Tattoo Regret by the Numbers: The Percentage of People Who Regret Their Ink
The number of tattoo collectors has risen appreciably during the past half century and continues to increase, with the general public’s acceptance of ink now being at its’ most relaxed in history.
Despite this more normalized perception of tattooed people in wider society, tattoo regret remains a tangible beast. Regret can be caused by a variety of factors and lead to removal or cover up.
What Percentage of People Regret Their Tattoos?
According to surveys in the US and Australia between 8 and 27 percent of people regret one or more of their tattoos.
It’s estimated that over 45 million Americans now sport at least one tattoo.
A 2019 Ipsos poll of 1005 respondents in the US found that more Americans have tattoos today than in early 2012. Three in ten (30%) of Americans have at least one tattoo, an increase from 21% in 2012.
Of the tattooed respondents 92% said that they were happy with their tattoo, which is an increase in comparison with an infographic published by tattoo removal company Skinco in 2016, which reported tattoo regret at 14%.
The US figures are decidedly less than similar westernized countries. For example, research group McCrindle found in their survey of Australian tattoo statistics that 27% of respondents had regrets about their tattoos.
A 2019 study by Mortlock (subscription required, abstract only) in the Value in Health Journal found that one, or a combination, of the following factors were more likely to result in tattoo regret:
- Being impaired when getting the tattoo
- A tattoo on the head or neck
- A tattoo on the hands, wrist or fingers
- Peer pressure as the reason for the tattoo
- Experiencing a tattoo related adverse event (such as infection)
Anecdotally, tattoo regret can also be linked to getting the name of a former lover or trend based piece of body art etched into the wearer’s skin, only for the relationship to end or the fad to move on.
Mortlock found that increased age when getting a tattoo, or tattoos undertaken in remembrance or memorial were most likely not to register regret at any stage.
Tattoo Regret and Visible Ink
Another factor linked to tattoo regret is the perception of visibly tattooed people, both by people without tattoo, and more surprisingly, those that have ink themselves.
Research concluded that stigma and stereotypes associated with tattoos caused people to internalise stigma, and then project this on to people with tattoos less discreet than their own.
While universal attitudes toward tattoos are moving forward, there remain vast differences in how those with visible tattoos are treated. Knowing what to expect from customers, vendors, and other employees can be difficult to interpret, particularly in roles that emphasise public interaction.
Results of a salary.com survey into tattoos indicated more than 75% of respondents think tattoos are negative for an applicant’s chance at the job interview phase, while 39% of the nearly 2700 people that answered agreed tattooed employees reflect negatively on a business, with American Government, and US Information Technology representing the smallest groups of visibly tattooed workers at 9% and 8% respectively.
Studies on the service industry (customer service and public interaction roles) in the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America (USA) found clear evidence that hiring managers, consumers, and tattooed employees had negative views on the potential success of the visibly tattooed at interview, how tattooed people are seen by customers, how professional and trustworthy the visibly tattooed are, and by extension the organisation employing them.
This happens despite widespread workplace diversity and inclusion cultural changes reflecting the newer, more positive general view of tattoos in society.
Tattoo Removal Figures
Living with the regret of tattoos is no longer a permanent mark. Laser tattoo removal is one of the fastest growing industries in the US, the UK, and Australia.
According to Astanza, the average cost per session of $200 and the average number of sessions needed to fully remove a tattoo is 7.
Laser tattoo removal isn’t a cheap option. It’s estimated that $1400 for an average removal is about three times the cost of getting ink of that size in the first place.
For those who either don’t, or can’t remove their tattoos, tattoo cover ups are also an option, provided getting tattooed again is related to aesthetics rather than employment, religion, or lifesyle.
More people are being tattooed than at any stage before, however mainstream acceptance is limited mostly to hidden body art. Tattoo regret remains statistically significant, and can be factored into the increase of tattoo removal and cover up.