Tattoos are extremely common these days, which makes it extra important to consider all the factors involved with getting a tattoo before pulling the trigger. This is especially true If you are someone who wants to acquire many tattoos over the course of your lifetime. Being covered in tattoos will be more enjoyable if they are all done well, and look good. A good looking tattoo isn’t always as simple as a good design. It needs to be applied well, and be placed properly for the size and design. Among the many things to think about when considering a tattoo, is the possibility of the tattoo stretching. This is an especially legitimate concern if you are someone who likes to train, lift weights, and consistently increase your muscle mass. Many worry that their tattoos will stretch if they gain a lot of muscle.
So, will tattoos stretch with muscle gain? In short, the answer is yes, although it is not as dramatic as most people think. Some distortion can occur with muscle gain, but the chances of it actually being noticeable are slim.
There are many factors that will contribute to the amount of distortion a tattoo will go through when muscle gain occurs. The design, size, and location of the tattoo will come into play, for example. One of the most significant factors is how much weight is gained, and how quickly. If you want to get a tattoo but are still planning to bulk up a lot, there are some things you can do to minimize the chances of any stretching or warping as you train.
How Much Will a Tattoo Stretch?
While it is important to consider the possibility of a tattoo stretching with muscle gain, it is also important to note that any stretching that does occur will not be as drastic as many people think. Proper tattoo placement is very important to the appearance of a tattoo. Many designs are only suitable for certain areas of the body based on shape and size. Don’t get so freaked out about stretching that you put what should be a back piece on your arm. In all likelihood, the misplacement will cause it to look worse than any potential stretching. That being said, it is good to go into a tattoo with all possible knowledge and information, stretching risks included.
Firstly, moderate muscle gain is not going to change the appearance of your tattoo at all. If you are a very casual weightlifter and are only looking to tone up and maybe grow a tiny bit, you have nothing to worry about.
The potential for real stretching comes if you are planning to gain a significant amount of weight very rapidly. If the skin has to stretch very quickly and suddenly, the design may be damaged slightly – though it is not likely to even be noticeable! The biggest risk with rapid muscle gain is stretch marks. Stretch marks occurring alongside fast muscle growth is quite common, and they can really kill a tattoo.
Typically, larger designs will be less susceptible to stretching itself, and they will also show fewer effects of any stretching that does occur. On the other hand, highly symmetrical designs will more visibly show signs of stretching. This is because even the slightest bit of asymmetry will become glaringly obvious in a design that is meant to be perfectly even. This can include many tribal or Celtic designs as well as the very popular mandala.
Most Commonly Stretched Body Parts
There are certain body parts that will be more prone to stretching with muscle gain than others. These are good to keep in mind as you decide where to put your new tattoo.
One of the worst spots for this is the stomach. This part of the body is usually the first to change as you either lose or gain weight.
Stomach tattoos are common and well-liked because of how easy they are to conceal in an environment where tattoos may not be received well. There are many people who cannot have visible tattoos due to their job situation, so they are limited to certain locations on the body. Stomach tattoos are great for these reasons but will stretch easier than any other location. Keep this in mind if you have plans to either gain or lose a lot of weight and/or muscle mass.
The neck is actually a good spot in some ways. It is a nice surface and creates a quality canvas for a tattoo. It doesn’t necessarily stretch so much as it will lose its elasticity much faster than most others parts of the body. This means that certain designs could potentially become slightly distorted and warped as the skin begins to age, sag, and become loose.
Back and Shoulder
These are also good areas for tattoos in their own right but can be more prone to stretching than others. While the risk of any stretching becoming noticeable is still low, it’s still something to consider when thinking about design. These spots may be more suited to larger, graphic pieces as opposed to a design with large volumes of small, fine detail.
Best Placements to Avoid Stretching
There are some spots on the body that will be less prone to potential stretching. These can be good locations for designs that are detailed and complex.
The arms are great because there is so much room for creativity. You can put a few different, individual things on there, or you can go for a sleeve. Sleeves are a great way to pay homage to something you are extremely passionate about, or to get a series of themed tattoos.
The ribs are a notoriously painful location to get tattooed. The skin is very thin over the rib bones and it can be excruciating when the needle goes over those spots. That being said, the ribs are a great place for other reasons. Rib tattoos are easily concealed and there isn’t much risk of stretching as there is very little muscle in that area. Because the skin is very thin and close to the bone, the image may wiggle around a bit as the skin moves with you. While this has no adverse effect on the tattoo itself, it is something to consider when creating a design. You don’t want something that is going to constantly look funny as you move around.
Legs and Ankles
Legs are similar to arms when it comes to being a great canvas for tattoos. The main difference is that they are bigger, and the knees are often quite painful. Ankles, like ribs, are bony and can be on the more painful side. Ankle tattoos are fantastic though as they look great and are so easy to hide if necessary.
Touch Ups After Stretching
If you find that you have gained a lot of muscle quickly and your tattoo has indeed stretched, it may be possible to fix it. Certain artists will be better at this than others, but minor distortion is usually an easy fix. It is amazing what some artists can to do rectify a low quality and/or destroyed tattoo with a bit of touching up. If a tattoo has been stretched or distorted beyond repair, a cover-up can also be considered. If you are going to consider either of these options, wait until you are at your desired/ideal weight. This will ensure that the new image holds up in the future.
Shrinking with Weight Loss
Many people looking to get a tattoo find themselves worrying, rather needlessly, about their tattoo stretching as they gain muscle. Something not as many people consider is what happens to a tattoo with weight loss. Like muscle gain, a low to moderate amount of weight loss over a reasonable period of time will not affect your tattoo much, if at all.
There are some cases where weight loss can distort a tattoo quite a bit, however. This includes a significant amount of weight loss in a short period of time. This sudden, drastic change can cause the design to warp. It will be especially noticeable if the design was very detailed to begin with. Lines that were drawn very close together are at risk of blending together after dramatic weight loss. Too many instances of this in one tattoo will change the appearance of the image.
If you want to lose a lot of weight but are worried about your tattoos, talk to your artist. They can give you some insight into what the ink may do, and you can come up with a plan. It may take more time than you imagined, but it will be worth it to keep your ink intact.
Tattoos and Pregnancy
While muscle gain won’t dramatically affect your tattoos, pregnancy weight gain is a different story. Becoming pregnant will distort any tattoos that are located directly on the midsection. The weight gain and stretching of skin during a pregnancy is so dramatic and happens so quickly that tattoos rarely survive. This is why women are always encouraged to wait until they are done having children before getting tattoos in this area.