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Tattoos and being plus-sized: 6 things you should know

Being plus-sized comes with a lot of things we supposedly can’t do, and getting tattoos is one of them. It’s definitely something I’ve been pressured to feel, especially when browsing through Instagram. Many tattoo pages feature super fit models with chiseled bodies, and oftentimes, I can’t help but ask myself, “Should I get a tattoo?”

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s made to feel that tattoos won’t look good on me. Whether you want to show them off or keep them under wraps, I don’t think your size matters. One person I look up to for that very reason is Tess Holliday. She’s alternative and fabulous – and I here for it!

It’s a lot to think about

Getting tattoos for myself came with a bunch of considerations that I can confidently say skinnier people don’t have to think twice about. It also didn’t help that for something as personal as getting a tattoo, sooo many people were ready to give me their 2 cents on what I’m doing to my body. Most of which were along the lines of “Imagine what your tattoo would look like if you lost weight or when you get old” and “Your tattoo is gonna look weird because you’re too curvy.”

Personally, I absolutely hate being on the receiving end of unsolicited opinions, especially when I’m already fixated on doing something. (I’m a Scorpio, so I’m pretty fixed and impulsive.) I’m confident in myself and the things I choose for myself, so when other people are in my ear, it makes the whole decision-making process much more difficult – which brings me to this post today.

I needed a me for advice

When I was planning for my first tattoo, I wished I had the information I’m sharing with you guys today. There wasn’t much I could find on the internet about getting a tattoo as a plus-sized person, and I especially wanted anecdotes. I wanted reassurance from someone who’s done it before me, and most especially from someone with no regrets. But here I am today – 14 tattoos later and after some significant weight gain – I’m still happy with what I have. I’m here to tell you that the whole process doesn’t have to be so complicated. I’ll share with you the considerations I mull over whenever I want to get a new tattoo. And let me tell you… I’ve been stopped so many times by friends and strangers alike, telling me that they love my tattoos and my overall confidence – which is what I want for you!

Rule No. 1: ALWAYS do your research

I have some very basic rules when it comes to choosing your design and artist – most of which stem from my own personal mistakes. When choosing a design, always be sure to look deep into its meaning. The last thing you want is a tattoo that instead symbolizes something you’re totally against.

When choosing an artist, it would help to ask if they’ve tattooed plus sized people before and if they have any experience in tattooing looser skin (if this applies to you). Next, take a look at their portfolio and see if they’ve done work similar to what you want done. That way, you can see if they’re fully capable of giving you the tattoo you want for yourself. Also be sure to verify how many years of experience they have under their belt. When you find a really good artist, they will be capable of designing your tattoo with your body contour in mind. It really wouldn’t matter if you were a skinny or plus sized person.

After choosing an artist, take a look at his/her workstation. Make sure that everything looks clean, tidy and sanitized, sterilized – the whole nine yards! Also note if they’re using rubber gloves and that every needle they’ll use on you are new. Getting infected – HIV or whatnot – is no joke!

Lastly (and I think this is the most important), don’t choose an artist solely based on price! Seriously. There’s usually a catch when an artist is willing to charge you an extremely low price. It could be due to inexperience, no professional workspace/tools, still trying to gain clientele, etc. Artistry, professionalism, and peace of mind do come with a price.

2. You can’t predict bodily changes

If one of your holdups to getting a tattoo is the uncertainty of how your body may change over time, then you need to chuck that notion out the door. If you can help it, then sure, you body could, for the most part, stay the same. But what about changes that you ultimately have no control over? Who knows if you’ll gain or lose extra weight in the future? What about women planning on having children one day? Who knows if your body will wrinkle prematurely? And God forbid you lose a limb or experience third-degree burns that would severely deform your skin.

Now go ahead… Ask anyone, whether they’re skinny or fat. They’ll tell you that getting a tattoo while fat is the worse time because of future bodily changes or, simply, it just wouldn’t look as good.

I, too, wanted to lose weight before getting my first tattoo, which was one of the main reasons why I didn’t get one until I was 22 and about to graduate from college. No matter how hard I tried or how much time had passed, I was still juggling 20 pounds. When I realized this, I figured I might as well take the plunge because if not, I would’ve been waiting forever. Now at 25, I’m heavier than I was at 22, yet all my tattoos still look the same. None of them turned out weird-looking.

