While you can obviously get ink anywhere you like, you may want to keep in mind that some areas of the body aren't always the most
ideal places for tattoos. Some are known for their tendency to stretch and warp. And others are more likely to fade, and no longer look the same, all thanks to the placement.
To ensure a tattoo will look good as the years go by, one of the most important things to consider is how much sun exposure the area might receive. "While you can always
protect your tattoos with sunscreen, it may be a good idea to choose an area of your body that's usually covered up by clothes if you want your ink to stay looking fresh for years to come — especially if you're getting a color other than black," Leo Palomino, a tattoo artist at Atomic Tattoos in Orlando, tells Bustle.
When going for a colorful tattoo, "a location that doesn't get a lot of sun exposure is best for the longevity of the color, as sun exposure causes colors to fade," Palomino says. "Light colored inks will fade more quickly than darker colors will."
size and shape of the tattoo can also affect how great it'll look in ten or twenty years, so you'll want to discuss all of these factors with your tattoo artist, before getting inked. They'll help you wade through all the pros and cons, and help you choose the right tattoo location. Here are a few of the best and worst locations, when it comes to the longevity of a tattoo, according to experts.
If you've been daydreaming about getting a tattoo on your upper chest, it may be a good idea to go for the outer collarbone. This area tends "to be least exposed to the sun," Palomino says, since it's easily covered up by shirts and scarves. Unlike the middle part of your chest, it's not as likely to bake in direct sunlight, and fade as a result.
It's also an area where skin is least likely to stretch as you get older, which is another factor that can affect how a tattoo holds up over time. The skin on your collarbone tends to stay right where it is, making it a great place for
a long-lasting tattoo.
If you're always out in the sun, you may want to avoid getting a tattoo on your outer arm, and instead choose a more protected spot. "Your inner forearm is practically immune when it comes to sun exposure," Palomino says. Without the constant onslaught of UV rays — which
break down the ink and cause it to fade — tattoos in this location tend to stay looking fresh.
The upper inner arm is also a great spot, and has the added benefit of being easily covered and protected by shirt sleeves, so you can keep it even safer.
Again, thanks to the fact it's often covered up by clothing, the back tends to be a prime spot for tattoos. This area isn't "typically exposed to UV rays on a regular basis," Palomino says. And it tends to hold up well as aging occurs.
Unlike the abdomen, for example, which can stretch as your weight fluctuates, or if you're pregnant, the back is relatively stable, especially around
the shoulder blades. If you're worried about a tattoo warping over time, ask your tattoo artist if they think this would be a good spot.
Similarly, Palomino says the upper thighs tend to be protected from the sun, so if you want ink that'll stand the test of the time, this may be your best bet.
Of course, that doesn't mean you have to hide your tats under clothes all the time, or worry 24/7 about how they might look in twenty years. All you need to do, when you
do decide to show them off, is apply a liberal amount of sunscreen to keep your skin safe — and you'll be good to go.
"A tattoo on your ribs [...] that doesn't extend too far out towards your abdomen is a good location," Palomino says, since it's often covered up with clothing, and thus protected from the sun.
But even more important, if you get pregnant, this is one spot on the abdomen that isn't as likely to stretch. Of course, if that does happen, it's not a big deal. But if it's something you're concerned about, talk with your tattoo artist to figure out a way to avoid areas that may stretch or fade over time.
This may be the best spot to get a tattoo if you're set on getting one on your abdomen, but want it to experience the least amount of change.
If you're looking for a more unique tattoo location, as well as one that'll pretty much always look good, consider the
back of your neck.
"A tattoo right below your hairline
on your neck will stay looking newer longer as it doesn't have a lot of sun exposure," Palomino says. And this is especially true if you have longer hair that you tend to wear down, as that'll help protect it even more.
This is a spot that's easy to forget about, though, when applying sunscreen. So if you're going to be hanging around outside for the day, be sure to cover it up with SPF, to give it a fighting chance.
Best: Shoulders & Calves
Since the skin on the shoulders and calves isn't as affected by aging, tattoos in these areas tend to stay put, Palomino says. Compare this to the areas that tend to see a lot of change over the course of your life, like your abdomen. While your stomach may
stretch during pregnancy, for example, your calves and shoulders often won't. And it can come as quite the relief that you can live life, and do whatever you want to do, without worrying about how it'll impact your ink.
Again, it's obviously not a big deal if your stomach tattoo ends up stretching during pregnancy. Not only will it likely bounce back, to some degree, but any warping that occurs is a
small price if you want to have a kid.
That said, it may be something worth considering before you get your next tattoo — if you think you might like to have a baby someday. "Even with constant moisturizing during this time, you can still face a warped or blown out tattoo as a result of the skin stretching," Palomino says. So ask your
tattoo artist for their advice.
Anywhere skin tends to stretch or bend on the body may be worth avoiding, due to the fact the movement can make it difficult for tattoos to heal properly. "These spots are frequently stretching," Palomino says. "The constant pulling of the skin causes cracking of the tattoo, slowing the healing process, and causing damage to lines and color."
This movement can also cause a tattoo to warp once it's fully healed, due to the stretching of the skin. Crease lines to avoid, if this is something you're worried about, include your wrists, armpits, and other joints, such as your knees or elbows.
While you can always
get a foot tattoo, and then touch it up later on if it starts to fade, this may be one spot to avoid if you want ink that's low maintenance.
As Palomino says, tattoos on the ankle, sides of the feet, the top of the foot, and around the heel may require more touchups as they are exposed to constant rubbing from your shoes and socks.
"They can [also] be exposed to dirt and bacteria," he says, "and again, you have constant movement at your ankle," all of which can result in faded tattoos.
Thanks to direct sun exposure, hand tattoos tend to fade quickly. But there are other factors to contend with, too. "You are constantly washing [your hands], which sloughs off skin more quickly and causes [tattoos] to fade and blur faster than other parts of your body," Palomino says.
So if you're concerned about how a tattoo might look once you're older, consider avoiding this area. "The palms of your hands and fingers wear out quickly, [since] the skin is also different and it is difficult for the ink to take easily," Palomino says. "Tattoos on the sides of your fingers and the inside of your palms are guaranteed to fade shortly after healing. Tattoos on your fingers and palms are novelty and do not look good for long."
If you do go for a hand tattoo, be gentle with it as it heals, and make sure you apply plenty of sunscreen every day, to keep it looking fresher longer.
Inner ear tattoos can look great when they're first done. But they aren't built to last. As Palomino says, "The inside of the ear does not hold ink well and the lines tend to blur quickly." So if you aren't too keen on constant touchups, this may not be the best tattoo location for you.
Instead, ask your tattoo artist about other
small tattoo ideas, and where you could put them. Or, just get it in your inner ear, and see what happens.
Worst: Areas That Rub Against Clothing
"Any area of the body that commonly rubs against other body parts, [such as] in between fingers, thighs, armpits, and [the] inner biceps will generally be likely to fade quicker," Palomino says. "Similarly, areas where the tattoo is exposed to constant rubbing will possibly fade more quickly, such as [...] the waistband of your pants, bras, and belts or other areas where your clothing fits tightly and rubs against your skin."
While you can obviously get a tattoo wherever you like — and touch up any ink that starts to fade — some locations are better than others when it comes to
ink that'll look good forever. It can help to follow these tips, and ask your tattoo artist for even more advice, when choosing the perfect placement.