Good news: Women with breast implants can still get a tattoo! Previous tattoos are not in danger either, for the most part. But there are a few things that are important to know:

Do's:

  • Know about stretching: For tattoos on the ribcage, upper chest, or other non-breast areas, implants will not stretch or warp the tattoo. Breast implants do stretch the skin, however, so tattoos in the breast area may stretch. The surgeon will identify safe areas, while skilled tattoo artists can repair a stretched tattoo.
  • Feel free to get a tattoo: For breast augmentation patients, getting a tattoo should be no problem. Since tattoo needles only reach down to the second level of skin, the implants are beneath several more layers of dermis, fat and breast tissue. Women with submuscular implants have even less of a concern. However, women with reconstructed breasts have less fat and breast tissue beneath the skin than augmentation patients, and should consult their surgeon before getting a tattoo. That said, a standard part of breast reconstruction is tattooing color onto the nipple area itself. Additionally, many women choose to get a tattoo to tastefully cover the scars from their surgery.
  • Go to a pro: Even if it’s a hassle or more expensive, it will be money and effort well spent. Your tattoo will be a part of you forever: make it look as good as possible.  "A pro" implies confidence: confidence that the tattoo will look good, confidence that the needle won’t reach too deep and confidence that the needle will be sterile. (Some parlors still lack proper technique; be sure the one you choose uses proper equipment and sterilization procedures). In the words of Sailor Jerry, “Good work ain’t cheap. Cheap work ain’t good.”
  • Think ahead: Like any major operation, breast implant surgery puts major stress on the immune system, as the body works to accommodate the new implants and heal the incisions. Furthermore, all tattoos carry medical risks; so take necessary precautions (the most important being the above tip: go to a reputable parlor).
  • Take care of the new tattoo: Leave the bandage on for two to 24 hours. After removing the bandage, wash the tattoo with antibacterial soap and water and pat the area dry, then apply a bit of anti-bacterial ointment (but not Neosporin, known to cause a series of small red bumps that stay on the tattoo if the person has an allergic reaction). These steps will reduce the chances of infection. Feel free to shower with the new tattoo, but avoid soaking it for the first few weeks. And always take extra care of the tattoo in the sun, which can easily fade or burn it.

But Don't:

  • Get a tattoo immediately before implants: Tattoos can take up to a month to fully heal, so avoid getting a chest/breast tattoo in the weeks prior to breast implant surgery. Better to wait until after the surgery... that way you also eliminate the risk of stretching the tattoo.
  • Get a tattoo immediately after implants: Implants stretch the skin; after surgery the breasts become red and tender while the body grows additional skin to accommodate the new breasts. Every patient’s body heals differently, but patients should expect to wait between one and four months for their body to finish adjusting to its new breasts. However, this does not necessarily mean you cannot get a tattoo during this time; many surgeons suggest three weeks are enough of a wait; just know that when the skin is tender, the tattoo will be that much more painful.