Will Tattoos Stretch With Muscle Gain?

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

Our skin is our most versatile and largest organ. Our skin grows with us through growth spurts, weight gain and pregnancy. It’s not as good at shrinking back, though — excess skin removal surgery after extensive weight loss proves that.

When an area that’s going to stretch is inked, it raises a good question. When a piece of clothing bearing an image is stretched, the picture is distorted. Is the same to be said for a tattooed bicep or other appendages?

Skin is a versatile organ, which stretches slowly as your muscles grow. Sudden muscle growth will cause the skin to stretch, distorting anything on it — this can also cause stretch marks. If you build your muscles gradually over time however, your tattoos shouldn’t distort. 

How Tattoos Take to the Skin

The permanence of tattoos is caused by the wound created when ink is injected into the skin. The middle layer of skin called the dermis takes the brunt of this needle attack. One type of white blood cell tries to fight it off, but the ink pigment can be too intense for it. As a result, the dermis traps the ink in our skin forever.

Since the ink is nestled safely in the dermis, it shouldn’t stretch, right? The ink is like a scar born from the wounds we got for the tattoo. Scars can’t stretch, can they? Yes, they can.

Will You Have to Stop Training When You Get a Tattoo?

Scars close to a joint can stretch and thin with activity. For those of us who train regularly to build our muscles, this is a concern when it comes to tattooing. If you stretch the tattoo wounds while they’re still open, your tattoo could look wrong even before it heals, right?

Wrong. The short answer to the question of stopping is, no, don’t worry. Working out while your tattoo is healing won’t damage it as long as you take it easy. 

It is recommended you stop working out your tattooed area for a few days after getting it, though. Exercising too soon can contaminate a new tattoo with sweat and bacteria from gym equipment. If you wear tight clothing, such as a compression shirt, it may also irritate the tattoo by rubbing against it.

If your workout involves the tattooed area being pulled, this can hinder the healing. While you’re waiting, you can still work out other body parts. You just need to be sensible about it.

What Body Parts Stretch the Most?

If you’re worried about stretching, be strategic in your tattoo placement. You have a body-sized canvas to work with. With all that space, you may find it hard to choose where to put your ink. 

If stretching scares you, there are a few body parts that do it more than others. You can avoid tattooing these areas if you’re really worried.


When you lose or gain weight, the first place you notice it is the stomach. This means muscle mass increased here can be very obvious.

The stomach is a common place for tattoos you need to keep covered. With so many employers who won’t allow tattoos in the workplace, people need to be stealthy.

Back and Shoulders

Your back and shoulders are prone to bulking up when you gain muscle. They’re excellent canvases for tattoos that only peek out occasionally, but could be risky if you’re about to get huge.


The skin on the neck is not as elastic as other body parts. You see this when people age. Their neck skin starts to sag, creating the noticeable turkey neck.

The neck thickens when you gain muscle. Tattoos on this body part may become distorted long before age ruins it, if you’re not careful.

Will Tattoos Actually Stretch?

This has been a cautionary tale of possibilities for if muscles will stretch the skin enough to cause distortion. But how common is it?

If you gain slowly and steadily, it’s not likely to stretch your tattoos. Rapid muscle or weight gain is another thing. If you lift weights, be careful of muscle hypertrophy, and gaining a lot of weight from overeating or pregnancy causes stretch marks. To avoid stretch marks and ruined tattoos, don’t rush your physique. Your body and ink will thank you for it.

When you eventually go ahead with getting your dream tattoo, it’s imperative that you always follow your tattoo artist’s aftercare advice closely, and be sure to invest in a high-quality tattoo healing lotion to aid recovery.

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.