And it’s no wonder finger tattoos have seen a recent spike in popularity—the finger is the perfect spot for a small, simple, visible design. If you’ve done any research on finger pieces, though, you’ve likely come across some negative reviews. Finger tattoos are notoriously tough to keep looking fresh—all tattoos fade over time, but finger pieces are known to fade fast. So how do you make sure yours stays crisp and clean for as long as possible? And how long do finger tattoos take to fade? We checked in with a few tattoo artists across the country and asked them to weigh in on the subject.
Some parts of the finger will heal more effectively than others
The general consensus among the tattooists we spoke with is that if you want your tattoo to stay fresh-looking for as long as possible, the front of the finger is the best spot for your ink while the side and the bottom—the palm side—are more prone to fading. “Once you go past a certain point on the finger, where the skin changes on the side and the palm, [tattoos] just won’t heal as nicely,” says Chris Keaton, resident artist and owner of Baltimore Tattoo Museum in Baltimore, MD.
The difference in the healing process is largely based on how often the skin is touched and moved. “When it comes to areas where there’s more friction and movement of the skin, say, the palm or where the fingers bend, that will be an especially hard area to heal well,” explains Danielle Hudson, tattoo artist at Dedicated Raven Tattoo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Simple designs will age better than intricate pieces
If you’re hoping to get a highly detailed design on your fingers, unfortunately, this is something pros don’t recommend. “There’s really no way to stop the ink from spreading in a finger tattoo because you’re constantly moving your hands,” says Keaton of the potential of a blowout. “When you move, the pigment, which is liquid under the skin, also moves and spreads.” Therefore, tattooers will usually suggest sticking to more minimalistic designs, like lines, words, or simple shapes.
Joshua “Auto” McPherson, artist and owner of Hand Forged Tattoo in Shreveport, LA, agrees, saying, “I would definitely recommend sticking with a simple design on the fingers, to compensate for the ink spreading over the next 10 or 20 years. Every once in a while, I’ll come across someone who has finger tattoos that have healed better than usual, but typically anything done on the side of the finger is just a waste your money in a couple months.”
Black is best for finger ink
And when it comes to picking the color of your new piece, know that black ink holds best, according to Keaton. “But you can do some color. You just want black to be the main part of the design,” he adds.
That’s because black ink is the most saturated of ink colors. “Other pigments can fade easier later on in the healing process,” explains Mary Schmaling-Kearns, a tattoo, microblading and henna artist at 13 Moons Tattoo studio & The Eye of Henna in Portland, ME. It could also be an entirely artistic decision, she says. “The contrast of skin tone to black ink will [make the finger tattoo] stand out.”
Proper aftercare is the key to keeping your finger tattoo fresh
In addition to following your artist’s aftercare routine, there are a few extra steps you can take to combat the fading of your finger design. First and foremost, while you’re healing, make sure you take proper care of your tattoo to avoid infection. “It’s the same aftercare as any other tattoo. You never want to oversaturate the tattoo with whatever unscented lotion you’re using, and make sure you wash with antibacterial soap, since you use your hands so often and touch so much stuff throughout the day, you want to be sure it’s clean,” Hudson says. Dermatologists that we spoke with recommend washing a new tattoo twice a day to ensure that it stays clean and infection-free.
You should also be careful to be as gentle with your fingers as possible during the entire healing process—no baths, don’t hand wash the dishes, avoid any pools or spas since submerging your hands in water during healing is a big no-no, don’t jam your hands in your pockets, do any heavy lifting, and keep your fingers as straight as possible during the first couple of weeks. After all, your body is hard at work healing your new tattoo, and after investing in some ink it only makes sense to do everything in your power to make sure it heals well, right?
That being said, these guidelines may not be easily followed by everyone. “People who use their hands a lot in their work could have it harder, especially if they’re constantly washing their hands, like folks in medical fields or massage therapy and construction jobs,” says Schmaling-Kearns. Perhaps then you can think about a different area of your body for your next piece’s placement—think one that has less friction or less contact with water.
In this location, touch ups are pretty much inevitable
The reality is that most finger tattoos will inevitable require some sort of touch up. Even if you go to a great artist at a reputable studio and follow your aftercare instructions perfectly, your finger tattoo will very likely fade or spread. “Most will fade no matter how good the artist is,” says Hudson. But because needing small fixes is so commonplace with tattoos in this location, she offers one free touch up session to clients who get finger ink.
Keep in mind that a bonus appointment isn’t always the standard and that every artist is different when it comes to their policies on touch ups, so communication with your artist on their approach to touch ups before getting tattooed is key. If yours does charge for touch ups, that is definitely something to keep in mind when you’re considering the cost of a finger tattoo, since over time it can become quite expensive to maintain.
So if you’re going to spring for a finger piece, make sure to diligently follow the aftercare instructions given by your tattoo artist and exercise some patience with the healing process. Soon enough you’ll be the owner of a long-lasting, great-looking tattoo on your finger.
If you liked our post So, How Long Do Finger Tattoos Take to Fade?, be sure to check out The Answer to “How Much Does a Finger Tattoo Cost?” Honestly Varies.