Getting tattooed in your 40s

Time for some hard truths from the Tattoo Doula: getting tattooed in your 40s is quite different from getting tattooed in your 20s. There are many reasons for this, and I’ll try to break it down without killing your spirit. Here goes.

The cuteness factor

For one, you’re not the skinny, hot little thing you once were. Okay, even if you weren’t skinny, you know darn well that you were hot in your 20s. There’s something so deliciously youthful and vibrant about one’s physicality in the decade between 19 and 29 that just, well, fades and sags a bit by the time you’re in your mid to late 40s. Unless, of course, you’re J-Lo.

In spite of that fact, for many of us, the 40s are a time for making the best of what we’ve got, loving ourselves just as we are and having zero time for self-recrimination. That’s why you should go ahead and get the tattoo anyway! Even if you’re not as svelte, tight or cute as you were in your 20s, you are a g*%@amn goddess and you’ve earned the right. ROCK THAT TATTOO, sister. 

And even if, like me, you had been waiting to get that tattoo until after you lose 20 lbs first? Eff that. The time is now. Life is short. Get the tattoo. I just got the tummy tattoo I’ve wanted for literally 20 years. I’d been waiting for years until I lost 20 lbs. While I was waiting, instead I gained about that much. What can I say, it’s MUCH harder to lose after 40 and wickedly easy to gain. Who cares! Just get it if you want it. If not now, when? And we can still lose that 20 *only we really want to* but goodness knows, you are gorgeous just as you are. 

The novelty factor

Guys reading the above section probably couldn’t relate, but here’s one they may understand: by the time you’re in your 40s,  if you already have tattoos then a little bit of the novelty may have gone out of the process and end result.

The first couple of tattoos you get are so mind-blowingly cool that you can’t stop showing them off, admiring them in the mirror, etc. But by the time one has collected quite a few, maybe there’s a little less to get that excited about. Note: this is not the case for me. I still get ridiculously stoked for every piece I get. But I understand from a tattoo artist friend that for some people, it becomes more common-place and ordinary with repetition. 

If the novelty has worn off a bit, you might not get as excited about your tattoos but obviously you’re still getting them for a reason. Try to remember how you felt with your first and recapture some of that enthusiasm! Trust me, that’ll make it easier to deal with this next issue.

The pain factor

Pain is a part of tattoo, and that’s just a fact of life. It does seem, however, that it’s a little easier to deal with that pain in one’s 20s than in one’s 40s. Tattoos definitely seem more painful to me now, and I’ve heard that from other collectors as well. 

Maybe this is because in our 40s, there are more little everyday aches and pains – so volunteering for multiple hours of discomfort in a tattoo sitting just seems like a lot on top of it all. Or maybe it’s because by our 40s, we’ve likely had to undergo medical or dental procedures that weren’t fun, so the idea of signing up for something painful for the sake of our art form is less exciting.

Whatever the reason, if you’re heading into a big tattoo in your 40s, and it’s been a while (as it had been for me), just know that it might feel a little rougher on the old bod than it used to in your 20s. And I’m not just talking about during the tattoo; even healing fresh ink seems to take longer and be a lot rougher than it used to. Then again, you’re even more of a bad@ss now than you were back then, so the pain probably won’t phase you one bit!

Bottom line, if you’re a grown-@ss adult and you have the funds and you want a tattoo, you should get one. Your body is yours – you’ve lived and loved in it for years. If you want to decorate and adorn it to better reflect your personality, spirit, interests, relationships and passions then go for it. One of my favorite moments in my personal tattoo journey was going with my 70-year old dad to hang out with him while he got his first and only tattoo while we were vacationing in Maui. If he can do it at 70, you certainly can!

On the other hand, if you’re still in your 20s or younger, I counsel prudence, caution and patience. My general rule for this age group (and I forced myself to follow this back in the day) is that you should want a tattoo for at least one year before allowing yourself to get one. You’ve got a lot of life and career ahead of you and there’s no sense doing something permanent that may hold you back or that you might regret.

Have you gotten a tattoo in your 40s, or are you a tattoo newbie who is considering your first? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below or over on Facebook – and please let me know if the Tattoo Doula can help in any way.

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About the author

Proud and loving midlife mama. Lucky and devoted wife. Dog, cat and snake mom. Travel nut. Natural born writer. PR and social media pro by day - tattoo doula by night.
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