“Tattoo Fails”: 50 Times People Didn’t Even Realize How Bad Their Tattoos Were
Everyone knows tattoos are painful. Those pesky needles often draw blood, and it is not recommended to be tattooed for hours on end because our bodies are just not meant to endure that much torture. But what can last even longer than the pain of being tattooed is the sting of receiving a bad tattoo. Knowing that your botched ink is a permanent addition to your body and being doomed to a lifetime of condescending comments about your failed artwork can cut way deeper than any needle ever could.
We don’t mean to add salt to anyone’s wounds here, but you have to admit, looking at tattoo fails can be a great way to experience schadenfreude. That’s why we’ve gone through the Tattoo Fails Instagram account to find the most painfully cringey examples of why you should always put a lot of thought into choosing your body art (and the right artist). Below, you'll even find interviews with Richard Fullam from Tattoo Removal Experts and Barbara Taylor from Pulse Light Clinic to hear a little bit about the process of taking off a tattoo. Enjoy looking at these pictures that might make you reconsider your next piece of ink, and be sure to upvote the ones you find most tragic. Then if you’re interested in viewing even more regrettable tattoos, check out Bored Panda’s last piece on a similar Instagram page right here.
Getting a tattoo can be an exhilarating experience. You may have spent months planning what to have imprinted onto your skin, and finally, the day has come for your meaningful artwork to become a permanent part of you. Perhaps you want to honor a loved one through a tattoo of their favorite flower, or maybe you want to celebrate the end of a tumultuous chapter in your life, like battling an illness. Tattoos can be representative of anything, or they can simply be artwork meant to be appreciated for their beauty. Regardless of the intention, only one thing really matters: that you like the final product.
Unfortunately, for every delicately crafted, perfectly executed tattoo, there is a Walmart version with misspelled words, crooked lines and creepy artwork. Getting a tattoo can be the best decision you ever make, if it has cultural significance and turns out exactly how you imagined, or it can become your biggest regret in life. Everyone featured on this list was a little too willing to take that risk.
For those who are really dissatisfied with their tattoos, removal is always an option. So we reached out to the pros at Tattoo Removal Experts in London to hear a little bit about their process. We spoke to Richard Fullam, the company's director, who explained that, "To remove a tattoo you need a course of laser treatments spaced at least 6 weeks apart. The pulses of light from the laser shatter the ink into tiny particles enabling the body’s white blood cells to pick them up, take to the liver where they are flushed away. The tattoo will gradually fade till in most instances it can not be seen. An average tattoo takes around 6-8 treatments to remove. The process is safe and with the best technology there should be no damage to the skin. It is a bit painful however if you can tolerate being tattooed, then the removal process normally is not a problem."
We also asked Richard how common he thinks it is for people to rush into getting tattoos that they will later regret. "We are getting an increasing number of calls from young ladies, who contact us on the day they get their tattoo, asking for it to be removed. Sometimes they watch the tattoo being inked, know they hate it, but don’t have the confidence to question the tattooist," Richard noted.
"There is always a reason for someone wanting a tattoo to be removed, whether it’s the design, size, position etc. Some are just really bad ideas like a recent client who had his ex wife’s name tattooed on his penis." I cannot imagine how painful that must have been...
"If you are getting a tattoo do your research, find a good tattooist, agree a design then think long and hard whether your going to be happy with it for the long term," Richard says. "Also remember, just in case, that black/grey tattoos are a lot easier to remove than multicolored tattoos."
We also were curious how Richard got into the tattoo removal business in the first place. "Just over 13 years ago our eldest daughter got a tattoo under age, a story which is not uncommon. It was a large fighting fish on her hip which looked terrible. It was agreed that we would try to remove it, so we did our research. In those days the clinics were using old technology and charging fortunes. We saw a big opportunity for a modern approach using the best latest technology at affordable prices, within 3 months we opened ‘The Tattoo Removal Experts’ in Chiswick London and have not looked back. If it hadn’t been for our daughter we would not be here. Let’s face it, tattoo removal was never an option mentioned at the school’s career day."
If you'd like to hear more about Tattoo Removal Experts, you can check out their website right here.
