It’s not unusual for a person to change their mind after getting a tattoo. In fact, one survey says 75 percent of their 600 respondents admitted to regretting at least one of their tattoos.
But the good news is there are things you can do before and after getting a tattoo to lower your chances of regret. Not to mention, you can always get it removed.
Keep reading to learn what types of tattoos people regret the most, how to lower your risk for regret, how to cope with regret anxiety, and how to remove a tattoo you no longer want.
Statistics about tattoos are abundant, especially data around the number of people who have a tattoo, the number of people who have more than one, and the average age of getting a first tattoo.
What’s not talked about as much, at least not openly, is the number of people who regret getting a tattoo.
With the number of tattoo salons increasing and the amount of skin that’s covered, it comes as no surprise that some people are having second thoughts.
A recent Harris Poll surveyed 2,225 U.S. adults and asked them about their top regrets. Here’s what they said:
- They were too young when they got the tattoo.
- Their personality changed or the tattoo doesn’t fit their present lifestyle.
- They got someone’s name that they’re no longer with.
- The tattoo was poorly done or doesn’t look professional.
- The tattoo isn’t meaningful.
The first survey we mentioned also asked respondents about the most regrettable spots for a tattoo on the body. Those include the upper back, upper arms, hips, face, and buttocks.
For Dustin Tyler, the regret over his tattoos happened either because of the style or the placement.
“The tattoo that I dislike the most is a tribal tattoo on my back that I got when I was 18. I am currently 33,” he says. While he doesn’t have any plans to fully remove it, he does plan on doing a cover-up with something he likes better.
For some people, the excitement and satisfaction never wears off, and they cherish their tattoos forever. For others, regret can begin as soon as the next day.
Of those who regretted their decision with the first few days, almost 1 in 4 had made a spontaneous decision, reports Advanced Dermatology, while 5 percent of the people surveyed reported planning their tattoo for several years.
The statistics jump significantly after that, with 21 percent saying the regret kicked in at about the one-year mark, and 36 percent reporting it took several years before they doubted their decision.
Javia Alissa, who has more than 20 tattoos, says she has one that she regrets.
“I got the Aquarius symbol tattooed on my hip when I was 19 and started regretting it about a year later when a classmate pointed out that it looks like sperm (it was very badly done),” she says.
To make matters worse, she’s not even an Aquarius, but a Pisces. While she has no plans to get it removed, she may decide to cover it up.
Most decisions in life carry some degree of regret. That’s why it’s helpful to consider some of the expert tips that may lower your chances for tattoo regret.
Max Brown of Brown Brothers Tattoos in Chicago, Illinois, has been tattooing in and around Chicago for the last 15 years. He knows a thing or two about how to lower the chances for tattoo regret.
The first thing Brown says to consider is the location. “Certain areas just don’t heal as well as others,” he says.
Finger tattoos, especially on the side of fingers, don’t typically heal well. Brown says this is because the side and underside skin of hands and feet don’t necessarily respond well due to its function in day-to-day activities and performance.
Next, you want to think about the style of the tattoo. “Tattoos without black ink tend to fade unevenly, and without the black lines to anchor, can become soft and fuzzy and difficult to read once healed and aged, especially in high-exposure areas of the body, such as the arms, hands, and necks,” he explains.
And finally, Brown says you need to stay away from what he calls the “tattooer’s curse,” which describes the hesitation he and other tattoo artists feel when asked to tattoo a lover’s name for fear of cursing the relationship.
Tyler says his advice to anyone thinking of getting a tattoo is to make sure you’re doing it for you and not because it’s a current style or trend. Make sure you put a lot of thought into it, because it’s on your body forever.
If you want to get a tattoo, but you’re not convinced it’s the right decision, Alissa recommends you wait and see if you still want it in six months. If you do, she says you most likely won’t regret it.
It’s not uncommon to have regret immediately after getting a tattoo, especially since you’re used to seeing your body a certain way and now, all of a sudden, it looks different.
To help you come to terms with any immediate anxiety or regret you may experience, permit yourself to wait it out. In other words, let the experience sink in.
It may take a while for you to grow into or get used to the tattoo. Also, remind yourself that if the anxiety or regret doesn’t pass, you have options to either cover it up or start the removal process.
And finally, if your tattoo is causing you extreme anxiety or depression, it might be time to seek expert help.
Talking with your doctor or a mental health professional about the root of your anxiety and depression can help you work through these feelings and possibly uncover other triggers or causes of your symptoms.
If you find yourself regretting the artwork that now covers your arm, the first thing you need to do is not be so hard on yourself. Because guess what? You’re not alone.
Lots of people have a change of heart days after they get a tattoo. The good news is you can always have it removed.
If your tattoo is still in the healing stages, take this time to review your options for removal and find a reputable professional to do it for you.
How long to wait to have it removed
Typically, you need to wait until your tattoo completely heals before even considering removal.
While healing time can vary, Dr. Richard Torbeck, a board-certified dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology, P.C., recommends waiting at least six to eight weeks after the tattoo before going for removal.
“This allows for delayed tattoo reactions to be resolved that can occur with some pigments,” he explains.
Additionally, it allows you to think through the process and decide if this is really what you want. Because like Torbeck points out, removal can be as permanent and painful as the tattoo itself.
Once you’re both physically and mentally ready to move forward with removal, it’s time to choose the best option for you.
“The most common and effective way to remove tattoos is by laser treatments,” says Dr. Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce, a board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology.
“Sometimes patients elect to scar the area instead, and mechanical dermabrasion can sometimes be effective in doing so,” she adds.
Lastly, Geddes-Bruce says you can have a tattoo surgically removed by excising the skin and covering the area with a graft or closing it directly (if there’s enough skin available to do so).
All of these options are best discussed and performed by a board-certified dermatologist.
“The cost of tattoo removal depends on the size, complexity of the tattoo (different colors require different laser wavelengths so treatment will take longer), and the experience of the professional removing your tattoo,” explains Geddes-Bruce.
It also varies widely by geographical region. But on average, she says it probably ranges from $200 to $500 per treatment.
For removal of gang-related tattoos, several reputable tattoo removal services can provide free tattoo removal. Homeboy Industries is one such organization.
Getting a tattoo is exciting, symbolic, and, for some, a significant milestone in their life. That said, it’s also normal to feel regret in the days, weeks, or months after getting a tattoo.
The good news is there are things you can do before and after getting a tattoo that can help you work through any anxiety or regret. Just remember to acknowledge how you feel, give it some time, and talk with someone you trust before you make a decision about how to proceed.