I apologize for the long wait. I was super busy when you sent this ask, I put it in my drafts, and then forgot to reply.
Most of the responsibility for tattoo fade falls on the artist and the canvas (the person getting the tattoo). Bad equipment accounts for some of it too, but a good artist shouldn’t have bad equipment 🙂
If the artist uses bad ink, doesn’t know how to put it ink in right, or doesn’t line things well or shade/blend well, the tattoo will fade. Artists who don’t know how to put ink into different skin types and tones are to blame for a lot of fading too.
If the canvas doesn’t take good care of the tattoo, it will definitely fade. Keeping a tattoo, no matter how old it is, out of the sun is the best way to keep it vibrant. If you can’t avoid the sun, put sunscreen on the tattoo – at least SPF30. There are even products out there with sunscreen in them specifically made for tattoos, like several products from Inkeeze and H2Ocean.
The healing process is very important as well, which is why I’ve started using Saniderm exclusively when I get tattoos, and we include it in the price of a tattoo at my shop because we insist our customers use it. That way we don’t have to depend on the customer to take care of the tattoo because most people don’t care for tattoos the way they should.
Exposing your skin to harsh chemicals will also hurt the tattoo. Latex glove use after you’ve gotten hand tattoos will do a lot of damage to them, as will excessive washing, washing with antibacterial soap or harsh cleaners, and letting your skin get too dry.
Something else a canvas needs to do is listen to the artist. I can’t tell you how many times my artists and I have tried to talk people into slightly thicker lines, and we try very hard to talk people out of tattoos with NO linework.
The linework is very important. If the linework isn’t there or is too thin, your tattoo WILL fade, and once it fades, it’s much more difficult to get it touched up without good linework in place.
“Watercolor” tattoos are notorious for this, and people insist on them, then come back and try to blame the artist when the tattoos fade.
Because tattoos are under several layers of skin, your tattoo will fade and spread a bit. It’s just what happens. But if you’ve got a good artist and you take care of your tattoo, it’ll hold up much better. I’ve got tattoos on my chest that were done 17 years ago with bad ink, but they’re still very vibrant because the artist knew what he was doing and I’m never out in the sun.
In the last 10-15 years, tattoo ink has really improved. Even bad tattoos being done right now will probably stand the test of time just because the ink is THAT good now.
Hopefully your tattoos will stand the test of time too 🙂