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Tattoos

Gen Z is experiencing 'tattoo regret.' Social media may be to blame.

TikTok influencer and model spent tens of thousands of dollars on tattoos in her twenties, despite being told that she would "regret them later."聽

Now in her mid-thirties, she鈥檚 in the process of getting a large, full-color from her upper arm. She has another tattoo on her chest that鈥檚 been the 鈥渕ost limiting鈥 in her modeling career, but the removal process on that part of her body would be 鈥渋ncredibly painful and time-consuming,鈥 she says. 聽

After in 2023, she received backlash from tattoo fanatics. 鈥淭here's definitely a stigma around being like, 鈥榊ou were right, the older people were right,鈥欌 she says.聽

But she's also received hundreds of direct messages from people sharing her sentiments and seeking support for their 鈥渢attoo regret.鈥

While it once haunted the of the Millennial generation and the cheeky tramp stamps of the early 2000s, tattoo regret has come for most generations, with Gen Z poised to be its next victim.聽

What is 鈥榯attoo regret鈥?

Brooklyn-based tattoo artist would categorize tattoo regret into 鈥溾 and regret that comes later on, like 鈥渨hen you start to hit certain milestones in your life.鈥

鈥淚've seen some people who have loved their tattoos consistently the whole time they've had them,鈥 she says. 鈥淎nd then I've seen other people falter in their attraction to them soon after getting them.鈥

This summer, tattoo regret reentered popular conversation on TikTok after young women expressed concern over how their . These videos often spotlight , a style that鈥檚 become increasingly trendy in the past five years and consists of rather than a cohesive sleeve.

Miceli says tattoo regret has always been around, but the ability to share and document these experiences on TikTok makes it seem more prevalent.聽

鈥(We鈥檙e) able to hear people鈥檚 experiences and opinions now more than ever,鈥 says Brooklyn-based tattoo artist .

Shifting trends may be increasing tattoo regret聽

Miceli says people may be acting 鈥渕ore on impulse鈥 and basing their tattoos on 鈥渨hat people think is .鈥

For example, patchwork tattoos can rush the tattoo process, as some clients will get multiple tattoos in one session to fill a section of the body.聽

鈥淚 think a lot of people don鈥檛 necessarily regret getting tattoos altogether, but regret the decision to stick to one similar style in such a high volume in such a short amount of time,鈥 she says.聽

Miceli also notices that newer clients are more likely to experience tattoo regret.聽

鈥淧eople see influencers being tattooed and try to adhere to those (aesthetics) rather than taking their time,鈥 she says.聽

She has intervened by suggesting design changes or offering to reschedule an appointment when clients seem unsure about their future tattoo. She hopes that influencers speaking up about their tattoo regret will encourage people to put more thought into the 鈥渋mplications of (getting) a permanent body modification.鈥

Clark also adds that your tattoos鈥 style are indicative of the time in which you got them, and can seem dated later on.聽

鈥淚t鈥檚 a funny thing to have so much of your body covered with something that is not the trend anymore," she says.

For young people, she warns that trend cycles are moving even more rapidly: 鈥淐ertainly this patchwork style isn't going to be the cool thing forever and people are gonna be like, 鈥極h, you got that in 2022.鈥欌

"You鈥檙e not just getting an image marked in your skin," says Walla. "But a moment in time."

Perceived stigma can shape tattoo regret聽

For Clark, her regret doesn鈥檛 stem from the design or appearance of her tattoos, but how she feels she is perceived because of them.聽

While working in nightlife, she 鈥渘ever thought about a future鈥 where her tattoos would matter in a work setting. But once she changed careers, she realized that her tattoos make it so she 鈥渃an鈥檛 blend in places.鈥

鈥淭here鈥檚 rooms that if I walk into them, it becomes very obvious that I stand out in a way that I would prefer that I didn't,鈥 she says, adding that none of her friends are as tattooed as she is.

Clark was later diagnosed with autism and partially attributes drastically altering her appearance to her desire to fit in.聽

鈥淥nce I had my diagnosis, I did a lot of therapy around that,鈥 she says. 鈥淚t would be nice to be able to look in the mirror and see the person that I feel like I am now, which wouldn't be someone with tattoos, because I don't need that armor (anymore).鈥

Freckle tattoos are a thing.Read this before you try the viral trend.

How to cope with tattoo regret

Miceli says it is most important to 鈥渂e gentle with yourself,鈥 because tattoo regret is more common than you think.聽

鈥淎s humans, we are constantly changing and what we like is constantly changing,鈥 she says.聽鈥淭hat鈥檚 who you were at the time and you should honor that person.鈥澛

She tells her clients to get a tattoo 鈥渨hen you feel like you want it鈥 because it reflects who you are in the present moment. However, she offers the reassurance that there are 鈥渁venues to help you feel comfortable in your skin again,鈥 such as laser removal and cover-ups.聽

Walla says that going to the right artist and being in a 鈥渃lear headspace (during) the decision-making process鈥 can help prevent future regret.聽

And for Clark, practicing acceptance is crucial.

鈥淔or me, regret isn鈥檛 like an ever-present or overbearing feeling. I barely register my tattoos on a daily basis because they鈥檝e been a part of me for so long,鈥 Clark says. 鈥淚t only hits me occasionally, if I鈥檓 going to a certain event or wearing a certain outfit.鈥

鈥淚 let the regret feeling guide my future decisions, but it does not overwhelm me,鈥 she adds. 鈥淚 accept that my tattoos are a part of me.鈥

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