Restrictions While Styling Visited Links

The :visited pseudo-class is a unique state which provides visible feedback on links that a user has navigated to. This state behaves similarly to other pseudo-classes like :hover, :focus, and :active, but comes with a few limitations.


First and foremost, you can only change the CSS properties of a visited link if the unvisited link already has that style applied. If your unvisited link does not have a background color, but the visited one does, it will not apply that background color. If your unvisited link has a background color and you change that color for visited links, it will work.

a {
  /* no defined background */

a:visited {
  background-color: blue;

❌ Does not work. The visited link will not have a background color.

a {
  background-color: red;

a:visited {
  background-color: blue;

does work. The visited link will have the background color of blue.

Supported Styles

When styling visited links, you are limited to these color declarations:

  • background-color
  • border-color (border-top-color, border-right-color, border-bottom-color, border-left-color)
  • color
  • column-rule-color
  • outline-color
  • SVG attributes allow for fill and stroke colors

Any color can be used, except the alpha channel is ignored when present.

  • rgba(255,255,5,.5) Works, but opacity is ignored
  • rgb(255,255,5,1)
  • #ff663350 Works, but opacity is ignored
  • #ff6633
  • hsla(20, 0%, 0%, 50%) Works, but opacity is ignored
  • hsl(20, 0%, 0%)

The browser ignores all other CSS declarations.

Why aren’t all CSS declarations available?

The primary reason all properties aren’t available is to provide privacy and security to the user. Without these safeguards, websites could use this information to track which sites a user has visited, all without their consent.

Browsers misinform developers when they try to obtain the style with window.getComputedStyle. Rather than sending the visited style, the unstyled link is returned instead.

Open your browser’s history and delete the entry you wish to unvisit.