What is tattoo regret?
According to a study at Northwestern University in the United States (1), about 25% of people with tattoos have some form of regret. Over 20% of American adults have at least one tattoo, which means 5% of the population has tattoo regret.
A survey in England (2) has found that 40% people with tattoos end up regretting having at least one of them done. This on-line survey of 1,200 people was inspired by the fact that an online beauty retailer noted sales of make-up concealers for body art had risen 32% in the past year.
They also found that one in six people hate their tattoos so much they want them surgically removed.
The most common reason for the change of heart is to remove so-called 'tramp stamps' (the band like tattoos women get on their lower back area.)
- 50% of those surveyed worry they will be considered ‘common, uncultured or a bit of a chav' (like Little Britain’s Vicky Pollard).
- 50% said that a person with prominent tattoos was less likely to succeed in business.
- 34% express regret for fear of how they’ll look as they age (and spread and sag).
- 17% said people with tattoos are seen as more likely to have one-night stands.
But perhaps the most surprising finding of the survey is that a tattoo can be a turn-off even to people who have them. A third of those surveyed said they would be less likely to date someone with prominent tattoos.
Who is getting inked and why?
30% of those surveyed said their tattoo makes them feel more sexy, and 25% said their tattoo makes them feel rebellious. 21% said their tattoo made them feel more attractive and 21% that they felt more strong.
Of those surveyed, 86 percent said they had never regretted their decision to get a tattoo, which means 14%, or 1 in 7 people, have (3).
Who is getting their ink removed?
Women accounted for 73% of procedures.
Out of all ages, 35 to 50-year-olds accounted for 58% of tattoo removals preformed in 2013.
“A number of reasons can influence a person’s decision to seek tattoo removal,” director of the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York, Dr. Roy G. Geronemus, told Medical Daily. “Young woman become mothers, people experience changes in work status, and sometimes it’s just a matter of maturity. We call it 'Tattoo Remorse.'” (3)
Have we reached the ink peak? Is it all downhill from here? Is getting a tattoo enough now to prove your individuality (if it ever was) or is it now too mainstream to be cool?
And what happens as we age and change and grow? Will the tattoos of our youth still fit us as well as our favourite old jeans? And what will our children think?
As one man who is currently going through the process of tattoo removal says:
"I'd been thinking of having them removed for ages," he says, "but the icing on the cake was when I went to take my five-year-old daughter off for her first day at school and she said to me, ‘Dad, can you please wear long sleeves.’" It almost broke his heart.
It's a moment most of Generation Inked is yet to face (4).
BUT, it’s never too late.