For this Tuesday’s tattoo topic I’m going to briefly discuss the concept of touch-ups, what they are, what they aren’t, why they are sometimes needed (and how to minimize the need for them!) and some etiquette surrounding the topic.
So first off, what exactly is a touch-up? Put simply, a touch-up is just that – it’s like putting touch-up paint on your car when you get a scratch or chip in the paint job. The artist is going back and filling in, darkening, whatever spots that might not have retained the ink well or have deteriorated overtime.
In a perfect world, a tattoo would be 100% perfect the first time around and you’d be good for life but we don’t live in a perfect world. Our bodies naturally try to reject the ink as it is a foreign substance and because it can’t it instead dispatches our immune defenses to try to carry it away. Since the ink particles are so large our white blood cells and antibodies can’t engulf them very easily to carry them away so the ink remains. However, over time those ink particles do break down to the point they are able to be carried away. This is why old tattoos appear faded and “weathered,” though if they have been well cared for they should still have definition.
Of course, there are ways to slow the weathering process down, most notably religious use of sunscreen as UV rays break down the ink particles thus accelerating fading and weathering. Also, occasional use of a daily moisturizing lotion will keep your tattoos looking fresher longer as dry skin will also contribute to fading and weathering (and this is yet another reason to drink plenty of water!!!). Also, with the advancements in tattoo inks themselves they are higher quality now and don’t break down as fast. Nonetheless, you can’t completely stop the process.
So this is one reason why you might need or want a touch-up. If your tattoo has faded to the point of losing definition and saturation and you want to bring it back to life, a touch-up is in order. The only way to bring it back to its former glory is to add more pigment. Depending on how faded or weathered the tattoo is this could be just refreshing it in some spots or it could mean a complete re-do of the tattoo as thought it were a brand new tattoo. Just keep in mind though that a tattoo is, in essence, a colored scar and the 2nd time around as you are tattooing over what is essentially scar tissue it will be somewhat more painful than the original application. Also, depending on how extensive the touch-up or re-do is, it could be just as expensive, if not more so than the original. Just another thing to keep in mind. As with the original tattoo, you should not haggle on price (it’s insulting and rude) and don’t go cheap. If at all possible you should go to the original artist.
So that’s a long-term reason a touch-up would be required. There are also some very short-term reasons. Due to the nature of human skin, there is no such thing as a perfect tattoo. The canvas is not flat, there are imperfections in skin and tattooing is a very messy process. Sometimes it can be hard to see at the outset if a certain area has taken the ink (especially true of light graywashes and white ink where blood, plasma and the abrasions can obscure ink). It can also be hard to see if the artist has completely covered an area and if some areas might have actually lost a little bit during the healing process. These are all factors that could contribute to needing a touch-up in the short-term. Case in point, some spots on my wave required some touching up to refine.
Now, just as there are ways to minimize the need for long-term touch-ups, there are ways to minimize or eliminate the need for short-term touch-ups as well. I know I’ve raved about this particular product so many times on here, but it’s worth reiterating: Saniderm preserves the tattoo during the healing process and your tattoo will heal with darker blacks and more vivid colors than the antiquated healing methods (the stuff really is magic, I’m telling you). Beyond that, of course don’t scratch an itching tattoo or pick away at any scabs that might form. These could all pull out ink. Another note is to not take too hot of a shower or bath as that will cause your pores to open and could possibly cause a tiny bit of fresh ink to seep out.
Any artist worth his or her salt will do a short-term touch-up at no charge, but it is my view that you should still tip the artist for his/her time. However, you should wait until the tattoo is completely healed before assessing the need for a touch-up. If in doubt, consult with the artist. You might be happy with the tattoo but the artist might see something he/she wants to add some definition to or embolden (and if they do don’t question – I was happy with the wave as it was but after Jada went back and touched it up it does look even better). I of course want to be happy with my tattoos but I also want the artists behind them to be happy with them. We are walking billboards for their work after all and I want to wear and display artwork that they are proud of as well.
So that’s a brief discussion of touch-ups. By all means, I welcome discussion in the comments section. If you’ve had touch-ups or re-works of your tattoos please share your experiences.