Why Do Tattoos Turn Green? Why Some Black Tattoo Ink Turns Green

Written by: Pete
Updated:

I’m sure you’ve seen an aged tattoo, either on a friend, or even on a favorite celebrity, and noticed that their black tattoos are all looking rather green in color. Why does this happen? And can it be prevented? We cover exactly why tattoo ink may turn green over time.

The Reasons Why Tattoos Turn Green

Ink pigment will always be a foreign substance within our body, and our immune system will continue to fight it, and fade it, over time. It simply can’t be avoided. Sometimes this fading causes the tattoo to change tones, causing a green or bluish hue to the tattoo ink.

Which Ink Turns Green?

Black ink is the pigment that experiences the greatest likelihood of forming these greenish hues over time. While colored ink may look more faded or light as they age, black ink tends to turn this green tone. Of course, this is impacted by factors such as how well you take care of your skin as well as sun exposure.

How Long Does This Process Take?

It’s impossible to tell you how long it will be until your black tattoo gets that greenish hue, or if it will ever get it at all! There are a few factors that will influence this:

  • The brand of ink used
  • The style of the tattoo
  • The skill of the artist
  • Sun exposure
  • Placement
  • Skin health
  • Personal immune systems
  • The tone of your skin

The good news is that this issue was more common for older tattoo inks and processes, and are less common in the modern day.

Tattoo Artist and shop owner Jon Jon says, “Every black ink is made differently, by different manufacturers with different base colors. There are blue blacks, gray blacks, black blacks, all types and they will all age differently. Age of the tattoo, sun exposure, location and ink brand all are factors in this."

What Exactly Happens When Ink Turns Green?

Your tattoo ink does not actually change colors, transforming from black to blue or green. The process that causes this tone change is simply the body absorbing the ink and making it fade. Adal Ray, a tattoo artist in New York City, writes, "It's simply the black ink being both absorbed by the body and fading over time, so there's less densely packed deposits of ink."

Since the pigment is not as densely deposited, it gives off a different hue on the skin.

Can You Do Anything to Stop the Green from Happening?

The good news is that modern pigments experience far less fading and tone-changing than older inks do. You’ll notice this green or blue tone on older individuals with very aged tattoos, but more modern pigments are higher quality, which means they will age better as well.

There are additional steps you can take to help stop your black ink from turning green.

  • Wear Sunscreen - The number one way to combat the fading of tattoos, which is what causes that green hue, is to wear sunscreen to protect against UV rays. UV rays speed up the aging and fading process of tattoos. Check out the Best Sunscreen For Tattoos
  • Plan Your Placement - Tattoos that are placed in areas with less friction, movement, or exposure to outside elements take longer to fade.
  • Take Care of Your Skin - Aftercare of your tattoo and skin shouldn’t stop when your tattoo is healed! Keep moisturizing and hydrating.
  • Quality Matters - Choose a reputable tattoo shop with a high-quality artist using high-quality inks to ensure your tattoo lasts the test of time.

Can You Correct the Fading?

There are definitely steps that you can take to correct any dull or faded tattoos; you can get a touch up from your tattoo artist or get a blastover or cover up. Touch ups are the easiest way to correct the issue of a dull tattoo. It will quickly compact and brighten the pigment and remove any signs of fading. Have a look at our article, Does Your Tattoo Need a Touch Up? Everything You Need To Know, for more information.

If you have an old and green-toned tattoo that really bothers you, you can also consider laser removal.

Our Final Thoughts

You can never truly anticipate how your tattoo will age, and whether it will fade over time. The only thing you can do is ensure you are getting tattooed by a high-quality studio with excellent inks, and to protect and maintain the health of your tattooed skin. Black inks turning green over time is not as common anymore, because modern pigments are of a higher and more compacted quality. If your tattoo does turn green, you can always get a touch up to rectify this issue.

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