What Do Tattoos Look Like After Losing Weight?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on November 28, 2019
    Last Updated: November 8, 2020

Losing weight for health reasons is fantastic, but you may be concerned about what your tattoo will look like after your transformation. Don’t worry, though. It’s not going to suddenly begin to look like a messy patch of scrambled ink just because you’ve started to lose a few pounds. Keep reading to learn what’s more likely to happen.

How Can Weight Loss Affect Tattoos?

When getting a tattoo, the ink penetrates into the lower layers of skin. The condition of the skin at the time of the tattoo will determine the quality and appearance afterward. There are many factors that can lead to tattoo distortion, and rapid changes in weight is one of them. Tattoo appearance will change after large weight loss or weight gain and they may look saggy or off-point, or stretched and faded.

Remember, the skin is the largest organ of your body. It stretches and shrinks as needed, but a tattoo is not as flexible. Lines may not align as they did previously. Depending on the area, the tattoo may shift location slightly. The location of the tattoo also plays a significant role in how much it will be affected.

Tattoos After Weight Loss

How to Minimize Tattoo Distortion After Weight Loss

The belly, upper arms, and thighs are areas prone to shifting appearances of a tattoo because they tend to be fattier spots. Smaller tattoos are usually more affected by weight loss, and they are also much more difficult to correct. Larger tattoos can always be fixed by adding more filling, whereas smaller ones don’t always allow for that option.

Losing weight slowly is key to keeping a tattoo intact. With rapid weight loss, the skin can’t keep up because it doesn’t have time to naturally contract as your body shrinks. This can result in excessive, saggy and wrinkled skin. As you can imagine, this will affect your tattoo. Cellulite and stretch marks may also become more visible.

Drinking plenty of water is not only going to help you on your weight loss journey, but it will also help your tattoo remain vibrant. Staying hydrated will improve the quality of the skin, resulting in fewer changes to the tattoo.

This tattoo appears to have been redone at some point between the photos being taken, but you can tell the shape and size hadn’t distorted at all.

How Can Weight Gain Affect Tattoos?

Gaining weight is never fun, however, sometimes it’s hard to avoid. Rapid and extreme weight gain will, unfortunately, affect some tattoos depending on their location.

You may notice the tattoo stretching or changing shape. How much it changes depends on the tattoo and its area. Larger tattoos tend to change quite a bit because of the amount of area they cover.

Tattoos with intricate patterns or symmetrical designs can easily show the effects of weight gain, since these have to be very precise.

Sleeve tattoos, which cover the whole upper arm and sometimes the shoulder as well as the lower arm, are very popular. You may notice some changes if you decide to gain a bit of muscle in the area, for example.

Don’t get too worried if you’ve added just a mere few pounds, however, as the skin (and your tattoo) can handle subtle growth (and shrinkage) pretty well to an extent.

Another thing that usually follows rapid weight gain is stretch marks. Stretch marks are basically the body’s way of telling us the skin has reached its limits.  When the elastic fibers tear because they are at their limits, permanent stretch marks appear in the skin.  They often appear as white or red marks, and they can run horizontally as well as vertically. If you happen to get stretch marks on the skin around your tattoo, it could ruin the design. Usually, stretch marks are red when they first form and then they turn white when they are older (> 1 year).

The stretch marks might break up the ink particles, which means you could lose parts of your tattoo. It can be fixed by tattooing over the stretch marks, but remember that damaged skin will be more sensitive, so it may be a little more painful. This damaged skin with broken elastic fibers does not pick up the pigment as well as healthy skin.  Another reason to avoid the ice cream.

How to Minimize Tattoo Distortion After Weight Gain

Weight gain can affect a tattoo more than weight loss, taking a toll on the skin as it struggles to keep up. I know it’s not something we can always control, but if you’re gaining weight deliberately, it should be handled with care.

Rushing the process won’t leave the skin with enough time to stretch naturally, and you may end up with a few unwanted stretch marks.

Hydration is also an essential part of skin health, and as mentioned above, the condition of your skin is crucial in keeping a tattoo looking great. I strongly suggest buying a good moisturizer, especially if you have a tattoo in an area that could see drastic changes.

The best tattoo lotion I’ve ever personally used is a vegan 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. Click here to buy from Amazon.

My Tattoo Has Changed, What Should I Do?

If you have a tattoo that has already been through the changes during previous episodes of weight loss or gain, you may be left wondering what to do next. I recommend consulting a tattoo artist, ideally returning to your original artist, and discussing how to fix it.

The artist may recommend fixing the tattoo with small touch-ups, or you may be advised to change the tattoo altogether in the way of a coverup.

Taking the necessary precautions while losing or gaining weight can minimize the effects on the tattoo. If handled with care, you may not experience any changes to your tattoos at all.

An amazing transformation – and the tattoos survived!