Fading Fingerprints: The Mysterious Case of Disappearing Tattoos

The disappearance of tattoos can be embarrassing, as well as confusing and scary. Why do they fade? The answer depends on the location of the tattoo, how old you are when you get it, and how long it’s been there, as well as many other factors. Regardless of your age or the location, if you’re planning to get any tattoos and you want them to stay forever, make sure that the artist who does them uses high-quality ink that has been approved by the FDA for permanent skin use.

What do fingerprints have to do with tattoos?

Anyone who has had a tattoo will tell you that it is a lifelong commitment. For example, my friend David got his first tattoo on his 18th birthday and says he’s never regretted it—even in light of skin cancer surgery in 2011. And when thinking about tattoos, chances are you didn’t question their permanence. If only those were always true! A recent study conducted by researchers at Newcastle University revealed that over time, tattoos can fade or disappear completely.

Can you predict when a tattoo will fade?

Although it’s not a scientifically proven fact, there are some well-studied reasons why tattoos fade. According to one study by a professor in Oregon State University’s College of Business, researchers discovered that tattoo removal was primarily caused by three factors: Scratching, sweating and exposure to chemicals. Because these elements can be somewhat controlled (such as avoiding scratching or sweating), you may want to pay special attention to how much time you spend in any profession that puts you at risk for these elements.

Do things like age, smoking, and skin type matter?

When it comes to fading tattoos, it’s difficult to say what’s normal and what isn’t. Some factors may speed up fading; others could slow down or even stop it altogether. Ultimately, your body is a complex system that can play out in many different ways, so there are no hard-and-fast rules for tattoo preservation. But here are some things you should consider before you get a tattoo on your fingers or anywhere else on your body: age, smoking, skin type (ethnicity/race), location (freckles and moles), weight loss/gain, exposure to sunlight, lifestyle habits (like drinking or smoking), use of sunscreen/lotions.

What are some ways you can preserve your tattoo?

When you get a tattoo, there are certain things you can do to take care of it before and after. Firstly, you’ll want to make sure your hands and body are clean—and make sure that cleanliness extends to any surfaces where you apply your ink. If a surface is unclean or has traces of lotion or other substances, your tattoo will almost certainly fade more quickly than it would otherwise. You also want to protect it from sunlight (yes, even with black ink) which can cause fading. Make sure to keep your tattoo covered when going out in sun; if necessary, use sunscreen over your art.

Can laser removal fix fading ink?

If you’re getting ready to have a tattoo removed, consider whether you’ll ever regret your decision to permanently decorate your body with ink. Even if you feel confident in your choice, there is no guarantee that it will withstand Father Time. Laser removal is more effective on some types of tattoos than others. In addition, it can cost hundreds—or even thousands—of dollars per session and recovery from laser treatment can be painful. If you find yourself feeling unsure about a tattoo in just a few years, never fear! Most dermatologists agree that fading tattoos are relatively easy to cover up or remove at any point.