Unlike a few decades ago when tattoos were seen as criminal or unsavory, today, inking your body is mostly accepted and seen as another form of expression or adornment. People choose to get tattoos for many reasons such as resurrecting old ancestral practises that have been lost through time, to mark major life events like weddings or birthdays, to honor a loved one, to cover up flaws, e.g and old accident or surgery scar or women who get tattoos on their chests after undergoing a mastectomy, as a form of rebellion from societal expectations or beauty standards, or simply for the adventure or sheer creativity that comes from the selection process of getting such ink. The reasons are endless. Despite all these, one of the biggest reasons why a person, especially an overweight person might hesitate to get some ink, is the question ‘what happens to a tattoo after losing weight?’. In today’s article we shall be covering the issue of tattoos after weight loss and what happens to them. Should you get them while at your current weight? Get them as you are losing weight? Or is it better to lose weight then get a tattoo? Read on to find out!
What To Consider/Know Before Getting A Tattoo
Before delving into the appearance of tattoos before and after weight loss, here are a couple of things that you must take into consideration before letting someone put a permanent mark on your body.
- Reason behind the tattoo – It’s always good to know your ‘why’ before making a major decision. As seen above, many people often choose to get ink on their body to represent something or someone important to them. It could be a person in your life, a specific special date, a type of flower that means something to you, or even a TV/movie character that resonates with you. In some cases, however, tattoos have no deeper meaning than someone just liked the design and chose to have it permanently stamped on them. Irrespective of whether the tattoo has a deeper meaning or not, it’s always a good idea to put some thought into it first before taking the plunge.
- Placement – Where on your body would you like the tattoo to go? While having tattoos will not ruin your chances of getting a job today, some careers are stricter than others and would prefer if your ink wasn’t visible. Career aside, where you live could also determine where your tattoo should go. E.g. in some parts of East Asia, while tattoos are becoming more popular, there still remains a certain stigma towards people with them. If you live or work in any of these countries, getting a tattoo in an area that is almost always covered, might be better for you.
- Design – What kind of imagery do you want on your body? Reason for getting the tattoo aside, design is one of the most important (and probably the most time consuming part of the entire process). Would you like flowers or animals? A portrait or something more abstract? How much detail do you want to go into it? Are you set on one specific design or are you willing to let the artist get creative with your original idea? How much color do you want on it or do you prefer a simple black tattoo? Do you think a glow in the dark tattoo is more your style? These are all important questions to ask yourself while selecting your preferred design is important as it minimizes the chances of regrets later.
- Artist – With so many tattoo artists working today, it can be hard to pick the best one for the type of artwork you want. The best way to go about this is to ask around. Start with your friends who already have ink on them or join tattoo communities and speak to tattoo enthusiasts. You could also search a hashtag on social media to look up available artists in your area. Once this is done, look at the artist’s portfolio (most can be found online, especially on their websites or instagram), and see if their style matches what you want. This is important as it helps ensure that whichever artist you end up settling for properly understands and can execute your vision.
- Licensing and Hygiene – While not all countries require these artists to have a license, some do. Research on whether your country/state requires them to have one and go from there. Hygiene is also incredibly important – the shop/studio must be clean and disinfected at all times. The artists’ work area must also be clean and disinfected. Be sure to also see that the artist is using new needles, gloves, clean bandages, swabs, and razors when working on you. Remember that this process is one that involves needles and blood and many diseases – including HIV/AIDS can be passed through such. Always look out for yourself and your health.
- Go for a consultation – It is always a good sign if the artist in question agrees to a consultation before you set a date and get down to business. A consultation is important as it helps you gauge if you and the artist vibe well with each other, if they understand what you want, if they are patient, etc.
- Cost – How much are you willing to spend on your actual tattoo? The price of this, like all other kinds of body art, is determined by factors such as the reputation of the artist, level of skill or the artist, location on the body, size of tattoo, complexity and how much detail is going into it, originality of artwork, and the art style used.
- Your level of pain tolerance – Yes, tattoos are painful, however, the amount of pain also varies. According to Insider:
- Any tattoo done directly over the bone will be painful, e.g the fingers, back of your hand, on the spine, around the chest (above the breasts for women) and the collarbone, etc.
- Inner thighs, the rib cage, underside of the arms, as well as the sides of your torso are also quite sensitive and will be painful
- Head, armpit, and feet tattoos should be left to those with the highest pain tolerance unless you want to be screaming and balling your eyes out at the studio.
Read More: Drinking Water Before Bed For Weight Loss: Does It Work?
Tattoos Before And After Weight Loss: What To Expect
Irrespective of your weight, it is important to know that your tattoo will definitely change over time, with the most common change being the fading of the initial vibrant color. In some cases, depending on the type of artwork and skill of the artist, some tattoos also become blurry and some fine lines/details may merge together.
According to Allure, other factors that can distort the look of your body ink art include factors such as aftercare, location of the art, exposure to the sun, smoking, as well as the type and color of pigment used (1).
