Seven out of ten people with a tattoo got inked to remember someone or something – often a deceased loved one or a precious pet.
While a new study by Advanced Dermatology revealed as many as one in four Americans with tattoos regrets getting one, the data also suggests people don’t generally regret pet-related tattoos. That suggests they may be more dedicated to the memory of their lost furry friends than the humans who have left their lives.
According to a brand new Pew Research study, tattoos are becoming more socially acceptable, and pet tattoos are growing in popularity among pet owners. However, concerns remain over their semi-permanent nature and the judgment they can draw from others.
Advanced Dermatology‘s study involved a series of questions about tattoos, removal, and related skincare. About 25% of those surveyed who said they had tattoos report they also regretted at least one. The top five reasons that people regret tattoos are:
- Don’t like how the tattoo looks
- Decided they no longer like the tattoo
- Tattoo artist did a bad job
- Tattoo is no longer meaningful
- Tattoo negatively impacts the owner’s career
Some pet owners want to memorialize their fluffy family members permanently. Other studies concerning pet obsessions show as many as 50% of pet owners would consider a pet tattoo or already have one. However, simple tattoos are less likely to be the subject of regret than more complex designs.
Driven by Design
The study looked at the types of tattoos Americans regretted the most.
Lettering and script are responsible for 19% of regretted tattoos, followed by symbols (16%) and then names (12%), which likely means people get a tattoo of a loved one’s name, then later break up or lose touch with that person, and regret the “permanent” mark left behind.
Animal designs are responsible for 10% of tattoo regrets. Many of these aren’t related to pets — people enjoy getting exotic animal tattoos for their style. But this isn’t always the case. A Ragdoll cat is beautiful to look at in real life, but getting a large feline breed tattooed on the arm could be something the person regrets later. An animal memorial may work better with a smaller design.
Timing plays a part in how people feel about their tattoos. The statistics revealed by the study show that 48% of people got their tattoos with no advance planning.
The regret usually kicks in later, with 51% of people saying it took two or more years to feel like they’d made the wrong decision. Only 18% of people said they wished they hadn’t got the tattoo after just a few days.
The time it takes for most to regret their tattoos signifies a loss of meaning; the tattoo no longer has the same emotional weight. This explains why pet tattoos are not usually part of the problem. People are much less likely to regret a pet memorial than one commemorating a relationship that may have broken down.
Over half of respondents who regretted their tattoos said they intended to get one removed. Tattoo removal has become more widely available but is still costly and lengthy.
About 23% of respondents planned to have all their tattoos removed, indicating a general regret for having been inked in the first place.
Despite tattoos now being easier to remove, it’s not a simple get-out clause. Tattoos are still a serious investment, and it’s advisable to avoid getting one if there’s potential for future regret, rather than relying on removal.
Popularity of Tattoos
Despite these results, tattoos are still trendy among Americans. About 73% of people have a favorable opinion regarding tattoos, and almost 40% have at least one. Of those, most people have three or more — only 35% have a single tattoo, while 18% have two.
People spend an average of $745 on their tattoos, making them a significant investment, but only 16% of people believe their most expensive tattoo was worth the price.
Reasons for Getting a Tattoo
Remembrance is only the fifth most popular reason people get tattoos. The top reason is self-expression: people get tattoos to express their personalities or beliefs.
Aesthetic reasons are the second most popular factor influencing tattoo decisions. People get tattoos just because they look good. Empowerment is the next most popular reason, followed by emotional healing. Many have tattoos to remind themselves of a trauma they survived and have moved beyond.
Pet tattoos are becoming a more popular way of memorializing animals, since a tattoo will outlive the pet for many years. Pet owners bond closely with their animals and want a permanent reminder of the love and support their animals offer. These tattoos fall primarily under remembrance, but some people may want to demonstrate their love of animals and consider their pet tattoo a form of self-expression.
Almost half of those surveyed said they felt judged for their tattoos, which partially influenced their regret. Family is the group most responsible for judgmental feelings, suggesting that while most Americans accept tattoos, parents may still have some old-fashioned feelings.
Surprisingly, strangers were the next most popular group for judging tattoos, with professional colleagues or managers numbering among those. People feel they are accepted more in the workplace than by the general public.
Some of the factors which may trigger others to judge someone for their choice of tattoo include:
- 1 in 10 people said they got a tattoo dedicated to their significant other before breaking up with them, leading others to judge the original rash decision
- 1 in 5 people said they got their tattoo while under the influence, causing people to question whether it was a foolish error
- 1 in 10 people said that they have a tattoo based on a TV show or a movie, which could be judged as corny or short-sighted as the popularity of the show or movie wanes
Almost as concerning as the number of people who regret their tattoos is the number who don’t care for them properly. Some 42% of people don’t put sunscreen on their tattoos, thinking the ink will protect their skin.
However, the ink is embedded in the skin, and the sun’s energy is just as likely to cause damage and potential skin cancers on tattooed skin as on clear skin. Tattoo owners are advised to take good care of their tattoos. In spite of this, 23% of those with tattoos are concerned about how their tattoos will look when they are older, but don’t think they will age.
Acceptance of Tattoos
About 98% of people believe tattoos are more socially accepted than they were in the past, and of those surveyed who don’t yet have a tattoo, 27% have plans to get one. The survey showed 28% of people believe tattoos are desirable and make people more attractive.
Despite this, 36% of respondents said they had lied to someone and told them they liked their tattoo when they actually didn’t. People lie about tattoos primarily to their friends, but are more honest with family members. The top people lied to, in order, are:
And even if people feel less judged in a professional setting, most people believe that tattoos could harm a person’s professional opportunities.
Tattoos as Memorials
Pet tattoos, in particular, are one of the more popular ways to remember a loved kitty or pup once they have passed away. And yet the subject depends on the individual — a tattoo is a constant. If it’s somewhere visible, then it may be an emotional reminder.
While pet owners don’t want to give up on their love for their departed pets, they may change their minds about how they memorialize them. So many consider alternatives, such as pet paintings or jewelry, that can be moved if needed.
Tattoos are a good choice for many people — and are likely to grow in popularity as tattoo removal becomes more accessible. Still, pet owners should carefully consider their semi-permanent nature before committing.