By definition, a tattoo is a permanent marking on the skin. The ink is injected by needle under the skin, creating the image of the tattoo. The needle moves very fast, puncturing the skin and depositing the ink into the epidermis. As the ink is depositing into the epidermis, the skin captures the color of the ink. The artist will continue to clean the tattoo as he works on it, wiping it off with antiseptic and disinfecting the wound.
Over time tattoos will chance with the skin on a constant basis due to the wind, sun, regeneration, water, and other things. The way a tattoo looks and the design must also chance with the skin as it shrinks, stretches, and ages. The pigment that makes up the tattoo must remain the way it is over time, although tanning and wrinkles can affect the color and clarity of the tattoo.
The overall length of time that a tattoo styles healthy and vibrant in color all depends on how well it was taking care of after it was completed and how the skin is taking care of. Even though infection is always a concern with tattoos, you must also promote healing in the sense of retaining as much ink as you possibly can. Most tattoos will heal completely within a few short weeks, although they must be kept moist to prevent scabbing. If allowed to scab, the scab that forms will remove some of the color from the tattoo.
The number one enemy of tattoos is the sun. Just like other colors that are exposed to sunlight, the pigments found in tattoos will fade. Yellow and red are the hardest colors to maintain over time, blue and black are the easiest and most stable to maintain. Tattoos are considered to be part of the organism of living skin and need to be maintained to keep the color alive and fresh. If you are going to be out in the sun, you should always cover your tattoos and wear a quality sunscreen as well, just to be on the safe side.
Tattoos that have been properly applied, properly healed, and protected from the rays of the sun can remain their best for years and years. Although the colors will remain vibrant as well, time and the sun are definite enemies for tattoos. No matter how well you take care of your tattoos and protect them, there really is no escape from changes that come as a result of time itself.