When do tattoos go wrong? 10 tell-tale signs your ink may be regret-worthy

Tattoos are an art form, so they can be beautiful and can show off how artistic you are. But what happens when you get that bad tattoo and realize it was all in vain? No one wants to look at their tattoos and think, Oh, I wish I hadn’t done that. But it happens more often than you might think. Here are 10 tell-tale signs your ink may be regret-worthy. If you see any of these qualities in your tattoo, maybe it’s time to put it in the past and move on to new ink ideas!

The top 10 things you need to know before getting a tattoo

While some people have hundreds of tattoos, many others only have one. Tattoos can be beautiful and meaningful, but they’re also long-lasting decisions. Before you put a permanent mark on your body, there are some things you should know. Tattooing involves breaking skin: If you aren’t breaking skin when you get a tattoo, it’s not a real tattoo; even temporary ink will penetrate below the surface of skin. Real tattoo needles pierce skin at an angle from 1 to 2 millimeters deep (depending on depth settings), depositing microscopic amounts of ink into layers of dermis – which helps minimize scabbing and scarring for most people.

#1: Tattoos are permanent

It’s common knowledge that a tattoo is a permanent mark on skin, but many people still don’t grasp exactly what that means. When you get inked, a needle creates an injury to your skin and that injury triggers an immune response. The body tries to patch that area by layering on extra pigment, or pigment can accumulate around a scar formed during healing. Either way, new tattoo = new color (usually). If you change up your mind later and want to remove it, too bad—it’s there for good.

#2: Location, location, location!

Many folks who have a tattoo (or even two) admit that they thought more about where it would end up on their body before having it placed than how it would look. One of our survey respondents said, Yeah, I had trouble choosing a spot because I was so excited to get a tattoo! Well, one of our experts in all things permanent mentioned that if you can’t make room for it somewhere important, then maybe you shouldn’t get it at all. Don’t let poor placement deter you from getting your dream tattoo—it can always be reworked or covered up with another tat! In fact, keep reading…we’ll tell you all about cover ups in #5 below.

#3: Make sure you love it as much in five years as you do now

It’s been a while since you decided to get inked—and, chances are, your tastes have changed. Maybe you’re no longer into that symbol. Perhaps you were impulsive and had a tramp stamp (oops!). Even if you still love it now, how much will you love it in five years? You don’t want to be stuck with something permanent that you never use or looks bad—and that won’t age well (Remember those Mommy Tattoos?). If there’s any chance of getting second thoughts about your choice in future years, try to get some sort of fallback plan so if/when it comes time to remove it, you won’t have regrets because everything is on record.

#4: The pain can be unbearable

Tattooing involves making repeated punctures of your skin using needles, which hurts a lot. It doesn’t matter how many times you get inked, it still hurts! If you have a high pain tolerance, that might not be such an issue for you. But if you hate pain and are squeamish about medical procedures then getting a tattoo is probably not for you. There are several solutions to deal with tattoo pain; there are topical anaesthetics that can numb your skin while it’s being inked or pills you can take beforehand to lessen any post procedure discomfort.

#5: Ask who’s doing the tat, how long they’ve been doing them, etc.

When you want to make sure a tattoo artist is legit, it’s best to ask for their portfolio, get references from past clients and find out how long they’ve been in business. Even if an artist has only recently set up shop, that doesn’t mean they’re a sketchy person with no training or experience. The key is knowing whether or not they have one. If they don’t have any documented experience as an artist, then it’s probably not a good idea to trust them with something as important as permanently altering your body. Do your research! Don’t just walk into some random shop and let them put whatever comes to mind on you because it looks cool right now. Think about what you’ll look like in 20 years when that butterfly tat starts looking dated!

#6: Do your research

Getting a tattoo is an exciting experience, but it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. The pressure you may feel from peers and tattoo culture shouldn’t make or break your decision. At best, any good artist will provide you with thoughtful artwork that speaks to who you are and what you stand for. At worst, they might hurt your feelings or leave scars on your body that make it difficult to cover up—something people regret (and spend lots of money trying to fix) every day. Tattoos should mean something and reflect some aspect of yourself as an individual, so if you don’t feel that connection then reconsider getting inked. While everyone deserves a second chance at happiness, no one deserves a terrible tattoo.

#7: People get way too drunk when getting inked up

Tattoos shouldn’t be a drunken stupor, friends. Getting tattooed requires extreme precision and care to ensure that both you and your tattoo artist are creating an awesome work of art. In fact, inking someone while they’re drunk is illegal—although it does happen. If you think getting a tattoo could make you lose control, talk to a professional before you commit to getting inked.

#8 Wear sunscreen if you’re worried about pigmentation (this only applies to fresh tattoos)

Sun protection is critical in preventing premature skin aging and future hyperpigmentation. In fact, if you were worried about discoloration after getting a new tattoo, consider investing in a sun protection product with SPF 30 or higher (for fair skin tones). If you’re going to be outside for an extended period of time, ask your artist to recommend one specifically for use on tattooed skin. Otherwise, just keep a bottle handy. Also note that sunscreen should always be reapplied after being in water or perspiring heavily. Plus, look for products made specifically for pigmented areas like tattoos—they are formulated to not cause irritation when applied to sensitive skin.

#9 Avoid text because it never looks good with old age or weight gain/loss (also only applies to fresh tattoos)

If you’re getting a tattoo for its intended purpose, which is to make an impression, then choose a font that will look good when shrunk down and heavily pixelated. These days, almost all of them are — unless you have an extremely unique idea — but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also think about how it will look after years or decades pass. Will it make sense then? Is it friendly to old age and weight gain/loss (if applicable)? Can older people still read it without squinting and making assumptions based on surrounding context? A number of fonts work well here: some bolder than others, some more filled out than others; avoid really thin lines with old age in mind.