Old Tattoos
September 9, 2010 6:05 AM   Subscribe

Where can I find photos (or descriptions) of old tattoos?

I've been thinking about getting a tattoo for a while. Every time I mention it to a friend of mine, he tells me a story about one of his mom's friends who had a small bird done on her abdomen. Apparently it stretched out and now it looks like a big bruise.

I'd like to hear more stories about how tattoos age, and possibly see some photos. I've tried the google, but I've had trouble finding what I'm looking for: photos of people whose tattoos are 20, 40, 60 years old.

I know there's really no way of knowing what my skin's going to do as I age, but I'd like to go into this at least understanding what the possibilities are.

Personal tattoo stories and photos are great! So are links to others'.
posted by hapticactionnetwork to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (7 answers total)
It's hard to say, since older tattoos were done with older technology. My grandfather's Navy tattoo was just a blue blur by the time I can remember seeing it. My oldest one is not quite 20 years old, and there's just a little bit of blur around the finest lines. (I stay out of the sun as much as possible.)

I've also lost about 60 pounds since my first tattoo, but it does not seem to have distorted them.
posted by JoanArkham at 6:22 AM on September 9, 2010

I don't have first hand knowledge (yet), but I made sure to get my tattoo on a part of my body that hopefully isn't going to change a whole lot as I age (my back). I mean, I know our bodies change, period. But I avoided the abdomen for precisely the reason you mention.

I've also heard, and somewhat seen from personal experience, that it has a lot to do with how you take care of your skin. A friend of mine has a relatively recent tattoo (under a decade) that already looks like shit because it's on a commonly exposed part of the body and he doesn't wear sunscreen. Though that's a matter of fading and getting that weathered sailor/dock-worker look, not stretching out.

I have seen a few faded-out-of-recognition tattoos on older people before. It's important to remember, though, that the approach to skin care, and more importantly the approach to tattooing, is very different now than it was 50 years ago. I wouldn't let the spectre of "it might not look the same when I'm 80!" deter you from getting a tattoo if it's what you really want to do.

Mine is 5 years old now and looks as perfect as the day it was inked, by the way.
posted by Sara C. at 6:23 AM on September 9, 2010

I have a fifteen year old big back-piece with blue, purple and yellow and a few other colours. It has not discoloured or blurred in any noticeable way despite four pregnancies and the fact I do not care for my skin or health at all. I have seen six month old tattoos that are blurry and faded. The skill of the artist is pretty important, don't choose the person based on price. I would have sent a photo but I realised I actually do not own any photos of it!
posted by saucysault at 6:42 AM on September 9, 2010

one of his mom's friends who had a small bird done on her abdomen. Apparently it stretched out and now it looks like a big bruise.

Wait...did her tattoo simply stretch out by itself, or did she perhaps gain weight?

I think that it's not changes in your skin that you have to worry about so much, but more things like weight gain and gravity. If you stick to an area that's less likely to be affected by those things, you'll probably be better off. And yeah, go to a tattoo artist with a good reputation.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:45 AM on September 9, 2010

I also have a friend whose abdomen tattoo is mishapen and stretched out, partly because because she has had two babies. And, boy--did she blow up huge with the second one!

My mother (and I wish I could post this anonymously, because she'd flip out if she knew I was posting this online) has a small, one-color tattoo on her lower back that she got about 30 years ago (she's in her late 50s now), and it looks great, still. It's on a part of her body that hasn't changed and rarely gets exposed to the sun. She says the color had faded somewhat, but overall, it looks good, and she's still happy with it.
posted by Ideal Impulse at 8:45 AM on September 9, 2010

I have an almost-15 yr old tattoo, all black, on my arm and it hasn't faded at all. It rarely sees the sun and when it does, I put sunscreen on it.

My dad has one from 1962ish and it's pretty faded. It's in color, blues and reds and the lines have really blurred. It's seen the sun a lot and my dad has probably used sunscreen two times in his life, so he probably could've avoided some of the fading.
posted by jdl at 8:47 AM on September 9, 2010

I have many, many tattoos, and for the most part they are all still pretty crisp. I have one that I had a bad reaction to the red ink, so it looks terrible. My oldest tattoos are 15 years old, and still look good.

I also have 4 of my knuckles tattooed (see my profile for a picture). People are amazed to find out that the oldest of them is almost 10 years old since I've had almost no fading or blurring - and hands are notorious for having that happen.

Sunscreen and moisturizer, and you'll be fine.
posted by bibliogrrl at 8:55 AM on September 9, 2010

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