05 Jun 2013
June 5, 2013

Old Vs. New, Which Tattoos Fade Faster?

Old Vs. New, Which Tattoos Fade Faster?

Tattoos will almost always fade slightly over time, but this article isn’t about natural fading.  Of the most frequently asked questions we get, those about the age of tattoos are becoming more and more common.  We’re going to explain how this relates to laser tattoo removal treatment and provide answers that will help set realistic expectations.

  • Will the age of my tattoo determine how fast it fades from laser tattoo removal treatment?
  • My tattoo is old, will it fade faster?
  • My tattoo is new will it fade faster?

The short answer is, the age of your tattoo will not effect the rate at which a tattoo fades.  There’s more to it than just that though.

Old Faded Tattoo

There are six main factors that determine how fast a tattoo will start to see reaction from laser tattoo removal treatment, age isn’t one of them, yet it can play a roll in a different way, which will be discussed later.  The determining factors are:

  1. Your immune system, directly responsible for the fading
  2. The pigments that were used in your tattoo
  3. Pigment saturation
  4. Line-work and shading
  5. The artist who did your tattoo
  6. Location on the body

With laser tattoo removal, we like to say that we facilitate tattoo removal, your body does all of the hard work.  The healthier you are the faster you will respond to treatment.  In a clinical publication last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that smoking effects the healing time for tattoo removal.  In our experience, we’ve found clients who eat healthy, stay hydrated and exercise regularly also heal faster with more progress between treatments.

The FDA has not traditionally regulated tattoo inks or the pigments used in them. Also, the FDA has not approved any tattoo pigments for injection into the skin. This applies to all tattoo pigments. Because of the lack of centralized standards, and with how pigments are diluted and blended during the tattoo process, there is no easy way to know how the pigment used in your tattoo will react until we start treating it.  Furthermore, if you have several tattoos from the same artist, they too may fade at different rates due to the artist switching pigment manufactures between your visits.  Many black inks are based off a very dark blue (indigo), however we’ve seen some fade to red after two treatments and we’ve even seen some black ink fade to a yellow / green color.

Fresh Tattoo

Tattooing is an art.  Not just talking about the artwork that you end up with, the actual application of the tattoo.  It’s an invasive procedure involving needles entering the skin, sometimes thousands of times. The needles used, how they are setup and the procedure itself will all play a roll in how your tattoo heals, and then how it’s removed.

Total pigment saturation, meaning the amount of ink in your skin plays a massive role.  Additionally, line-work traditionally fades slower due to the tattoo machine used, shading on the other hand will typically fade a bit faster, as it’s a different type of tattoo machine.

The location on the body of the tattoo will play a small role, too.  Tattoos on the torso will respond slightly faster than tattoos on the hands and feet.

The age of the tattoo is almost never a factor in how quickly reaction to laser tattoo removal treatment happens, what is a factor is how old the client is and how well they’ve taken care of themselves and their skin.  Skin ages with time, it not only becomes more challenging to tattoo, it becomes more challenging for removals.  Again, this leads back to how healthy you are, and how quickly your immune system will react to the treatments.

Tattoos done in the 70’s and 80’s will, by nature, be on older clients.  These tattoos tend not to be very well saturated due to the limited equipment that was available. Keeping in mind tattoo machines, power supplies, needle mags and tattoo inks (pigments) have only been improving, even more so over the last 5-10 years, technology does play a role in the success of tattoo removal.  Tattoos done within the last few years tend to be more heavily saturated, done better and last longer, thus be slightly more difficult to fade.

We’ve already covered what can be done if you just got a tattoo and hate it.  If you’re ready to start laser tattoo removal treatment, make sure you follow the aftercare given to you by the tattoo artist fully.  Once that has been done, keep the area moisturized and continue to drink plenty of water, also apply sunscreen whenever the tattoo will be exposed to the elements, not just in the summer at the beach.  We also suggest a minimum of 12 weeks to properly heal from the tattoo before starting treatment.  In some situations, we may suggest waiting longer.