Over the years, tattoo ink fades and more complex designs may become blurry. Significant weight gain or loss can also affect the appearance of a tattoo. According to tattooist Chris DeBarge of Stingray Body Art, very small tattoos are prone to blurring and becoming illegible. Older people are more likely to see changes in their tattoos.
Tattoo ink is stored inside skin cells called fibroblasts, according to New Scientist. Over time, these cells drift apart, causing the tattoo to blur around the edges. Eventually, fibroblasts die and are removed from the body, causing the colors of the tattoo to fade. On older people who have more delicate skin, this process happens more quickly. Sun exposure speeds up the process and causes tattoos to become blotchy or discolored. Occasionally, a skin ailment such as eczema can damage a tattoo, but this is rarely the case with minor rashes or irritations.
Staying out of the sun is one of the best ways to preserve tattoos. It is also possible to get tattoos recolored after they begin to fade, but this can only be done once or twice before the skin in that area becomes too brittle and damaged to hold any more ink.