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Do Tattoos Stretch With Muscle Growth?

by
author image Jae Allen
Jae Allen has been a writer since 1999, with articles published in "The Hub," "Innocent Words" and "Rhythm." She has worked as a medical writer, paralegal, veterinary assistant, stage manager, session musician, ghostwriter and university professor. Allen specializes in travel, health/fitness, animals and other topics.
Do Tattoos Stretch With Muscle Growth?
Close-up of tattoos on a man's muscular arm. Photo Credit Thinkstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Unless you opt for laser removal at some point in the future, a tattoo is for life. The size and shape of your various muscles, however, is unlikely to stay the same throughout your lifetime. When considering tattoo placement and design, it is important to consider whether the tattoo is likely to stretch with changes in your muscle tone and size.

Tattoos Past and Present

Tattoos as a form of body art have a history going back many centuries. In the early 20th century, tattoos in Western society were most typically associated with members of the military -- especially the navy -- and criminals. However, in the past 20 years or so, there has been a democratization and huge increase in the popularity of tattoos. It is now acceptable to find tattoos on a person from any socioeconomic class, profession or gender.

Growing Along With Muscle

When tattoos are placed over a muscle, the tattoo may stretch if you subsequently increase the muscle mass in that area. According to the website Muscle Gaining, moderate muscle growth should not have any noticeable effect upon a tattoo. However, sudden or significant muscle growth may damage the design and ink of the tattoo. If you develop stretch marks from sudden gain of muscle mass or weight, these stretch marks may destroy some of the ink in your tattoo.

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Design Distortion

According to an article in the June 2010 issue of the "European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Biology," any tattooed area of the body that becomes swollen or distended is likely to experience stretching and distortion of the tattoo. This particular article considers the effects of tattoos and piercings on pregnant women's bodies -- the same issues of stretching and distortion of tattoos would, however, occur in areas of pronounced muscle growth.

Timing Is Everything

If you want to minimize the risk of a tattoo stretching due to muscle gain, make sure to get the tattoo at a time when your muscles are at the size you expect them to be in future. If you are already a bodybuilder, wait until you have reached the optimum muscle mass you are aiming for before placing a tattoo on your muscles. You should also be aware that a tattoo on a muscle will be prone to shrinking if you cease working out or weightlifting after the tattoo is placed.

Words of Caution

Although tattoos are increasingly common in Western societies, many employers require employees to show no visible tattoos at work. Before you get inked, consider whether a visible tattoo may negatively affect your employment prospects. Furthermore, bear in mind that tattoo ink is not regulated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States because tattoo ink is considered a cosmetic item.

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