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How Long Do Stick and Poke Tattoos Last?

Stick and poke (a.k.a hand-poked) tattooing has been gaining popularity among urban tattoo enthusiasts. You can get one in a professional tattoo studio or DIY at home. One thing to note is, although these tattoos heal faster and cause much less discomfort than machine tattooing, on the flip side, they don’t last as long as their machine counterparts. Although getting one is a trendy thing to do, the big question arises — how long do stick and poke tattoos last? 

Well, not forever. Yet, stick and poke tattoos do tend to be visible on average for 5 to 10 years. Where in the range your stick and poke tattoo will last depends on where (i.e., which body part) it’s located, the expertise level of the artist, the stick and poke equipment used, and lastly, how well the tattoo is cared for.

Is your hand-poked tattoo on an exposed area of your body? If yes, it’s more prone to both direct sunlight and frequent washing. Such body parts include your hand, fingers, or soles, where the hand-poked tattoo can last on average between 5 to 6 years. Yet, if it’s inked at the more hidden regions, which experience lesser exposure to sunlight, like your upper arms, chest, back, etc., then the tattoo may, on average last 7 to 10 years. 

Their lifespan is anything but as permanent as what you get from machine tattoos. Yet, stick and poke tattoos do, by far, have a lifespan longer than that of henna or transfer options. Once the life of your beloved hand-poked tattoo ends, however, what you’re left with is a washed-out and faded tattoo.

In this article, we’ve covered all there is to share about the durability of stick and poke tattoos. You’ll learn for how long you can expect your stick and poke tattoo to last and what attributes can determine or maximize its lifespan. But, we’ll begin by scratching the surface, starting with the basics about this popular and time-consuming tattooing method.

Stick And Poke Tattoos – What Are They?

Chances are, you’ve landed on this page because you already have a fair idea about what stick and poke tattoos are all about. Yet, in case you don’t, this section will serve as a helpful summary. 

Stick And Poke Tattoos

Stick-and-poke, or hand-poked tattooing, is an age-old, manual method of engraving a tattoo using a needle to insert the ink. This technique dates back to ancient Egyptian times and beyond. It’s amazing how the art has lived on and survived the test of time, even beyond the introduction of the first tattoo machine in the late 19th century.    

This machine-free technique lets you do handmade tattoos using a tattoo needle or a similar sharp object that facilitates depositing of the ink into the skin. Besides the popularity of the technique in prisons and by amateurs, professionals also endeavor to maintain their expertise in this style, which isn’t likely to go obsolete anytime soon. There will never be a dearth of tattoo lovers who favor this technique’s homemade, unsophisticated look. 

The importance of getting a stick-and-poke tattoo by a professional tattoo artist can never be undermined. An expert in stick-and-poke engraving knows best how to make the experience unique, special, and long-lasting for the clients. For thousands of years now, tattoo lovers have been expressed their alternative, artsy, underground, and quirky sides through their hand-poked body art.  

Why Are Stick and Poke Tattoos Less Permanent Than Machine Tattoos?

First off, both techniques are deemed permanent. Though, as mentioned earlier, a stick-and-poke tattoo eventually washes away and fades after 5 to 10 years of lasting. The ink is transferred into the skin at a much faster rate by a tattoo machine as compared to the manual stick and poke method. To put things in perspective, a standard tattoo machine produces several hundred pricks per minute, while by the stick-and-poke method, depending on the design, you get 10 to 20 only. 

Yet, it’s not the speed at which the ink is inserted that makes the tattoo more permanent. Instead, it’s the higher accuracy of the machine method that makes the difference. Hence, the professionalism of the tattoo artist yields a more accurate estimation of how long a hand-poked tattoo may last. A highly professional artist will ensure the ink is inserted precisely in the dermis (i.e., the right skin layer). In other words, the experienced artist would know which is the best quality ink to use and at what depth it should be inserted. 

A needle that only hits the epidermis (topmost skin layer) is going to give you a tattoo that will shed with the dead skin cells, in effect giving you a short duration tattoo lifespan. On the other extreme, if a needle goes way too deep, hitting the hypodermis, for instance, then you’ll experience a tattoo blowout, leading to a blurry tattoo. The aim, therefore, is to give the task to a professional that has the best stick and poke kit and the experience to safely and perfectly aim for the dermis layer.  

For a more permanent, appealing-looking tattoo, the tattooist must poke the punctures approximately 1/16th of an inch deep into your skin, which is where the dermis is. Yet, that’s not the only aspect to take care of. 

