Does Coconut Oil Fade Tattoos?

Tattoos are permanent, yes. But sooner or later, it’s going to fade. In this article, you’ll not only find out if coconut oil fades tattoos, you’ll also learn the most common reasons why tattoos fade (and what you can do about it). 

But first, what are people saying about coconut oil and tattoos?

Image by Huyền Lương Ngọc

We scoured online forums and blogs to know what others are saying about this ‘amazing natural oil.’

Eclecticdream says coconut oil has a ton of benefits. He uses it sometimes instead of lotion, and he says it hydrates his skin longer than any lotion he’s used.

Jonathan Brasseur said the lotion his tattooist recommended dried and irritated his full sleeve tattoo. So, he looked for an alternative and found organic virgin coconut oil. To protect his tattoo, he stays out of the sun. He also only goes out at night, but not before applying a few drops of coconut oil to keep the tatt moisturised.

WhyMista said he started applying coconut oil to the back of his hands after the first day or two, and the tattoo healed just fine.

Nova Lox commented on CrunchyBetty’s post that she’s been getting tattooed for 8 years, and has been using coconut oil as her tattoo healer and lotion. She swears she’ll never go back to Aquaphor.

Unfortunately, not everyone’s impressed with coconut oil.

Janelle wrote on her blog that she used coconut oil on day 2 instead of the water-based lotion her tattooist recommended. Soon after, she noticed some of the ink bled out in the bottom portion of the tattoo. She initially blamed the coconut oil for the blowout, but experienced tattoo artists told her it’s because her tattooist went too deep with the needle. Instead of inserting the ink in the dermis layer of skin, the tattooist ended up in the hypodermis, thus causing the blowout.

So, can coconut oil actually fade tattoos?

Photo by Anastasiia Rozumna

Long story short, the definitive answer is NO. The truth of the matter is that coconut oil is a natural moisturiser. It’s rich in vitamin E and nourishing fatty acids which help with skin elasticity and moisture retention.

Protection-wise, coconut oil is a natural antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial. So, when you apply oil to your tattoo, it’s literally protecting your skin from the inside out.    

Coconut oil is, well, oily and greasy, and some people may not like this aspect of the oil. It does take a while to get absorbed into the skin (unrefined coconut oil has larger molecules). But once it settles in, you can expect your skin to stay moisturised and hydrated for hours!

That said, tattoos will only look as good as the skin it’s on. With coconut oil, your skin will look healthy, supple and smooth. Instead of making your tattoo look faded, your coconut-oil-rejuvenated skin will let the pigment in the dermis stand out, thus making your tattoo look more vibrant than ever!

Here’s an infographic summarising the wonderful benefits of coconut oil on tattoos:

Infographic summarising the benefits of using coconut oil on tattoos

Why tattoos fade and how to protect it from fading?

man contemplating how often he should put lotion on new tattoo

Some of the ink’s already faded (Photo by Joel Muniz)

You’ll see the best version of your tattoo at the tattoo parlour. The lines will be well-defined, the fillers will look slick, and the plasma (and blood) oozing out will add a nice sheen to it. In short, it will look awesome!

This is because during the tattooing process, some ink will get stuck in the epidermis (not everything’s going to drip down to the dermis layer). After several hours, however, your brand-new tattoo’s fresh new look will start to change.

So, here are the most common reasons why tattoos fade: 

1) It’s the very nature of tattoos

Tattoos are technically puncture wounds on your skin. And once your skin starts healing, your tattoo’s going to go through a few changes as well.

During the first few days, your tatt will start looking milky thanks to the scabs that will form (don’t pick – let it fall off on its own). Those scabs will eventually harden to let the tattoo underneath heal properly. In a few more days, the scabs will fall off to reveal a fresh layer of epidermis.

With the epidermis now ink-free, it will look like a thin, pale sheet stuck in front of your tattoo. Because of this, tattoos start looking a bit faded by the time it completely heals (about 3-4 weeks or more, depending on your body’s healing rate).

