Our bodies naturally change over time, whether we go through parenthood, a bout of stress-eating, or just slowly start to wrinkle and sag as the years go by (it happens to all of us). But how will this impact your tattoo?
No doubt you’ve seen examples of how tattoos change as our skin and bodies age… but what about weight gain and weight loss? Furthermore, should you lose weight before getting a tattoo?
This article will explain it all, including how weight changes alter your tattoos and whether you should lose weight before getting a tattoo or after.
Why Lose Weight Before a Tattoo?
There isn’t really a yes or no answer to this question, as it depends on your body. Many people want to lose weight before getting a tattoo for these reasons:
- They want to show off their tattoo to friends and/or social media, and don’t want to be “fat” in the photos,
- They want a tattoo in an area that looks best lean (e.g., a flat stomach),
- They want a tattoo as a reward for losing weight and getting healthy.
There are also other considerations when you’re thinking about losing weight for a tattoo.
- Will you definitely be able to keep the weight off?
- Is the placement in an area that naturally bloats?
- Will the tattoo be very visible?
- Are the tattoo inks and colors easy to remove via laser?
If you have poor control and may slip back into unhealthy habits, then getting a tattoo when you’re skinny isn’t a great idea.
Placement also matters. If it’s on a part of your body that often bloats or accumulates fat, it will distort faster. This includes your stomach, hips, lower back, upper arms, etc. If you are worried about this, choose a placement that’s either easy to hide or doesn’t accumulate much fat (e.g., forearms or collarbone).
Finally, you should research laser tattoo removal. Even if you’re confident that you’ll keep the weight off and keep your tattoo forever, it’s good to know just how much laser tattoo removal costs and how difficult it will be for the colors of your ink.
The Benefits and Risks
The benefits of losing weight before a tattoo:
- You may feel more confident in your body and therefore have the confidence to get your dream tattoo,
- Despite body positivity movements, it’s fair to say that society still sees thin as beautiful. This means getting a tattoo when you’re thin and posting the photo online, will likely get a more positive response,
- Your body will be healthier, which means tattoo healing times and recovery should be shorter!
But there are some risks and disadvantages to consider:
- With less fat and flesh between the surface of your skin and bone, getting a tattoo may hurt more,
- If you regain the weight, the tattoo may: distort, be hidden by rolls of flesh, or be wrinkled by stretch marks.
Embrace Your Body and Try Temporary Tattoos
Our best advice for you is to try temporary tattoos before you lose weight. You’ll work out which placement and design is best for you, and you may just gain the confidence to get any tattoo you want without losing weight first.
Ultimately, you should feel happy, healthy, and confident with your body, no matter your shape or weight. Getting a tattoo may not change your personal opinion of your body and losing weight for the wrong reasons can lead to putting the pounds back on again.
Tattoos After Weight Loss – Reddit’s Advice
Everyone has an opinion on tattoos, but here is some of the best advice from Reddit and Quora. If you need a second opinion before getting inked, you can always talk to your tattoo artist as well.
Kyle Hutson replied to a Quora question: “The Tattoo shouldn’t be the catalyst to lose weight […] it’s also important for placement, if you are going to stay heavy, you will be getting stretch marks, these can ruin a tattoo, unless they were part of the original ink. Stick to areas that don’t accumulate as much fat, the forearms, your lower legs, the top of your thighs, your hands, your feet, your upper back, your side ribs.”
quornsmut commented on Reddit about their weight loss and tattoo journey: “I did a lot of thinking on it and digging around online for photos of what happens to tattoos after losing weight, and all the pics I saw support my decision: I didn’t find any tattoos that distorted or looked worse from weight loss — but there are a LOT out there showing distortion from weight gain. So that’s why I decided to do it now rather than wait: Because if I waited till I were thinner, got my art done, then for some reason gained some weight back: then I’d have to worry about distortion.”
Thatlacky also decided to get their tattoo before losing weight, instead of after: “Had a calf tattoo done before I lost 100+ lbs and looks right as rain. The shape changed it a little but not enough that anyone would know if they didn’t see it brand new vs now.
Keep in mind tattoos are going to age and change and your body is going to age and change too no matter what you do. Regardless it’s going to look different in 10-15-20 years”
Tattoos Before and After Weight Loss
By now, you’ve realized that it’s generally better to get inked when you’re heavy and then lose weight. This will tighten the ink and maybe change the shape a little. If you decided to get a tattoo when at your lightest, it could distort much more drastically.
Tattoo Weight Loss
This photo shows an example of how tattoos change as you lose weight after getting inked. The tattoos on the stomach area have changed the most, shrinking and tightening up.
You can also see how many tattoo placements on the lower arms and shoulders haven’t really changed much at all. That’s why placement matters so much!
Tattoo Weight Gain
There are far fewer photos to find of tattoos after significant weight gain.
Some types of weight gain will barely distort the tattoo. Muscle gain, for example, is a slow process so your skin can stretch with your body as it changes. Pregnancy, on the other hand, stretches some areas of the body more than others. Your stomach area and fingers, for example, will change in weight during pregnancy while most other areas of your body won’t gain much weight at all.
The most damaging types of weight gain are the fast kind. If you suddenly gain a lot of weight (more than just 10lbs) whether it’s due to your diet, trauma, or other medical condition, this can distort the tattoo.
You may see:
- Wrinkles (where stretch marks form beneath the tattoo,
- Or nothing – some people get lucky!
If this happens, your best options are to get the tattoo removed or covered up. If you lose weight again, there’s no guarantee that it will shrink back into the right shape!
Do I need to lose weight before a tattoo?
No, you don’t need to lose weight before getting a tattoo but many people consider it to improve their health or body image.
Should I get a tattoo before or after I lose weight?
We recommend getting a tattoo before you lose weight. The distortion weight gain can cause is generally far greater than the shrinking that weight loss may cause.
Should I wait to lose weight before getting a tattoo?
As mentioned above, it’s better to get inked before you lose weight. If you’re at all concerned with how ink will appear on your body, try a temporary tattoo first instead.
What happens to tattoos when you lose weight?
It depends on the placement. Some areas, like your forearms, stay roughly the same shape and size as you lose and gain weight. Other areas change drastically, like your waist – tattoos in these placements may shrink, tighten, and slightly change shape.
What happens to tattoos when you gain weight?
It depends on how much weight and the speed of the weight gain. Slow, steady weight gain (whether it’s fat or muscle) is unlikely to distort a tattoo greatly. However, if you suddenly gained 50lbs – it happened to many of us during the COVID-19 lockdowns – then your skin will struggle to stretch to accommodate. The tattoo will distort, stretch, and may wrinkle if stretch marks form.