The tattoo industry isn’t a secret anymore. While once tattooing was done in back alleys, in dark rooms, away from public and prying eyes it’s now so mainstream your grandma might even have a tattoo. It seems like every day you read another article about X tattoos or Y about tattoos. There’s so much information available out there that you would be hard pressed to find anything about tattooing that hasn’t be shared to death. Everything about the tattoo industry is in the limelight these days. However, there’s one thing that most people either don’t know or seem to forget about tattoos.
Wait. What? The whole point of tattoos is that they are permanent, irremovable, forever. While tattoo removal has made the permanency of tattooing less certain, the fact is that your tattoo is going to change. From the moment that needle finishes touching your skin to the time your body starts to decompose your tattoo has a life cycle of it’s own and it’s not necessarily the same for everyone.
The Fresh Tattoo
When you first get your tattoo your skin will be red, swollen, the colors will be especially bright, and it’s probably going to hurt or burn. While everyone expects there to be change between fresh tattoo and healed tattoo there’s a lot more to it.
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The Healed Tattoo
Healed tattoos are slight dull, the protective epidermis over the top means that the bright colors are only visible through opaque skin on top. At this point your skin changes. Tattooed skin has been shown to release more salts, to sweat more than untattooed skin. There’s no knowledge yet why that is the case but it’s true. Healed tattoos are like a piece of colored paper. Every exposure to the sun causes fading, just like it would to a piece of paper. Over time the healed tattoo will change and become an old tattoo unless it’s reworked and refreshed with fresh ink and new cells.
The Old Tattoo
Sunlight, poor healing, aging. Over time your skin is damaged, it changes. Old tattoos look very different than healed tattoos. The ink isn’t so crisp, the lines blurred, the colors faded or even gone. Some of the new tattoo “trends” may disappear or look appalling in a few years because of the aging process of the skin. The ink itself exists as tiny particles between cells, as the cells multiply and divide that ink gets distributed differently meaning the crisp line blurs. Some ink particles may be filtered out and removed by the body’s own lymph system helping to give older tattoos their ragged or blurred appearance.
The Removed Tattoo & The Covered Tattoo
If you decide to remove a tattoo it’s never really gone. The scarring under the skin remains, there’s still likely to be tiny particles of ink under the skin between those cells. For covered tattoos the original ink is still there, it’s not going to disappear but will blend with the newer particles or be overpowered by them in the case of an old tattoo because the newer particles are darker and less damaged.