Dear Tattooist: What happens to my tattoo when my weight changes?

DrRuss asked:

I’ve heard conflicting reports:

What happens to the tattoo image when you gain or lose weight? I am thinking about getting a new tattoo on the side of my torso (rib cage). I am planning on losing weight and want to know if I should get the tattoo now or wait until I lose the weight? Does the stretching of the skin when gaining weight affect the tattoo in any noticeable way?

This is one of those questions that gets the “It depends” answer. Genetics, elasticity of your skin, your age, quantity of weight change, and the location and subject matter of the tattoo all have a big part to play with what will happen to your tattoo in either gaining or losing weight. Areas of skin that are prone to stretching when you gain weight or shrinking when you lose weight may not be in the configuration you want when you achieve that new weight.

Some lucky people’s skin and their tattoos go back to the exact same place after dramatic weight changes. Some.

Just yesterday I saw a client who had stars tattooed across her lower abdomen just a few years ago. Then she got pregnant. Her body figure went back to “normal” after the pregnancy, but her skin did not. Now most of the stars no longer look like stars. They looked more like starfish. All wavy.

I’ve seen guys who had crosses tattooed on their deltoid. One lost weight, the other gained weight. Neither cross tattoo was no longer “straight” after the weight change.

If you are planning on changing weight dramatically, then I would suggest holding off until you are close to the weight target you are looking to hit. This is just my recommendation based on seeing people who have experienced dramatic weight changes and their tattoos.

If you have questions about tattoos: tattoos in general, about getting a tattoo, about giving a tattoo, or anything else related to tattoos, just add a comment to my November 6, 2009 post, or send me the question via e-mail from my contact page. I will then dedicate an entire post to answering your question.

Until next time...

10 thoughts on “Dear Tattooist: What happens to my tattoo when my weight changes?

  1. I am very overweight. I have toyed with the idea of getting a tattoo on my stomach, then losing weight just to see how it would change. I’m strange that way.

  2. I also have been wanting to get a thigh tattoo but I’m a bit heavy. I plan to loose weight and am in the process. So should I wait, because my legs will get smaller?

  3. so I want to get writing on my wrist, but also want to loose around 80lbs. will that effect my tat?

    1. Everyone is different but as that is a significant amount of weight loss, depending on the style of tattoo it could affect how it looks at the end of your goal. Working with your artist directly will help you chose the proper type of tattoo that will hold up well over time with weight loss.

  4. I recently got a tattoo of a jigsaw puzzle piece on my hip. I’m 18 and want to tone up my stomach, not dramatically lose lots of weight, just to tone up and look healthier. It’s quite a small tattoo. Will this distort my tattoo?

  5. Is 30 lbs enough to warrant waiting to be safe? If so I was thinking of getting a tattoo over my right pectoral and not a lot of the weight is in that spot

    1. Everyone is different as to how their skin shifts. Usually there is not a lot of movement in the pectorals with that little amount of loss. Usually.

  6. I wanna get a medium sized flower tattoo on my arm but I might lose weight. Would it warp it or something?

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