How to Make Your Old Tattoo Look Good Again

Updated on November 19, 2019
Organised Kaos profile image

As a self-proclaimed tattoo commentator and writer, I rely on my personal experience and time working in a tattoo studio.

Lace wrist tattoo on girl. Old tattoos look new again.
Lace wrist tattoo on girl. Old tattoos look new again.

Tattoos are enjoying a wave of current popularity and social acceptance. Everyone's getting one, so you could be excused for thinking that tattoos are a relatively new trend. But tattoos have been around for centuries. Although you're probably not that old, many of us are sporting a tattoo that is at least a decade old, and showing that age, too.

The reality is that our tattoos grow old and age just as we do. Over time, the ink will spread underneath the skin, blurring once-straight and bold outlines and making them blend together. Colors begin to fade, lose their vibrancy, and take on a blob-like appearance. Words and verses merge into one another, no longer legible.

Our environment, particularly the sun, damages and fades tattoos prematurely. Moisturizing and using a sun protection lotion is one way to extend the life of your tattoo but unfortunately, once the damage is done, there's no way to reverse it entirely.

But below, you'll find all the options available to freshen up some of those old tattoos!

Tattoo Touch-Ups and Color Rejuvenations

When a tattoo reaches a particular age, there is no amount of exfoliating gel that can bring it back to life. This is when an appointment with a talented artist could be the answer. Your fossil of a tattoo could be re-outlined again with a solid, crisp black line. This would enhance its clarity and give the tattoo artist the opportunity to add some detail back into the faded design. In particular, areas of the design that are small and complex that have lost their detail because the the ink has spread. Designs that have faces in them can highly benefit from some touch-up work.

The colors are usually the first thing in a tattoo to show wear. Re-coloring faded tattoos that have maintained their outlines can make them current again. This is also the opportunity to repair or fix any errors or parts of your design that you honestly never really liked.

Have you considered, encompassing the old ink into a larger, more complex tattoo design? What about developing it into a sleeve, back job, stocking, or body suit? What can be accomplished when blending an old into a new tattoo is mind-boggling and totally inspiring.

Most tattoo artists will charge less or nothing for touching up their own designs, so consider going back to the person who tattooed you originally.

Body suit on lady, Inked women. Tattoo aftercare helps keep these looking good.
Body suit on lady, Inked women. Tattoo aftercare helps keep these looking good.

Us Exfoliating Gel to Refresh Your Old Tattoo

Consider using Aftershock Exfoliating Gel. Developed with alpha hydroxy acids derived from natural grapes, lemons, pineapple, and passion fruit, this amazing ink rejuvenator gel will assist with removing old, dull, dead skin that has grown on any aging tattoo.

This miraculous gel will brighten up any tattoo, but needs to be used with caution. Leave on your ancient tattoo for approx. 5 - 15 minutes and let the natural alpha hydroxy acids do their magic with the top dead layers of dead skin.

Although this option has immediate results, to continue to enjoy the benefits of using Aftershock Exfoliating gel you will need to incorporate the process into your monthly routine.

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Tattoo Lightening and Removal

Tattoo removal is an expensive and often quite painful process, but it is one option for dealing with an old, worn out tattoo. For an Artist to create a new, awesome cover-up, some of the old tattoo might need to be lightened or removed. Often, the darker outlines and block coloring cannot be covered up entirely without some form of external intervention such as removal or lightening.

Tattoo lightening takes about three sessions. The tattoo is not completely removed, though, so you can still make out the old design when your lightening sessions are completed. What it has done, though, is toned-down the thick, dark inks like blacks and blues and lower the brightness of general colors that can pop through a good cover-up.

Current methods of tattoo removal do not work well on the inks used in tattoo studios of today, so luckily, but they may work on those done quite a few years ago. The methods are reasonably effective when used to lighten a tattoo for a cover-up. This form of tattoo lightening does not take anywhere near as many removal sessions to achieve your desired result.

There is no greater freedom in the tattoo universe than the option or ability to change up the design you were initially given by your Artist. The options mentioned here are your one-time, get-out-of-jail-free card!

Arm tattoo in black and white
Arm tattoo in black and white | Source

Total Tattoo Redesign or Tattoo Cover-Up

Possibly your tattoo has gotten to a point where there isn't a lot that can be done to improve it. The ink may have spread too far and blended into the colors next to them, potentially creating an entirely new color, but most likely that washed-out blue-black effect found on most ancient tattoos. This is where either the decrepit tattoo design is completely re-done and inked again in the same theme, style, and colors or a whole new design is created as a tattoo cover-up.

A talented Artist may opt to redesign your elderly, more basic tattoo by adding to the current design and embellishing on it. Experienced artists can incorporate previous tattoos into a part or section of the of the fresh design.

If, like me, you've shed tears over a tattoo, if you consider your tattoos as works of art or your own personal life story, then it's time to act.

You may have paid a fair wack of cash for your amazing piece of art, so maybe you could have even taken good care of it. Yet life happens to all of us, the years pass by and our bodies show that wear and tear.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


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    • profile image


      16 months ago

      Gunjan Mishra,

      The darkest ink is BLACK

    • profile image

      Brian Evans 

      2 years ago

      I have an eagle diving on my right forearm I got when I was 18, I am now 48 and would like to have it altered or re-designed, any ideas please

    • profile image

      Kathi andrews 

      3 years ago

      I have a new tattoo that needs color modification and detail ,Jeffery Hubbard in Birmingham Alabama was the artist ,very talented but unfortunately he did a horrible job on mine and is no longer accepting appointments.I am looking for an artist who can work on finishing with expert detail to color and depth. Any suggestions I am in the Birmingham area but can travel within the area


    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I have two year old sleeve.still looks decent.just want to revive.

    • Organised Kaos profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Hobart, Tasmania ~ Australia.(The little bit broken off the bottom of AUS)

      Thanks for you lovely comment Kalinin1158, tattoos certainly are a personal thing, but I am with you - got quite a few and love them!!

    • kalinin1158 profile image

      Lana Adler 

      6 years ago from California

      Very informative article! I love tattoos (have 5 myself), and I'm always thinking of ways to improve/design/re-design them or add something. Voted up


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