That aside, here are some things to consider about tattoos after weight loss, especially if you plan on getting one before losing weight, or already have one (or some) and are scared of what they might look like once you shed the excess pounds
- Location/placement – When it comes to weight gain/loss, some areas of the body store more fat than others which means they will increase or shrink in girth depending on how your weight fluctuates. According to LiveStrong, body parts such as the hands, wrists, back of the neck, feet and ankles are very rarely affected by weight loss and thus any art on this area will most likely remain the same. A point to note is that these areas are some of the most painful areas to get a tattoo as they are directly over bone.
- Gender – This ties in with the above point on the placement of the tattoo and settlement of fat during weight gain/loss. Because women store most of their fat in their hips, thighs, breasts, and sometimes the belly, they will most likely notice some big differences in any art in these areas after they’ve lost the weight. On the other hand, men can notice some changes in any art on their stomachs or arms.
- Weight loss speed – Slow weight loss is always recommended over rapid weight loss not only because it prevents yo-yo dieting and the dangers that comes with it (e.g. eating disorders) but because it is also sustainable in the long term ensuring a healthy weight management after weight loss (2). A point that most people forget is that weight loss also affects the quality and elasticity of your skin.
Our skin is the largest (and most flexible) organ on our bodies and it expands or shrinks depending on how big or small you get. When you lose weight in a slow, steady and healthy way, you give your skin time to shrink with you to fit your new size. However, when you lose weight too fast, you will most likely end up with saggy skin as the skin never had time to catch up with you. If you have tattoos in this case, they might end up either covered up under the loose skin or severely distorted. If you don’t have any tattoos but you were planning to get some after, the state of the skin may make it impossible for you to get one.
- Size of the tattoo – Bigger tattoos are said to hold up better and show less distortion over time than smaller ones.
- Type of tattoos – Symmetrical tattoos, or those that have a lot of line or pattern work are highly susceptible to distortion during and after weight loss. Good news is that losing weight slowly can minimize any damage, and your artist can always make some few changes to cover up any damage that may appear.
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Tattoos After Weight Gain: How Do They Change?
Because your skin stretches as you gain weight, any tattoo that you have, especially in the fleshy areas of the body will most likely stretch too. It ends up covering a bigger area than before. In some cases, the tattoo might also shift from its original position and move to the side or the front depending on its placement.
Thighs Tattoos After Weight Loss: What Happens?
No drastic design change will happen to your thigh tattoo after you lose weight – unless the weight lost was 100 pounds or more. The only thing you might notice is a change in placement as it might move slightly back or forward due to the shrinking skin.
Arm Tattoos After Weight Loss: Do They Get Distorted?
Just like thigh tattoos, you will not notice any huge change to your design after you have shed those extra pounds, unless you dropped a large amount of weight. The tattoo will just shrink back down and just slightly change positions due to shrinking skin.
A point to note, however, is that any artwork done on the inner arm (as well as the inner thighs) might have a much larger change especially to much larger skin due to sagging/excess skin that might need to be cut off later.
Read More: Bone Broth For Weight Loss: How It Works, Recipes, And More
The Best Weight Loss Tattoo Ideas For People Who Have Accomplished Their Weight Goal
Weight loss should not be a deterrent to getting any new tattoos. However, if you are afraid that the shape or design that you want might change too much after weight loss, then it might be best to wait until you’ve lost a considerable amount of weight or reached your goal before getting some new ink.
When it comes to the best weight loss tattoo ideas, the best one would definitely be something that resonates best with you. For example:
- Some people choose to get a tape measure inked on them to remind them of how far they came and what not to go back to. While this might be cool to some, it could be triggering to others who have spent all their lives battling against how big their waist size was
- A meaningful quote – This is probably the safest option for most. Simple quotes such as ‘one step at a time’, ‘one inch at a time’, ‘mind over matter’, etc. could work as options for tattoos after weight loss.
- Mental health tattoos – Weight is a sensitive issue and leads to serious general health issues as well as mental health issues. For someone who has struggled with mental health issues related to the subject of weight, getting some tattoos after weight loss to signify their win could be cathartic as well as a reminder of how far they’ve come. Two options you could choose from are
- The semicolon (punctuation mark) – Which is often used as a message of affirmation and solidarity against suicide, depression, addiction, and other mental health issues
- The NEDA symbol – People often use the National Eating Disorders Association symbol to serve as a reminder of battles fought and won against ED. It is also said to represent strength, hope, and motivation to continue with recovery
- A butterfly – Often combined with the semicolon, it also carries the same message against depression, suicide and other mental health issues. The butterfly can also be combined with the NEDA symbol to help hide it – incase you do not wish to explain either mark to anyone.
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The Bottom Line
The thought of tattoos after weight loss and what they might look like, should not deter you from losing weight – especially if you are doing it for health reasons. In most cases, nothing much changes and anything that might be is most likely only noticeable to you or a professional.
Remember that huge changes only come with rapid weight loss or losing over 100 pounds – and even then the art can always be corrected, covered up with something better, or even removed altogether. Do not let this stop you from achieving your goals.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- This Is Why Your Tattoo Faded So Much (2020, allure.com)
- Variability in Weight Change Early in Behavioral Weight Loss Treatment: Theoretical and Clinical Implications (2017, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)