Thick black strokes or delicate thin lines – whichever you choose, are you prepared for your tattoo to turn green over time? It’s a common problem with very old tattoos and definitely one you should know about before you get inked.
This quick guide will explain why ink may turn green, which inks turn green, and whether your modern tattoo will fall victim to the greenness in the decades to come!
We also have some tips on how to keep your tattoo ink looking fresh and new for as long as possible. Of course, if you’re worried about ink colors fading and changing over time, consider a temporary tattoo instead.
Why Do Tattoos Turn Green: The Short Answer
The ink of your tattoo doesn’t change over time, but it is slightly absorbed and expelled by your body. Black ink is made up of a variety of pigments which are removed by your body at different speeds. Green and blue pigments are some of the last to be absorbed.
So, as some of your black ink starts to fade away, fewer pigments show through. That’s why very old tattoos turn green!
By old, we mean really old. It takes decades of time for old ink to turn green. Furthermore, many modern tattoo inks are designed to not fade or turn green like this at all.
To learn more about how ink changes over time and what you can do to keep your tattoo looking fresh, keep reading our guide below.
Tattoos Turn Green: The Long Answer
To expand on our short answer, tattoos don’t turn green – they already contained green to begin with. Tattoo ink is comprised of different pigments. To create different shades of black (yes, black isn’t just one color) numerous pigments are blended.
The specific pigments used depends on the brand and shade of black. How fast they fade depends on the placement and long-term tattoo care, as well as the quality and components of the ink.
What’s In Tattoo Ink?
Tattoo ink is made of a solid color pigment and a liquid – usually an alcohol or water. The solid pigments can be plastic, metal, or any other solid and colorful component that won’t degrade over time.
Usually, only black ink is prone to turning green with age, as the pigments are absorbed by your body. However, other bright colors can fade too. Although they won’t turn green, loss of definition and fading are common problems.
This is why quality is so important. You should always be inked with high-quality ink, as the pigments are less likely to fade quickly, and you won’t experience an infection. This can happen when you are inked with expired tattoo ink!
Modern Tattoo Ink
We have learned from the past and improved the quality of the pigments in our tattoo inks over the years… but we aren’t 100% sure that it has worked.
As mentioned, it takes decades for tattoos to fade and turn green. So, while we hope that our modern ink will stay bright and not fade, we won’t be completely confident until a few decades have passed, and we can see the evidence.
How Tattoos Change Over Time
Tattoos naturally change over time as our bodies slowly draw out the ink pigments and dispose of them. This is actually how laser tattoo removal works – the laser breaks down the pigment so your body can draw out the ink and expel it.
Bright colors can fade in a matter of years (see our tips below on keeping them bright and fresh) but most discoloration and fading takes decades. There are numerous factors that can impact how a tattoo fades, including:
- Expose to UV light – this fades tattoos faster,
- Your body’s natural response to tattoo ink,
- The quality of the ink pigments,
- Damage to your skin, e.g., scars over the tattoo.
When it comes to tattoos fading and turning green, placement really matters. The place you put the tattoo on your body will play a huge role in determining how fast it will fade. Any spot that’s regularly exposed to the sun, e.g., your hands, will fade much faster than a tattoo that’s hidden away, e.g., on your inner thigh.
Some areas of your body will drain away from the ink faster, or regenerate new skin quicker. This accelerates the fading process. Tattoos inside your mouth or on your inner lips are a good example of this. They can fade in a matter of months. Usually, that’s considered a bad thing, but it could be positive if you aren’t sure you want your tattoo to be with you for the rest of your life!
Another thing to consider is the natural aging process of your body. Some areas naturally sag and the skin wrinkles. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it happens to us all. But if you want a really detailed tattoo on the back of your hand or on your neck, for example, it may distort over time as your skin changes.
The same goes for any area that swell and shrinks as you lose and gain weight. This can really distort the tattoo design over time.
Worried About Faded Ink? Try Temporary Tattoos
If you’re reading this article before you got your first ever permanent tattoo, then you may be worrying about how it will fade. Thanks to the innovation of modern ink, a new tattoo won’t turn green quickly… but we aren’t quite sure how long it will take to start fading.
So, if that uncertainty doesn’t sit well with you, then give temporary tattoos a try first.
Temporary tattoos can last anywhere from a week to a few months, depending on the type and brand. They won’t fade away like permanent tattoo ink will, but they will give you an idea of what it’s like to wake up to the same ink design, day in and day out.
5 Tips to Keep Your Tattoo Ink Fresh
If you’ve got ink and you want to keep it looking bright for as long as possible, follow these 5 tips. On the other hand, if you’ve got brand new ink, go talk to your tattoo artist first! They’ll give you the proper aftercare procedures to follow.
Only once your tattoo has fully healed should you apply other products.
Apply Sun Protection
The higher the SPF, the better. UV rays from the sun will fade your tattoo quickly. Regardless of whether you live in a hot or cold climate, if your tattoo is regularly exposed to direct sunlight, you should take sun protection seriously.
Apply Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a really good moisturizer for tattoos. It can brighten and sharpen the colors, while locking in hydration. This prevents moisture loss through the day which is better for your skin and the ink.
Use a Good Moisturizer
Coconut oil locks in moisture, but it doesn’t provide much. So, apply a light moisturizer to your tattoo before coating it with a thin layer of coconut oil. Find a moisturizer that’s specifically designed for tattoos, so it won’t contain any components that fade the tattoo faster.
Book a Touch-Up Session
If the edges are getting blurry, the colors aren’t so bright, and those green tinges are ruining your black ink, then a tattoo artist may be able to fix it with a touch-up session. They might even be able to cover it up completely with new ink!
Try Laser Tattoo Removal
Your final option is to remove the tattoo entirely. You can then enjoy smooth, color-free skin, or get a new tattoo with higher quality inks that won’t fade so fast.
Why do old tattoos turn green?
As the pigment in black ink is slowly removed by your body, it can turn a green/blue color as it fades. The color itself doesn’t change, it’s just the density of color pigments slowly reducing.
How long does it take for tattoos to turn green?
Decades! Old tattoo inks take several decades to turn green, which modern high-quality tattoo inks are designed to last for far longer.
Which tattoo ink color is the most difficult to remove?
White is one of the hardest to remove, along with green and light blue. These colors are hard to remove with laser treatment and may require multiple sessions to remove entirely.
Does lemon juice fade tattoos or turn them green?
Lemon juice may lightly fade a tattoo, as it can bleach the skin. So yes, this may help your black ink fade faster (and therefore turn green faster) but it’s not an effective method of removing tattoos. You’ll go through a lot of lemons! It’s better to save up and pay for a professional to remove your tattoos with lasers.
Will my ink fade to green or blue?
Yes, it’s possible that your black ink may fade to green or blue over time. This will take decades, however, and depends on how you’ve cared for the tatt as well as the ink quality used by the artist.
How long does it take to fade a tattoo with hydrogen peroxide?
It takes several weeks of regularly applying hydrogen peroxide for the tattoo to fade slightly. It’s an ineffective method of tattoo removal and it’s not healthy for your skin. Consider laser tattoo removal instead. It’s costly, but the results are unbeatable.