattoos were to have an archenemy, it would almost assuredly be the sun. In fact, sunlight offers a double-threat to tattoos. For starters, the sun's ultraviolet rays can be damaging to the ink particles that comprise your tattoo, the Brisbane Times noted. Just like a picture that's been kept in the sun for an extended period of time, a tattoo that sees too much direct UV radiation will fade, causing the ink to lighten and the colors to look less vibrant.
Additionally, too much time in the sun can damage your skin itself. Even though the dermal layer, where your tattoo resides, isn't typically affected by the elements, a bad sunburn can lead to peeling or even scarring that can mar your tattoo.
You've heard this question countless times: "What will it look like when you get older?" While tattoos tend to hold up fairly well over time, your skin does still change. As your skin grows thinner and more wrinkled, your tatt may warp or blur. This may be largely unavoidable, but you can help preserve the look of your art by keeping up with a skin health routine.
You may not realize it, but part of how your tattoo will look years down the road depends on the artist who gives it to you in the first place. Tattooing is a meticulous process that requires skill and practice, and a subpar artist can result in an equally underwhelming tattoo. Popular Science noted that the depth at which the ink is injected can be a major factor. If ink is injected too deeply, it can result in lines that blur and fade more easily, since it can migrate outside of the original lines of the design. Be sure to do your homework before you get inked to help prevent a future case of tattoo regret.
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