tattoo is not deep enough

What Happens If A Tattoo Is Not Deep Enough? Check With Me!

If you have ever had a tattoo that faded really quickly and you are now looking for answers, or maybe you are considering getting a tattoo but have a few concerns, you may be wondering, “what happens if a tattoo is not deep enough?”. 

If a tattoo artist does not tattoo the skin deep enough and only goes through the first layer of skin instead of the first two layers, your tattoo will essentially peel off like a scab or a bad sunburn. If any image remains at all, it will be drastically faded.

Check with me how to tell if your tattoo was not tattooed deep enough, what it looks like, and if it is possibly something else that has caused your tattoo to fade so heavily.

If you are looking for inspiration before your tattoo, check out my portfolio – you can find my works and projects here – on Instagram.

Did Your Tattoo Artist Not Go Deep Enough?

The way your skin works when getting a tattoo is as follows: 

You have three layers of skin, the first layer of skin, which is called the Epidermis, the second layer of skin, which is called the Dermis, and then you have a layer of subcutaneous fat, which is your third layer of skin, also called the hypodermis.

 tattoo fading laters of skin
Layers of skin according to Healthline

When you get a tattoo, your tattoo artist needs to tattoo through to the dermis, your second layer of skin, for your tattoo to be a good quality tattoo and to heal correctly.

If your artist only tattoos through to the epidermis, this is when your tattoo has not gone deep enough, as this layer of skin will peel off as it would with a scab or a bad sunburn.

If the artist goes too deep through to the hypodermis, this is actually too deep of a tattoo and will generally cause scarring and may cause other problems too

It is very important to use a tattoo artist who knows what they are doing to ensure your tattoo is done into the right layer of skin.

It will be fairly difficult within the first couple of days to be able to tell whether or not your tattoo artist has not done the tattoo deep enough, as when your tattoo is healing, it can often look weird and sometimes even look faded as your skin begins to heal over your tattoo.

After about two weeks (sometimes three), your tattoo should have “bounced back” and gone back to looking beautiful and shiny, as your skin would have healed over your tattoo nicely at this point.

If your tattoo looks worse than it did on the first day that you got it, after the healing period is done, and there are noticeable gaps or missing pieces from your tattoo, it is possible that your tattoo artist did not go deep enough while tattooing you, and during the healing process the ink scabbed and fell out.

How Can You Tell If Your Tattoo Is Not Deep Enough?

If your tattoo artist did not do a good job with your tattoo, and you are thinking it may be because they did not go deep enough into your skin, there are two main ways to tell if this is the case:

Missing Pieces Or Gaps In Your Tattoo

If you have full-blown missing pieces from your tattoo after it has healed, and there are gaps left where your tattoo artist definitely had tattooed, this is a pretty good indication that your tattoo artist did not tattoo deep enough.

This means that while your skin was healing, the ink was pushed out by the body and formed part of a scab that would have fallen off, leaving you with empty spaces in your tattoo where that ink originally was.

Major Fading

Another telltale sign that your tattoo was not done deep enough will be that your tattoo will fade very badly very quickly.

Your tattoo might go from black to gray in a matter of weeks if you did not get tattooed deep enough.

All tattoos do fade; even new tattoos will fade slightly after the first few weeks; however, it is not by a significant amount and usually is not even enough that you would notice it easily unless you were looking very closely.

A slight amount of fading in a tattoo is normal, and to be expected. What is not normal is when you lose a large amount of line work, color, and/or definition by the time your skin has finished healing at the two or three-week mark.

If this problem is something that has happened to you, and you did everything right on your part as the client, such as staying out of the sun and proper tattoo aftercare, it is an indication that your tattoo artist did not do a proper job and has most likely not tattooed deep enough in the skin.

How Long Will A Tattoo That Was Not Done Deep Enough Last?

It is hard to say how long a tattoo that has been left in this faded condition will last, as each tattoo is unique.

Your tattoo may stay just as is after it has finished healing and will continue to look like a stick-on tattoo after 3 days in the pool, or it may continue to fade even further as time goes on.

There is no way of precisely telling how well your tattoo is going to last over the next couple of months and years, but there are things you can do to try and help prevent it from fading even further.

  • Wear sunscreen on your tattoo whenever it is exposed to the sun. SPF 50 or 70 should be fine, you can check those two options, depending on how much do you need – Australian Gold SPF 50 Tattoo Stick 14g (available on Amazon below) or the one from Johnson & Johnson – Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Non-Greasy Sunscreen Stick for Face & Body, Broad Spectrum SPF 70 UVA/UVB Sunscreen Stick, PABA-Free, 1.5 oz (available on Amazon below). Another option is in spray, not in stick, but this one is also bigger, make sure that you really need that much ;) INK-EEZE Ink Shield Sun Screen Spray SPF 50 6 oz. (available on Amazon below)
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  • Be sure to continue with good skincare on the skin covering your tattoo – keep it soft and moisturized. You can use ointments such as Bepanthen or Alantan on it. If you do not have anything like that at home and would need to buy something you can consider this one – Viking Revolution Tattoo Care Balm for Before, During & Post Tattoo – Safe, Natural Tattoo Aftercare Cream – Moisturizing Lotion to Promote Skin Healing (available on Amazon below) if I am out of lotion from the kit that I have mentioned earlier I am using this balm also.

  • Do not exfoliate. As much as exfoliating will not “scrub off” your tattoo, frequent friction on a tattoo has been proven to increase fading.

Make sure that you take very good care of your skin, especially in tattooed areas, to try to help prevent further fading

Can A Tattoo That Was Not Done Deep Enough Be Fixed?

There is good news! You will usually be able to fix a tattoo that was not done deep enough. 

If you will be able to get your faded tattoo fixed or not will depend on the size, design, and details of your tattoo.

If your tattoo is significantly faded, you can choose one of two ways to fix your tattoo:

  • You can choose to have a new tattoo artist simply redo your tattoo for you – they will hopefully be able to go over the original lines that were tattooed before, probably helping improve them where needed, to try and give you the tattoo that you wanted in the first place.
  • Or, if you have found a tattoo artist who is skilled and willing, you may be able to opt to have it covered up if that is what you would prefer. If the original design has left a bad taste in your mouth, you can create a new design with your skilled new artist that you can use to cover up the old tattoo.

It would definitely be a good idea to rather find a new tattoo artist to help you with this, and any future, tattoos instead of going back to the original tattoo artist – unless it was a very minor detail that needed to be touched up as opposed to the whole tattoo needing to be fixed, because in that case, it may have been the healing process that caused the problem, not the artist.


Always do your research into a tattoo artist and their previous work before you choose to get a tattoo is done by them – not every person who owns a tattoo gun should be given the title “artist.”

If you are not happy with what the final product looks like when your tattoo has finished healing, try to do what you can to continue to take care of the skin in that area, and then find a good tattoo artist who will be able to help you fix what your previous tattoo artist dad.

At the end of the day, your tattoos are going to be with you for life, which means you should do everything within your power to make absolutely sure they are done well and with good skills by a tattoo artist who knows what they are doing.


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