With around 45 million Americans having at least one tattoo, getting inked has become an increasingly common form of identity and expression. There are now 21,000 tattoo shops across the country – with Americans spending over $1.1 billion annually on tattoos.
However, for some, the affinity once felt for a tattoo can dissipate over time. We surveyed over 360 people to find out about their deepest ink regrets. We learned about which types of tattoos are the most regretted, where they were done, how old respondents were when they had them done, and how much time they spent thinking about them before going under the needle. If you’re thinking about getting ink done but want to avoid these common pitfalls, continue reading to see what we discovered.
While ladies and gents didn’t really agree on the location of the tattoos they most regretted, they did somewhat agree on the types of tattoos they wished they had never gotten. While other categories of tattoos made men and women the most remorseful (21 percent and over 18 percent, respectively), tribal tattoos and ink of someone's name were some of the most regrettable decisions of male and female survey participants (21 percent and more than 14 percent, respectively). Women also regretted animal themes (almost 13 percent), while men regretted tatting themselves up with a picture of someone's face or figure (nearly 16 percent).
Of the 350 people polled, over 11 percent of women were inclined to lament tattoos on their upper back. Work done on their chest and feet were also places women admitted to regretting tattoos the most. However, more than 24 percent of men regretted tattoos on their biceps the most, while another 12 percent each identified tattoos on their calves and shoulders as the most remorseful locations.
Men and women also told us the tattoos they regretted most tended to be spur of the moment decisions (28.6 percent and 29.7 percent, respectively). While women, on average, were slightly younger than men when they got the first tattoo they regretted, both spent little to no time thinking about the design before they decided to get it permanently placed.
When it came to getting another person's name inked onto their body, 57 percent of women that took the plunge said they ended up regretting it.
Fewer men regretted having their lover’s name tattooed on them. Less than half, only 43 percent, admit it was a mistake.
Some people theorize that tattoos can be addictive . Once you get one, it’s hard to stop there. Our research found there might be more to the puzzle.
Of our 360 survey participants, almost 32 percent of those with tattoos had a high school degree (or equivalent). While those who had completed higher levels of education generally committed to less ink, survey participants who had completed their master’s degrees averaged more tattoos than those who hadn’t graduated from high school at all (almost nine percent compared to seven). Those with a doctorate degree were the least likely to get inked, with just under three percent admitting to having any tattoos at all.
Getting tattoos is one thing, but getting a tattoo you’ll live to regret is something else. According to our respondents, those who hadn’t earned a high school degree were at least three times more likely to get a tattoo that they regretted than any other level of education. While two percent of participants wetsith a professional degree regretted their tattoos, those who had earned a high school diploma up to a Ph.D. were more happy with their ink than those without any form of degree at all.
LEARN TO LOVE IT
Of those surveyed, nearly 38 percent were between the ages of 18 and 21 when they made their first bad ink decision. Considering the legal age for a tattoo in the U.S. is 18 (unless they have
written consent from a parent or guardian for their woeful masterpiece), those who got inked within the first four years of being able to do so legally not only grew up, but grew to regret their tattoo over time.
Those who got their tattoos while under the age of 18 were actually less likely to waver in their attachment than respondents who waited until they were between 18 and 25 years old. Maybe because a (legal) tattoo under the age of 18 requires a parent to weigh in on the decision, they were more committed over time than respondents who waited longer before inking the deal.
Even though many people told us their tattoos were a spur of the moment kind of thing, deciding what to have done was a (slightly) different story.
Over 42 percent of survey participants told us the tattoo idea they ultimately regretted was just something they liked. From lotus flowers to tribal art, it’s hard to explain what draws us to a certain design or piece. And what you like when you’re 18 years old may not last as you get older. Just over 11 percent regretted a tattoo they picked from a wall or book in the tattoo parlor, and almost 11 percent regretted the idea they got from a friend.
Fewer people regretted tattoo ideas that came from books or movies, their significant other, or the internet.
AVERAGE SIZE OF A REGRETTED TATTOO
Fortunately for them, survey participants who regretted their tattoo choices were most likely to have regrettable ink the size of a dollar bill or smaller. Slightly over 19 percent of people regret tattoos the size of a quarter or smaller. Thankfully, for the pieces you absolutely can’t stand, the cost for laser tattoo removal has come down over the last few years, meaning you don’t have to look at that wrap around tribal piece any more if you don’t want to.
STATE OF REGRET
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas ... unless, of course, that thing is a tattoo.
People who most regretted their tattoos lived in Nevada. As home to Sin City, it’s no surprise that heat of the moment decisions, like a quick tattoo, happen more in Nevada than anywhere else. Thankfully, if you find yourself in the Las Vegas looking to get some work done, there are plenty of quality spots to pick from, so your decision doesn’t end up being filed under the regrets category.
Other states like Illinois, Arizona, and Nebraska also had more residents that regretted their tattoos once the ink was dry.
REASONS TO REGRET A TATTOO
From hearts with the word “Mom” on them and butterflies to compasses and birds, feeling connected to a symbol while you’re young may not last forever, or even the amount of time it takes to heal, before you grow out of it.
Other popular reasons respondents fell out of love with their ink was the quality of the craft. Poor linework came back as the second biggest reason participants regretted their tattoos. No matter what your subject matter is, if you want to avoid a remorseful tat, research your artists before you walk through the doors. The “you get what you pay for” adage may be especially true when it comes to permanent art on your body.
Getting tired of seeing it as well as having a tattoo related to an ex were other common reasons for regretting tattoos over time.
PLAY THE ODDS
If you’re thinking about getting a tattoo, we’ve found some common mistakes you can avoid to make sure you don’t end up falling for trends that lead to remorseful tattoos. From tattoos of someone else’s name to tribal themes, and getting them done before you can legally drink, most of these tattoos didn’t stand the test of time. Regardless of what the tattoo was of, or where it was placed, tattoos that hadn’t had a lot of thought put into them were bound to be regretted.
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We surveyed 360 people who had regrets about their tattoos.
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