Research shows that over half of all American women sport at least one tattoo. That said, not all of our tattoos are good tattoos. "With the rise in tattoos, tattoo regret has also become increasingly prevalent," says board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Jon Mendelsohn, MD, who specializes in high-tech tattoo removal. "In fact, research shows that 20 percent of individuals with body ink have tattoo regret."
According to Mendelsohn, the average tattoo removal patient is a "single, college-educated, female between the ages of 24-39." Sound familiar? To find out why so many women regret their tattoos — and to help prevent it — we put together this list of the unspoken tattoo rules you need to know before going under the needle.
Image via Imaxtree
Tattoo Rule No. 1: Pregnancy Can Stretch Tattoos, Big Time
"Don't get any abdominal work done before you're finished having kids," advises Karina Mayorga, co-founder and owner of Ink Ink tattoo shop in Venice, California. "These tattoos can get distorted with pregnancy and may need to be covered or removed." A similar thing can happen with tattoos near the hips and breasts.
If you need a horror story, tattoo aficionado Cristina Trecate recalls, "Someone in my mother's Lamaze class had Porky Pig tattooed on her stomach. As she got bigger during pregnancy, the tattoo stretched and became unrecognizable and disproportioned. When she had the child, it never went back to normal." Because the only thing worse than a Porky Pig stomach tattoo is a distorted Porky Pig stomach tattoo.
Importantly though, regular weight fluctuations usually don't do the same damage. "Our skin is pretty elastic," says Los Angeles tattooist Zoey Taylor. "Unless we lose weight so quickly that we have excess skin, or gain weight so quickly that we get stretch marks, our skin does a pretty good job of adapting."
Tattoo Rule No. 2: Make Sure Your Tattoo Looks Good in Clothes
"Colorful tattoos really pop off the skin, but be conscious that the tattoo will become part of your everyday look," says Inked Magazine Editor-in-Chief, Rocky Rakovic. "You would never wear a red top and a green skirt at the same time, so if you get a red tattoo you might have to kick green clothes out of your closet." He says that most women who get colorful tattoos end up wearing a lot of black. "I'm not sure if it's an intended choice or something they're forced into after the tattoo session," he says.
Mayorga adds that it's also important to be mindful of how ankle and foot tattoos look in different shoe styles. "Check the placement of the tattoo in both heels and flats beforehand to see how it will lay on the skin," she advises.
Tattoo Rule No. 3: But Also Make Sure It Looks Good Naked
Similarly, Mayorga warns against "slapping tattoos on like stickers," which she says can cut the body in unflattering places and "destroy the look of your curves."
"Personally, I hate it when girls get gigantic battle ships or American eagles on their chest above the breasts," Mayorga confesses. "It ruins the whole décolletage." With any tattoo, chest pieces included, you want to work with curved lines to complement the lines of the body.
Tattoo Rule No. 4: The "Skank Flank" Is the New "Tramp Stamp"
It all has to do with following tattoo trends, says Rakovic. "You have to be careful. Like fashion, tattooing goes through hot trends, but unlike clothing you can't sell last year's tattoo to Buffalo Exchange and move on with your life."
Rakovic explains that lower back tattoos were cute in the 90s until they were branded "tramp stamps." The trend nowadays is for women to tattoo down their ribs. "In the elite tattoo community, these are labeled 'skank flanks,'" he says. "It will only be a matter of time before that term is universally known."
You've been warned.