Dear Tattooist: Location, location, location?

It’s been a while since I had one of these, although I do have 2 more in the queue to answer.

Jake asked:

I’ve heard conflicting reports:

I am currently tattoo-less, but have wanted one for years. I have a couple ideas of what I want, but the big question is location. My question is: “Which areas of the body do you think tattoos look the freshest/best for the longest amount of time? That is, will a tattoo on the middle of my back, for example, look better when I’m 70 than a tattoo on my forearm or ankle?”

Just like with a brick-and-mortar business, location is important for a tattoo. Up to a point.

Oddly enough, as I was finalizing this post I read an article yesterday about scientists developing a mathematical model on how tattoos age. Finally. I like seeing scientists actually taking an interest in the field of tattooing. I need to go buy the journal so I can see what he says, but I’m betting it will mirror observations tattooists have seen firsthand over the years.

How quickly a tattoo will change depends on many factors such as the size of the tattoo, the amount and type of detail, it’s location and exposure to the sun. Skin type, age, and tattoo pigment type will also influence how a tattoo looks over time.

The answer somewhat mirrors some items in two posts I did previously: here and here.

UV exposure, or the lack thereof, is a large factor. Like most forms of radiation exposure, the effect is cumulative on the body. Keeping your tattoos away from UV light will keep them looking better longer.

Also know that not all tattoo pigment is created equally. Some pigments are not of the best quality materials, some being down-right horrible. And the insertion of any tattoo pigment itself also has a lot to do with what happens to the tattoo: too deep is bad; too shallow is bad. The ink has to be at just the right level. Which is why you should definitely research the tattooist you’re going to have tattoo you.

Changes in the shape of our skin also is a factor. Our skin is in a constant state of flux. And some places “flux” more than others. Tattoos will expand and contract when the skin stretches and shrinks. So that nice firm skin you have today may not stay that way. And with it also goes your tattoo. As we age, our skin typically looses that freshness and thins out. This also has an effect on tattoos. A good skin care regimen will help keep your skin healthy, and as a side-effect your tattoos will look healthy too.

All that said, the best place for a tattoo is exactly where you want it.


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

You can see other questions I’ve answered by viewing the tag “Dear Tattooist“.

Until next time...

4 thoughts on “Dear Tattooist: Location, location, location?

  1. I choose location based on two factors– how visible I want it to be to me and others, and how flabby the skin is likely to get.

    So no ink on my belly, triceps, or ass.

  2. Hey Erik,

    Thanks for answering my question. I have since gotten a tattoo. I ended up getting it on my upper back, right between my shoulder blades. I really love it, although I ended up having to have it touched up a few weeks later, as a couple spots faded a bit (which he warned me might happen). It’s a simple symbol, all in black.


      1. Oh, not a problem!! I appreciate the advice! I will say that I hate when I get pimples IN my tattoo. But I’m good and I leave them alone and so far I haven’t damaged the ink. (Hmm, where is the ink in relation to a pimple?)

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