What To Do If You Regret Your Tattoo

  • Written By Dan Hunter on February 17, 2020
    Last Updated: November 10, 2020

In the US, more than a quarter of the population has tattoos. With such large numbers, it comes as no surprise that regret is bound to kick in. Despite this regret, it’s not the end of the world.

How Common Is Tattoo Regret?

Tattoo regret isn’t uncommon at all. A survey conducted in 2015 showed that almost a quarter of tattoo bearers in the US expressed regret at a tattoo they weren’t happy with. 

A year later, the International Society of Plastic Surgeons revealed the top countries where tattoo removal procedures happened, with the US ranking third after India and Japan.

A more recent survey demonstrated that about 12 percent of people with tattoos in the US were considering removal.

The reasons behind the remorse for having a tattoo are quite numerous and vary from person to person:


This can happen due to the artist being unskilled or just the tattoo fading with time and age. Our bodies also change with age, so if skin has sagged or you’ve built muscle, the tattoo could be distorted


Regret can kick in later on in life, especially when you’ve gotten a tattoo in your younger years. What you thought was cool and meaningful then, might not appeal when you’re older


This can be both ways. Small tattoos are less invasive and are easily hidden, but might be done on a whim with the thought it’s so small, so it doesn’t matter. For large tattoos, people take their time to think about it before deciding, but that doesn’t a massive tattoo in visible locations doesn’t mean you’ll regret it later


Much regret can manifest when people haven’t taken the time to plan what they want and just opt for any design or color. The booking appointment is a good time to go through options with the artist — they’re there to help!


Visible tattoos are more likely to attract regret than something that’s usually under clothes or not visible to its owner. If you can’t see it, it doesn’t affect you, right?

Reason behind the tattoo

In many instances, we get tattoos out of impulse, peer pressure, or wanting to look cool, rather than it being something we definitely wanted


For many, a tattoo is an expression of something that has significant meaning. However, that meaning can be as temporary as the tattoo itself, and so the person finds themselves not relating to the tattoo anymore


The style and type of content you’re gonna embody in a tattoo matters. There are symbols that people end up regretting having compared to others, e.g., tribal tattoos and tattoos of hearts, roses, stars, and crosses.

What To Do About A Regretful Tattoo

Get a Touch-Up

A touch-up is an excellent solution if you’ve you regret your tattoo but feel like it can be altered. This can be an affordable option if you don’t need a lot of changes made.

The best thing to do here is to head back to the parlor and chat with the artist — you may need to book in to see them. Calmly explain your concerns, and they may be able to offer a solution.

If your design isn’t too complex, a touch-up shouldn’t be an issue, especially if adding an extension with some color can alter the overall feel of the tattoo. This can be a good way to counter that regret.

A touch-up isn’t recommended if your original hasn’t healed. Sometimes, clients believe they regret their tattoo, but the problem is that the tattoo hasn’t had a chance to look its best yet. The artist will likely refuse to touch the tattoo until it’s healed, anyway.

In the situation of the artist not giving you the tattoo you expected, they may offer a touch-up for free. This is rare, though, since you would’ve both agreed on the design before the inking started. The artist would’ve seriously missed the mark from the original design for this to happen, which could be a sign that they aren’t that skilled or experienced in the first place.

Get A Cover-Up

If touch-ups aren’t possible, a complete rework may be suitable. This is a major overhaul of the original design, and you may be surprised at some of the incredible cover-ups that have been done.

How many times have you heard of someone getting a partner’s name tattooed on them, only to part ways later in life? Some artists can revamp their name and blend it into a motif of a dragon, for example.

Their ability to do this does depend on the style, color and size of the original, though. Tattoo artists aren’t miracle-workers, even though they’re darn good.

The worst that could happen is that the artist says no, which is when you need to look at complete removal.

Tattoo Removal

Assuming that you currently have a tattoo that you don’t like, or that a medical complication developed with getting the tattoo, such as an infection or an allergy, removing the tattoo becomes the best option.

The most important thing to remember is getting a consultation from a professional dermatologist. While some tattoo artists can remove tattoos, they lack medical training. Consequently, the risk for the following side effects increases:

  • Burns
  • Scarring
  • Partial removal of the tattoo
  • Change in the skin’s texture

Going to a dermatologist also allows them to consider important factors, such as:

  • Tattoo location
  • Tattoo age
  • Depth of the tattoo
  • Colors used
  • Current medication you take
  • Your general health condition
  • Skin color

Using these factors above, the dermatologist will then decide the most suitable method for removal, if possible, and you get to make an informed decision.

The most common ways to remove a tattoo are:

  • Laser surgery
  • Excision
  • Dermabrasion
  • Salabrasion

Laser Surgery

Laser removal employs the use of deep-penetrating Q-switched lasers, which pulsate at a fast rate, with each pulse lasting a billionth of a second.

The laser breaks down the pigment, which is then metabolized and excreted by the kidney or transported to your lymphatic system and stored in its nodes.

Having multiple colors in your tattoo would require the use of different lasers, where the dark colors — for example, black or blue — are more easily removed than light colors, such as green or yellow.

There can be some discomfort or pain with laser surgery, so a local anesthetic might be applied to the area using a cream or a subcutaneous injection.

After the surgery, the area should be cooled using some ice, then coated with an antibiotic cream or ointment, followed by a bandage. Avoid sun exposure for at least three months, so use sunblock if you’re outdoors.


In this method, a local anesthetic is applied to the area where the tattoo is located. Afterward, the tattoo is removed using a scalpel, then the edges of the skin are stitched back together. Antibacterial ointment is applied later to help with the healing.

Excision is very effective at removing tattoos but is likely to leave a scar behind. It’s, therefore, only suitable for use on small tattoos that aren’t in conspicuous parts of your body.


Dermabrasion involves numbing and chilling the tattooed area first. A rotary device with an abrasive surface or brush is then used in a similar way to sandpaper, to remove the layers of skin where the ink is.

This method isn’t as common as excision or laser surgery because it’s less effective, and the treated area can be sore, with a recovery period of up to three weeks. Additionally, dermabrasion is likely to cause skin discoloration, which can be permanent and leave a scar.


Salabrasion is similar to dermabrasion, but salt is used to rub the ink off the skin after the top layer of the skin is removed.

Have you ever gotten salt in a wound? Ouch! Apart from being painful, this method can also cause an infection and leave scars. As such, it’s not as recommended as laser removal is, despite that you can do it at home.


If you’re not happy with your tattoo and want to get the problem resolved as quickly as possible, getting a touch-up or cover-up are your best and least-invasive options. You can improve what you already have or change it entirely to represent your latest self. They’re also generally cheaper than removing tattoos since they’re aren’t seen as being as specialized as laser-removal artists are.

In case you do want to get rid of a tattoo, either laser surgery or excision are the best options. Neither involves abrasion, and both are precise.

Related Tattoo Articles