What Happens To Tattoos After Weight Gain?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on December 8, 2019
    Last Updated: November 27, 2020

Tattoos become precious entities of our bodies. Their uniqueness and intricacy represent a part of our personality. We don’t want them to change, yet a gaining of weight might just do so.


Weight gain can:

  • Stretch the tattoo
  • Distort the tattoo’s appearance
  • Do none of the above (if you’re lucky)

What Type of Weight Have You Gained?

Our bodies can be unpredictable in terms of water retention and changes in hormone levels, both of which can result in weight gain. This can be frustrating, especially if you have a tattoo since the body changes can distort the tattoo’s appearance. The good news is that short term changes won’t affect the tattoo in the long term.

Your skin will naturally stretch as you gain weight. This is part of the body’s natural growth and function, so the tattoo will typically stretch with the skin as you gain weight. Even though the skin has an elastic quality, it can only endure a certain amount of stretching and shrinking over time, which is we end up with stretch marks.

It’s important to note that the effect weight gain has on a tattoo will be contingent on a series of independent factors:

  • Placement
  • The reason for weight gain

Tattoo Placement 

The placement of your tattoo will influence the degree to which it stretches. The body may increase in size due to the weight gain, yet the actual skin stretching doesn’t happen over the entire body, just in isolated growth areas. 

Perhaps you’re concerned that your weight training may interfere with a new tattoo. Some stretching may occur with increased muscle mass, particularly in the bicep and tricep area. Luckily for you, a small amount of muscle growth won’t do too much. Slow, muscular growth will help to minimize severe skin stretching. 

If you’re focused on isolated muscle exercises, contraction and expansion of the skin will occur. In the case of sudden muscle mass gain, ink pigment can be broken down.

Be wary of tattoos placed on the feet. Weight gain can put pressure on this area, causing feet to flatten, and in turn, stretch the skin. 

A safer area is often the skin covering the collarbone. The skin here is soft and thin with little tissue below the surface, and there aren’t any muscles surrounding the bone and little tissue. Therefore, if you choose to get a tattoo in this location, minimal skin stretching will occur from weight gain, and the tattoo shouldn’t be altered.

How You Gain Weight

Weight gain can come in a variety of different forms:

  • Sudden weight gain
  • Pregnancy

Sudden Weight Gain

You’re most likely to see very little to no distortion of the tattoo if the weight gain is minimal and slow. The skin won’t have been able to stretch enough to disturb the ink pigment. 

Sudden weight gain can distort your tattoo, though, since sustained strength training will alter the arrangement of fibers inside the specific muscle. Dramatic weight gain also increases the development of stretch marks. These marks are irregular lines on the surface of the skin and can destroy ink pigment.

Pregnancy 

The skin located on a woman’s stomach will likely stretch a great deal during pregnancy. This type of weight gain can be unpredictable and varies between individuals.

This can be particularly present during the third trimester. The woman’s uterus is increasing in size, and the skin will be forced to expand itself. Hormonal changes and a need for increased nutrients also cause stretching during this time.

Tattoo distortion can be highly probable in this case. It’s been noted that pregnant women tend to experience stretching around the hips, abdomen and thighs. If the tattoo is located in these areas, the ink may distort quite visibly.

This extends to the postpartum period. Fibroblast skin cells trigger elastin and collagen growth — the proteins that provide the stretching function of the skin. It’s possible severely stretched skin can struggle to return to its original form, in turn maintaining a distorted tattoo.

Preventative Measures

It may seem as though tattoo distortion is inevitable in the case of severe or sudden weight gain. In some cases, though, preventative measures can be taken to ensure your ink stays shipshape.

Timing

Are you planning to increase your muscle mass? Why not put on this muscle weight and then get your inking done? This way, your body will be in a static, stable state and your muscles will be at their optimum size.

Tactical Placement

If a tattoo is something you’re considering, opt for a low-key area, such as the hands or feet. This will ensure little to no stretching. Your future tattoo will be safe! This is also a great option if you’re looking for a more discreet tattoo. 

Combat The Effects Of Pregnancy Weight Gain

Are you concerned about the distortion of your tattoo in both pregnancy and postpartum periods? Here are some ways to combat this:

  • Cardio: This can combat the weight gain and tone the muscles
  • Use oils: Oils such as Bio-Oil are renowned in their ability to tighten skin
  • Hydration: This will improve skin elasticity and counteract water retention in the stomach area. A good moisturizing tattoo lotion can go a long way in keeping the area hydrated and supple.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan-friendly aftercare product called After Inked Tattoo Aftercare Lotion. This stuff works amazingly well during the healing process; not only by keeping your tattoo really well hydrated but also by soothing any annoying itching and irritation. When using it from the very start of the healing process, this lotion will help to decrease tattoo healing times and work towards eliminating any lingering dryness and scabbing.

Protect Your Ink! 

You’ve likely put considerable time and effort into achieving a great inking experience, so be sure to bear this in mind if you’re thinking about deliberating gaining weight. If you’re actively trying for a baby, hold off from getting inked. If you’ve made a conscious decision to bulk up or need to change your shape drastically, take this into account, too.

Small to moderate weight gain likely won’t distort or stretch your tattoo. Yet sudden or severe weight gain will most likely alter the appearance of your tat. You can also opt for a tactical placement to avoid the effects of skin stretching. Go for an area such as the hands, feet or collarbone, but beware of the increase in pain in these areas!