Changes in your body and fluctuation in your weight over the course of a lifetime are not only normal, but should be totally expected. If you have a tattoo, these physical changes can alter your design and placement—however, the effects are less noticeable than you might think. Ahead, you'll find info on how weight loss and weight gain from pregnancy, working out, or not working out could affect your body ink. You'll also find info on how it shouldn't stop you from living your best, truest life.
Meet the Expert
Keep reading to learn how weight loss can affect your tattoo.
How Weight Loss Affects Tattoos
When it comes to weight loss, the biggest changes in the composition of your tattoo will be in its size and location on your body. For instance, if you got a tattoo on the side of your thigh, then lost a considerable amount of weight, the positioning of that tattoo might no longer be the same. Instead of staying in place on the side of your thigh, it might migrate toward the front or the back.
"I've personally only seen this example on expecting mothers who have their bellies tattooed," says tattoo artist Jaz Paulino. "Once they are close to delivering, a round tattooed belly will appear warped, or enlarged until she gives birth, then it goes right back into place (usually)."
Additionally, a tattoo that previously covered a small area of your thigh might look like it covers more area as your thigh lessens in size. It’s important to note that smaller tattoos might also lose their detail as the skin, which was one pulled taut, shifts.
How Weight Gain Affects Tattoos
Only in cases of extreme weight loss or weight gain will you see a noticeable difference in a tattoo design, says celebrity tattoo artist Dillon Forte: "Weight change has virtually no effect on the tattoo unless the weight gain or loss is like 100 pounds. With drastic weight gain it needs to be enough to cause stretch marks, which in turn will impact your tattoo."
Similar to weight loss, weight gain can affect the placement and size of the tattoo design. During pregnancy, tattoos located directly on the body's midsection are susceptible to change due to the rate at which the skin expands. While stretch marks can alter an existing tattoo design, the effects of the marks depend on each individual’s specific design and placement. If you decide to touch up the area later on, seek out a tattoo artist who specializes in the area, as this skin texture can prove tricky to work with. Working out and toning your muscles shouldn’t affect your tattoo at all, but if heavy weightlifting is in fact your thing, significant muscle gain could morph the shape. The better the placement of the tattoo in relationship to the muscle, the less chance of it changing. If you're concerned about this before getting the tattoo (maybe you're planning to make some lifestyle changes), discuss it with your tattoo artist.
How to Minimize Tattoo Distortion After Weight Fluctuation
"To minimize tattoo distortion, in any case honestly, would be to moisturize," Paulino says. "Moisturizing the skin is so important in general, but especially if your skin is experiencing some elasticity in either direction. To support the skin being stretched, whether it be weight loss or gain, pregnancy etc. just be sure to moisturize your body with what works best for you."
Minimize tattoo distortion by keeping the skin well-hydrated with an oil-rich moisturizer.
Paulino compares moisturizing the skin to hydrating the body. "The same way we feel thirsty or parched from lack of water — the skin feels that way too. It’s the biggest organ of our bodies you know? A nice shea butter or coconut oil will go a long way on some thirsty skin."
Forte adds that, before getting a tattoo, think about how any future fitness or diet plans might impact your ink. "If you have a set plan to lose weight or gain for fitness reasons, be mindful of how drastic those changes will be," he says. "If it's just a few pounds either way, you probably won't see much change with your tattoos. However, if you are looking to lose 100 pounds or gain enough muscle to look like The Rock, you will absolutely notice a difference in the original tattoo. Using a quality tattoo skin care product [he recommends ForteTattooTech's Healing Herbal Salve, $14], will reduce some of that impact, and of course take good care of the rest of your skin as well."
The Final Takeaway
"When it comes to weight loss or weight gain, tattoos can be slightly affected if the change is very drastic. A few pounds here and there won't make much of a difference, but let's say you went from 450 pounds to 150 pounds or vice versa, there could be some distortion with a tattoo design," Paulino says. In other words, it's probably not going to be a concern but if you’re thinking of getting a tattoo, consider the above information (just don’t let it deter you from getting the art you want). Instead, use the above knowledge to help you choose a design that will age along with you and transform beautifully and seamlessly over the years.
If you already have a tattoo and have noticed changes in your artwork due to weight loss or weight gain for whatever reason, visit your tattoo artist for a touch-up and for their professional opinion. You might even decide on a reworked version of your original art that better represents this stage of your life. At the end of the day, though, the decision to embrace your ever-transforming body art or touch it up is a decision you can (and should) make for yourself.