Must read article: Is it safe to put coconut oil on new tattoos?

2) Poor aftercare regimen

The first few days are absolutely critical to the healing process. If you ignore proper tattoo aftercare, then you can expect your tatt to fade much faster than normal! In short, how you take care of your fresh tattoo will have a direct effect on its appearance months and years later.

Keep in mind that post tattoo care will last throughout your lifetime. Remember to moisturise your tattoo every single day!

Must read article: Coconut Oil on Tattoos: 10 Reasons It’s Great For Your Skin

3) Your tattoo’s location

Hand tattoos tend to fade faster (Photo by Steven Erixon)

Tattoos on some parts of the body are more prone to fading than others. This includes tattoos on feet and hands. There’s not much fat on hands and feet, which makes it prone for ink not sticking around forever. Also, avoid getting tattooed in areas which get too much sun exposure or get rubbed too often on clothing. 

4) The sun’s harmful rays

Fortunately, sunscreen lotions are aplenty. Just make sure you choose one that’s got high SPF (sun protection factor), so your tattoo is adequately protected when you go out into the sun. Alternatively, you can wear sun-protective clothing to block out the sun’s rays.

Either way, it’s important to protect your tatt from the sun even if it’s already a few years old. This is because the sun can penetrate skin and break down the ink, which can result to fuzzy, blurred, and faded tattoos. 

5) Tattoo blowout

There’s no perfect tattooist out there. Highly skilled and talented, yes, but perfect? No. Applying ink to the right skin layer (dermis) takes experience and know-how.

When the tattooist is far too heavy-handed, he can push the needle down into the fatty layer of the skin. This can cause the ink to spread outside of the intended area, which results to fuzzy-looking lines. Of course, this makes your new tattoo look faded, too.

Related article: Tattoo Blowout: What You Should Know About It

6) Weight fluctuation

Your body’s going to change over the years – and so will your skin. If you lose weight, your tattoo can end up looking wrinkled. If you gain a few pounds, your tattoo will get stretched out as well. Either way, your tattoo’s going to look very much different from what it originally looked like.  

How to fix faded tattoos?

does coconut oil fade tattoos? - let's ask this guy with all his faded tattoos on full display

Faded tattoos on full display (Photo by Brian Kyed)

Coconut oil can’t fix faded tattoos, but it can certainly slow down the eventual fading. The oil will make your skin smooth and supple, which will, in turn, make your tattoo look great as well. But coconut oil is no miracle worker. It can’t do anything about the ink (or lack of it) that’s already embedded in your skin.

That said, if you’re not interested in having the tattoo totally removed, here are a couple of ways you can breathe new life to your skin art:

1) Exfoliate the top layers of skin

This is a pretty quick fix to instantly revive your old, faded tattoo. The epidermis constantly sheds and regenerates every few weeks. But if you can’t wait and you need to see the clear ink underneath straight away, then exfoliating is the way to go.

2) Get a tattoo touch-up

Most tattooists will offer free touch-ups if the ink fades prematurely. Obviously, most will do this on a case by case basis. If, for instance, you neglected to follow their aftercare instructions, they may not be so inclined to offer a free touch-up.

Anyway, a few years or so later, you may no longer be happy with how your tattoo looks. In this case, a touch-up may be required. Try going back to the original tattooist – they may give you a hefty discount, especially if they see you took great care of their handiwork!

3) Tattoo cover up

Faded tattoos are much easier to cover up with larger or more complex designs. A talented tattooist can give you design suggestions to successfully cover up the old one.

Conclusion

Coconut oil won’t fade your tattoo; quite the opposite, in fact. It will help your tattoo stand out even more by making your skin look great! That said, coconut oil alone won’t stop your tattoo from fading. Moisturise and protect your tattoo from the elements! Hopefully, your tattoo will continue to look great for several years instead of a few short months.

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