Furthermore, the tattooist must also fulfill the following considerations for achieving an optimal lifespan of the stick and poke tattoo.

How To Make Your Stick and Poke Tattoos Last Longer?

Earlier on, we’ve already stressed two of the factors that determine the questions: ‘how long do stick and poke tattoos last?’ One was the experience of the tattooist, and the other being the body location where the tattoo is engraved. Further to that, to ensure your hand-poked tattoo is kept vibrant for a maximum number of years, it should be ensured proper equipment is used and excellent aftercare is administered. Let’s take a look at each of these important lifespan-enhancing factors in turn.

Proper Aftercare of Your Stick and Poke Tattoo

Proper aftercare of your brand new tattoo makes a significant contribution to the overall well-being of your skin, tattoo, and the lifespan of your newly acquired body art. 

Small yet crucial aftercare steps like applying the best tattoo moisturizer or lotion daily, go a long way in ensuring proper healing and hydration of your tattooed area while also keeping infections at bay. 

The steps for proper aftercare of a brand new hand-poked tattoo, or any new tattoo for that matter, consists of washing the tattoo as soon as it’s done being inked, disinfecting it, and then wrapping it in saran wrap. A couple of hours after those steps, it’s recommended the tattoo be re-washed with a good quality antibacterial soap and then pat-dried. As a final step, it’s essential to apply a thin layer of a recommended, all-natural, vegan healing ointment. 

Keeping the tattoo area moisturized even after it has healed completely is critical in maintaining it for the long haul. Keeping the area clean and hydrated ensures you won’t have to deal with the annoyance of itchy and scabby skin. Furthermore, it’s essential to use a recommended sunblock at times of outdoor exposure when the sun is bright and hot. This is because the harmful UV rays can cause the skin to deteriorate and peel off, which may shorten the life of the tattoo. 

Even if your tattoos begin to fade, you can administer the proper aftercare of getting the faded areas re-inked. This way, the essence of the stick and poke tattoo you’re so passionate about can be kept rejuvenated on a timely basis.

Proper Stick and Poke Equipment

Using a professional stick and poke tattoo equipment is another very important factor to enhance the life of your hand-poked tattoos. This means, using any old sharp household items like sewing needles is the worst and most dangerous possible method to use. For best, longest-lasting results, always use only professional and sterilized needles. Further, it’s important to use the correct type of ink. Use professional tattoo ink only. Remember, using the proper equipment yields optimal results and is also safe and healthy to administer. 


Q1. When to consider a stick and poke tattoo?

While the overall look and permanency of stick and poke tattoos can be questionable compared to the machine counterparts, there are certain circumstances that make getting stick and poke tattoos more favorable. One of these is the experimental stage when you’re getting your first ever tattoo. However, it’s critical to ensure it’s done with sterilized needles and high-quality, safe-to-use tattoo ink.  

Other reasons for getting a stick and poke tattoo are the relatively faster healing and lower cost compared to machine engraved tattoos. Furthermore, a lot of enthusiasts like to try tattooing themselves, with a simple tattoo managed at home with a proper stick and poke kit. Yet, the recommended action is to get a professional to administer the tattoo on you for higher accuracy and less risk. 

Q2. Can a stick and poke tattoo be removed?

Getting a stick and poke tattoo can be painful, especially compared to getting a tattoo by a rotary tattoo pen machine. When you regret your decision and want to remove the tattoo with success, undergoing laser tattoo removal treatment is one effective option. Although that option entails pain, your precious time, a high cost, and post-treatment scars to put up with. Alternatively, a much cheaper and far less invasive option is a good quality tattoo removal cream like the Wrecking Balm Tattoo Fade System. A drawback with such creams is that they take a very long time to show the effect though they may work.


Getting a stick and poke tattoo can be a great decision. The main factor to bear in mind is that a thorough professional has the right tools. When done by anyone else, it could lead to problematic health issues. The maximum duration such tattoos last, if administered correctly, is 10 years. Whether you should get one or not is purely a matter of your personal choice. When done by the right person and selecting the right design, a stick-and-poke tattoo can look amazing, unique, and extremely artsy. Those are the reasons their popularity keeps growing.

About Author

Jonathan Corby "Jonny" is a guy who is passionate about Tattooing and successfully running a Tattoo Studio in NY. Through my journey as a Tattoo Artist I have made unforgettable memories. This irrational poetry and sense of freedom of art on skin has given a blissfull experience to my life. Each Tattoo has a story behind it; Lets share one!