Now, tattoos don’t just randomly turn out terribly. There are various factors coming into play like how skilled the artist is, how sober the person receiving that tattoo is, how long they considered getting the artwork done ahead of time and whether they proofread their design. You would be surprised how many tattoos end up with spelling errors. Or maybe you wouldn’t be surprised; there are plenty on this list right here!
Sadly, it is quite common for people to regret their tattoos. In fact, one survey found that 78% of respondents with at least two tattoos admitted they regret one or more of them. That is a startlingly high number considering that about a quarter of all Americans have at least one tattoo. But according to a survey conducted by Advanced Dermatology, certain body parts are more common for receiving regrettable artwork. The upper back, upper arms, hips, face and buttocks were the most likely to receive a bad tattoo. Interesting that the face and butt made it on that list. I can understand both, but at least one can easily be hidden!
Advanced Dermatology also found that most regrettable tattoos are actually quite small, with 63% of them being smaller than the palm of a hand. Perhaps these people knew somewhere in the back of their minds that getting a life-size bald eagle plastered on their thigh might not be a great idea. At least when a tattoo is petite, it can easily be covered. However, 30% of the regretted tattoos were larger than the palm of a hand yet smaller than a half-sleeve. So those might be a tad bit more obvious.
Waiting a few years to get your ink might also help decrease your chances of regretting it. A whopping 46% of the tattoos people no longer liked had been on their bodies since they were under 20, and 45% were done in their 20’s. It is not super clear though whether these tattoos were actually worse than ones they received later, or if it had just been so long since they had the tattoo done that they no longer liked it as much as their newer pieces. Maybe in 10 more years, these respondents will regret more of their ink!
We also reached out to Barbara Taylor at Pulse Light Clinic in the UK to hear what their process of tattoo removal is like. “We use the PicoWay and PicoSure lasers that fire very short pulses but high-energy pulses of light into the skin. The lights are as quick as a thousandth millionth of a second long, and the energy from the lights goes into the tissue, and it doesn’t harm the skin. The light hits the tattoo pigment, and then the light is absorbed into the pigment and these large clumps of pigment that were trapped in your skin; when the light’s absorbed, it’s so fast that it breaks these larger clumps of pigment into smaller particles. The smaller particles can be absorbed and taken away by your autoimmune system, macrophage, and white blood cells. They come in, and they sort of gobble up the tiny particles of pigment, and therefore they fade down the tattoo. We have had clients who have tried other laser technology that provides painless and quick treatments, which have not been effective.”
“Laser tattoo removal is not always risk-free and it does come with side effects to keep in mind. If you follow the laser tattoo removal aftercare tips and recommendations from your practitioner it will help for a speedier recovery and the best tattoo removal results,” Barbara says.
We also asked Barbara if she thinks a lot of people rush into getting tattoos they will later regret. “A lot of people do rush into getting tattoos more recently just because tattoo removal is so well known now that if someone changes their mind they know they can get it removes. The only thing is if people are considering getting tattoos and they’re not sure if they want to keep it then I would recommend sticking with black ink tattoo, this color ink is the easiest to remove on all skin tones. If you’re a darker skin tone then using coloured ink means that it would be harder to remove, even with the most advanced laser machines because we don’t want to pick up your natural pigment of the skin (melanin).”
When it comes to what you should keep in mind before getting a tattoo, Barbara says, “If you’re getting your first tattoo and you’re not 100% sure then the placement of the tattoo would be better suited around the ribs, chest, back or anywhere on the torso. Tattoos that are on the lower legs, feet, lower arms, these can be a lot more difficult to remove due to the circulation and getting the ink out of the area. You could consider going for fine line, delicate or shaded tattoos that aren’t too deep and dark. The traditional tribal tattoos can be harder to remove. If you have a tattoo and you don’t like it I wouldn’t recommend going straight in for a cover up as this could lead to a build-up of ink on the tattooed area, instead you can speak to a tattoo removal specialist and they can work together with your tattoo artist to get the unwanted tattoo faded to a good level to get the cover up.”
