How To Fade a Tattoo: Effective Methods + How To Do It

There is one thing no one tells you about getting a tattoo; you can’t love it. Post-tattoo regret is as real as it gets, and a lot of people have experienced it. The end results sometimes do not meet your original design and appearance expectations. So you end up with a bad tattoo and there’s not much you can do about it. As we see, you have three options;

  • Choice #1 – live with the bad tattoo, embrace it and hope your next tattoos will be better and make up for the bad tattoo
  • Choice #2 – undergo laser tattoo removal, which is usually expensive, time-consuming and painful
  • Choice #3 – lighten or fade the tattoo and try to cover it up with a new, better design

If you’re reading this, chances are you’ll go for the third option. And, we are here for that. Covering a tattoo with a new one is a generally successful process when done by professionals of course. But, to get a new design, you may need to lighten or fade your current tattoo.

So if you need some helpful DIY tips on how to fade a tattoo naturally and painlessly, you’ve come to the right place. In the following paragraphs, we’ll explore all of your options, so let’s get started!

Tattoo Fading Naturally: Effective Methods + How To Do It

Sun exposure

Now, that’s a questionable option. The reason why it is not recommended to expose our skin to the sun without proper protection, i.e. sunscreen, is that sunlight equals harmful UV rays. These rays can promote the development of skin cancer, premature skin aging, and general skin damage from sunburn.

Additionally, people with tattoos are specifically advised to wear sunscreen to protect their tattoos as well. Under sunlight and sun exposure, tattoos start to fade prematurely, which is usually a big problem (in case you love your tattoos).

So what can you do? What we recommend is the following;

  • Do not apply sunscreen to the tattoo if you want it to fade naturally and quickly. However, the remaining exposed skin must be protected. So, be sure to apply sunscreen to all of the remaining exposed skin, skipping the tattooed area. But, make sure you don’t stay out in the sun for too long; you don’t want to burn yourself and cause further damage to the skin.

To note: Exposure to sunlight will visibly discolor black tattoos. Such fading may be more difficult with tattoos done with yellow, green, or purple ink.

Also read: When can I put sunscreen on my tattoo?

Use lemon juice

Lemons, or lemon juice, are known to be natural lightening agents, suitable for use on the skin. Some cultures even use lemon juice to solve skin pigmentation problems or to lighten their skin. Even though this practice can be problematic when it comes to race issues, it is still fine when it comes to lightening the tattoo.

The whitening effect of lemon juice on tattoos, however, is only anecdotal. Some also use lime juice or add glycolic acid and hydrogen peroxide to enhance the effects, but we are unsure of the effectiveness or safety of these products.

So what can you do? Here is the safest way to use lemon juice in lightening tattoos;

Use lemon or lime and squeeze the juice. Apply the freshly squeezed juice to the tattoo 2-3 times a day. Keep doing this for up to a month and you should see a slight discoloration of the tattoo. Unfortunately, this method is most effective for black tattoos, where the tattoos turn light brown. The method will surely be less effective in yellow, green and blue tattoos.

Turn to sugar scrubs and hydrogen peroxide

Exfoliation is generally known to be very effective in removing dead skin cells and excess skin. Many argue that exfoliation can also be effective for natural tattoo fading. However, on their own, sugar or salt scrubs can’t really do much because they don’t penetrate the skin layer, or the dermis to be more specific.

So what is the best way to use sugar or salt scrubs.

Well, the best method is to first exfoliate the skin with a body scrub, leaving it clean and distraction-free. Try to exfoliate for at least 5-10 minutes, without being too harsh on the skin; let the sugar/salt do its job. Next, apply a dab of hydrogen peroxide to the tattoo with a cotton swab.

Indeed, you will not see any results right away. This method requires repetition for at least a month. Try not to scrub your skin too much during this time, as it could be counterproductive. You could damage the skin too much and cause severe irritation. You can also strip the skin of its natural barrier and even draw blood.

Turn to professionals

Now, turning to professionals is always the best way to lighten a tattoo. Professionals are called that for a reason; they are educated and have the required experience that will deliver results and will not harm or harm your skin. So our recommendation is; make an appointment at the local professional tattoo removal center.

There, your tattoo will be examined, as well as your skin. Then the removal methods used to fade the tattoo will actually reach the ink in the dermis of the skin. Plus, they won’t cause allergic reactions, skin lesions, or scarring (like previous methods might).

The previous methods are not effective for everyone. Also, they don’t reach the inner skin layers where the ink is actually placed. Thus, the efficiency is further decreased. So the best thing you can do is talk to a professional and get your tattoo lightened properly, risk-free.

Here are some reasons why laser tattoo removal is the best way to fade a tattoo;

  • It’s fast, safe and generally quick
  • It uses your own immune system to get rid of the ink
  • It only takes 5 sessions, because you are only fading the tattoo, not completely removing it
  • It will be easier for the tattoo artist to create a new cover tattoo as there is no skin damage.

Other things that could cause the tattoo to fade (but are not recommended)

You may not know the following causes of tattoo fading, but they cause tattoos to fade prematurely. Although they are not recommended as a method of lightening tattoos, they should definitely be avoided if you don’t want your tattoo to fade sooner than it naturally should.

  • Sun tanning – tanning beds should be avoided at all costs. They have a higher concentration of UV rays compared to actual sunlight. As a result, they may promote faster development of skin cancer. Tanning beds also promote faster and uneven fading of tattoos.
  • Friction – if your tattoo is placed in a high friction area on the body, chances are it will begin to fade on its own much faster than it usually would. Heavy friction buildup results in discoloration, whether skin-to-skin or skin-to-tissue rubbing.
  • Not following the follow-up routine – If you don’t follow the recommended aftercare routine, your tattoo may not heal properly, meaning it will look pale and light even though it’s fresh ink. Bad tattoo coloring is a big deal, so unless you hate tattooing, you should follow the aftercare routine and avoid potential problems, like infections.
  • Smoking – as unhealthy as it is, smoking is also notorious for its harmful effects on the health of your skin. It causes significant skin changes, especially with regard to pigmentation. Because smoking reduces collagen production, it can lead to loss of skin elasticity and, with it, loss of pigment. For people with tattoos, this can destroy the ink as well as its vibrant colors quite significantly.

So, should you go for a DIY approach?

The aforementioned methods are neither researched nor recommended by professionals. The only proven method is laser hair removal, which is performed by experts with experience and in-depth knowledge of skin and tattoos.

Other methods, however, are quite anecdotal, as is their effectiveness. Not to mention that they can easily damage your skin and even cause bleeding. Excessive rubbing and exfoliation can remove the outer layer of skin, making it more sensitive and prone to irritation and infection. Additionally, skin damage could make the re-tattooing process much more difficult and painful.

Final Thoughts

So when it comes to fading tattoos, what we recommend is pretty clear; go see a professional and let them treat your tattoo properly and safely. Other methods may seem appealing because they’re cheap and use ingredients that everyone has in their pantry. However, in their raw form, they could be potentially harmful to your skin, especially if applied repeatedly.

However, if you still want to go for a DIY approach, we recommend seeing a dermatologist and at least letting them assess your skin and its health. Tell them about these methods and see which method is effective but not too invasive and risky.

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