The same thing goes for wrinkles, which can show up at any point. Some develop wrinkles earlier than others. It’s a part of the human cycle and definitely something to keep in mind. However, I would say that there’s an exception to this…

3. Are you going to drastically lose weight?

If you’re reading this because you’re thinking of losing 50-plus pounds at a very fast rate – i.e. liposuction, intense workouts/dieting, etc. – then I’m sorry to say this, but excess skin is virtually unavoidable, especially on parts of your body where fat gathered. This also goes for gaining 50 pounds overnight because that’s how stretch marks form – from gaining weight at such a rapid rate that the skin had no time to stretch itself without tearing.

Think of it like this. How your tattoo turns out depends on these three factors:

  1. How much weight will you gain or lose;
  2. The rate at which you will gain or lose weight; and
  3. Your hydration routine (water consumption and lotion, oils, etc.).

I know. Science, right? Hah! Not so much, but these are some known factors to consider when it comes to weight loss and whether it’s visible on your skin. So if your weight gain/loss threshold is around 20 to 30 pounds and the rate is normal or slow, then I believe you will be fine.

And check this out… My best friend has a belly tattoo that still looks the same after giving birth! Granted, a baby doesn’t grow overnight, but with her fit, petite frame stretching to hold a baby, her tattoo still looks great with practically zero quality loss! Check out her photo below.

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

4. Placement is key for plus sized bodies

Besides avoiding face, neck and hand tattoos for obvious reasons. *cough, employment, cough* Because I’m plus sized, I’ve intentionally avoided certain areas of my body that tend to store more fat than other areas. I took the time to really look at my body and see how it’s changed over time due to weight gain.

Currently, I have tattoos all over both of my arms, along my right clavicle, on both of my thighs, and above both of my knees – which were all placed carefully.

Here’s a list of some body parts where, in my opinion, tattoos change the least in weight gain/loss:

  • Head
  • Behind the ears
  • Back of neck
  • Base of neck, to above the breasts for women
  • Whole chest for men
  • Sternum
  • Upper back
  • Lower back above the butt crack
  • Along the spine
  • Shoulders/lats
  • Outer part of upper arm
  • Forearm
  • Upper part of outer thigh

Personally, body parts I’d avoid are the inner area of the upper arm (even though I already have one there), inner thighs, lower abdomen and below the belly button, love handles, above the elbow, front of neck/below chin, and ankles, just to name a few. And here’s one more thing I’d like to add to this topic…

5. Yes, you can tattoo over stretch marks

I remember it just like it was yesterday. I walked into a tattoo parlor, looking to get a lock and key added to my half-sleeve. My only hang-up was that I had developed these stretch marks on the upper part of my inner arm near the armpit. When I first wanted to get tattoos, I was younger and more fit. At the time, stretch marks were not a part of my reality.

The first thing I did was ask the artist if he had experience tattooing over stretch marks (which he had) and if there was a difference between that and skin without stretch marks.

Based off of my experience, I have two main observations. First is that stretch marks get extra, extra, extra swollen after being tattooed on. They really protrude and look vein-y. Second, after some time when the tattoo heals, the ink in stretch marks looks like it’s spreading (see photo below), which makes the stretch mark look even more scrunched together. Other than those two observations, they don’t look any different as a whole.

6. Take it from me: Do it for yourself

Whether you’re skinny, fit, thick or plus sized, I think tattoos look beautiful on anyone as long as they’re tastefully done. Quality loss only really comes from too much sun exposure, improper aftercare, the lack of a hydration routine, excessive weight gain/loss, or even the lack of skill from the artist.

So my advice: Do it for yourself.

What really irks me about our generation today is that we’re so concerned of others’ opinions, from what clothes are trendy at the moment to whatever’s the next dance craze. Getting a tattoo is a personal choice and a solo experience. The only person that lives in your body is you, and you’re the only person who will feel that pain as well as the reward of adorning art that will stay with you forever. The people you may be trying to impress or respect the wishes of, may not be the same people you’ll hold in those regards in the future.

Do things for yourself and you will never be disappointed. I can promise you that.

Now I want to hear from you! If there’s anything I missed, let me know! Have you gotten any tattoos recently? Or if you already have some, do they look any different from when you first got them? Tell me about your experiences or show me your artwork!

LIILY GYAL

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1 Comment

  • Reply Hilary

    I just wanted to say THANK YOU! My dad just passed away and I’m thinking of getting a tattoo in honor of him but was worried about my size being a factor. Mainly even just judgement from the artist. This was a big help to me, I’m so glad you shared.

    February 17, 2018 at 5:49 AM
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