Lastly, we wanted to hear how Barbara got into tattoo removal in the first place. “It can be very emotional and dramatic to someone’s lives as we’re giving opportunities for people to work in industries that they may not have been able to, such as the military, schools, government jobs. It’s not always necessary these days as there has been a shift in views about tattoos but there are still cases where a candidate may be withdrawn a job application due to tattoos. Another common case of tattoo removals is relationships whether that’s partners or friendships that have ended up sour or no longer exist and they want to forget about any pain or memories of that relationship. This is one of the things I love about performing tattoo removal and helping people go through these journeys of removing pain or helping them with their dreams.”
Rash decisions are rarely a great idea in life, but especially when it comes to decisions that have a permanent impact, you might want to give it more thought than a few hours. In fact, 28% of the respondents who regretted a tattoo said they had only planned to get it hours in advance, while the chances of regretting it seemed to greatly decrease the longer respondents had waited before making an appointment. Most people who wish they could go back in time and remove a tattoo do not start feeling that way for at least a year, though. 36% even said it took several years before they started becoming less fond of their ink. So if you’re sitting there feeling sly because you love all of your artwork, just give it a few years, buddy. We can check back in then.
When it comes to why all of these people ended up with questionable tattoos, the biggest reasons were being impulsive, the tattoo had or has significant meaning, and the person thought it would look cool. Getting an impulsive tattoo sounds like a recipe for disaster, and I’m sure plenty of these tattoos were done on random Friday the 13th’s when many shops offer extremely discounted flash tattoos. What I’m more concerned about is the 29% of regretted tattoos that had significant meaning. Perhaps these were tattoos couples got together before later breaking up or artwork in honor of a band or artist that just does not have the same appeal a decade later, but it makes me nervous to know that “significant meaning” does not last forever. I hope this list doesn’t make me start to regret my own tattoos…
There are a few common themes among regrettable tattoos as well. The top 20 images that tend to be regretted include tribal patterns, crosses, roses, hearts, stars, suns, moons, Chinese or Japanese characters, flowers, butterflies, skulls, dragons, inspirational words, Celtic symbols, wings or angels, and Roman numerals. I can imagine that most of those designs are among the most common tattoos period, so it makes sense that those are the most regretted as well. For every 10 men that love their tribal tattoos, there are 3 going out of their way to wear long sleeves in the summer to hide the artwork they no longer stand by. What’s a little sweat if it can protect you from the ridicule of harsh comments about your tattoos?
Now, I am not trying to freak you out and make you reconsider your own artwork. I love tattoos, and I think everyone has the right to decorate their body with as much artwork as they desire. But if you are relating to these bad tattoos a little too much, there are always ways to get your ink removed. According to dermatologist Dr. Richard Torbeck, you need to wait until your piece completely heals first (about six to eight weeks), but after that, you can begin to plan on bringing your skin back to its natural state.
There are options for how to go about having a tattoo removed, but the most common and effective way is by laser treatment, dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Geddes-Bruce told Healthline. “Sometimes patients elect to scar the area instead, and mechanical dermabrasion can sometimes be effective in doing so,” added Dr. Geddes-Bruce. She also mentioned that sometimes a doctor can simply excise the skin and cover the area with a graft or close it completely, if there is enough excess skin available. Props to whatever doctors came up with these solutions; I’m sure they have saved countless people from decades of ridicule from family members and friends about their botched tattoos.
If you are wondering how much it would cost you to have a tattoo removed, it depends on several factors. “The cost of tattoo removal depends on the size, complexity of the tattoo (different colors require different laser wavelengths so treatment will take longer), and the experience of the professional removing your tattoo,” explains
Dr. Geddes-Bruce. Where you get it done will play a part in your final bill as well, but Dr. Geddes-Bruce notes that the average treatment is between $200 and $500. If you can stand the pain and afford to shell out some serious cash, you don’t have to accept the bad tattoo you impulsively got on your 18th birthday forever.
I know that this list can be painfully difficult to look at, but hopefully it is a reminder to spend plenty of time planning out your next tattoo and choosing an artist that you would trust with your life. Worst case scenario, you end up on one of these lists and are mocked by anonymous strangers online. But with various tattoo removal methods available today, you can always go back in time and have that image of your ex-girlfriend's face burned right off. Remember to upvote the tattoos you find most horrific, and then let us know in the comments what the worst tattoo you’ve ever seen was. I sincerely hope it was just one you’ve witnessed, rather than one on your own body.