Stretch marks are common – about 80 percent of women worldwide have them – and can appear almost anywhere on the body. Also known as striae, stretch marks are actually scars that can be caused by a number of factors, including hormones and weight changes. The appearance of stretch marks may change and fade with time, but usually don't disappear completely. Learn how stretch marks can affect future and existing tattoos and how to keep your ink intact.
Covering Stretch Marks
Often people will seek to cover stretch marks, finding the skin imperfections embarrassing. Many creams and non-surgical procedures claiming to reduce the appearance of stretch marks are available, while often tanning and makeup are sought out as temporary solutions. When people are looking for a more permanent and affordable means to cover stretch marks, some lean towards tattoos. However, because stretch marks don't react to being tattooed the same way other skin surfaces do, this is not always the right solution.
Tattooing Over Striae
Stretch marks can be different colors and sizes. Those that are light colored with little variation from normal skin texture are more easily tattooed than stretch marks that are large and deep. Ink may look and spread differently in the area of a larger stretch mark which can result in an inconsistent looking tattoo. A veteran tattoo artist should be able to assess the situation and let you know your options. Ask to see pictures of healed tattoos they have done specifically over stretch marks. Know that the results can be unpredictable, and a tattoo placed over stretch marks will vary from one on unaffected skin.
Carefully consider the placement of your tattoo. In most cases, tattoo artists will ask you to avoid being tattooed where you may get stretch marks in the future in order to keep the integrity of the design. For example, avoid the stomach area if you are planning on getting pregnant. Common areas for stretch marks are the abdomen, lower back, arms, breasts and thighs. Generally adults don't gain additional stretch marks unless they experience pregnancy, extreme weight or muscle gain, use particular medications such as corticosteroid creams or have a disease, such as Cushing's syndrome.
Stretch Marks and Existing Tattoos
Since stretch marks are unpredictable, it's hard to determine how exactly they will affect your existing tattoo. In some cases, stretch marks running through a tattoo can alter the alignment of the design, causing the image to look distorted. If you have stretch marks that have distorted an existing tattoo, you can always look into the possibility of touch ups or a cover-up tattoo to help correct the image.
Waiting it Out
University of Maryland Medical Center also suggests that stretch marks fade over time. It might be wise to wait a while if your stretch marks are new to see if covering them up is still necessary down the road.