Whatever you’ve chosen for your tattoo probably means a lot to you. Maybe you’ve got a rule that you have to think about a tattoo for three months or a year before getting it, maybe you’ve decided you can only get it if your best friend likes it, or if your mom would approve (and not cut you off entirely). Everyone has their own process of deciding to get a tattoo. And yet… so many tattoos are still so dang bad! There are exceptions to every rule, and your body is entirely your choice, but, for the most part, here are some tattoos we think you’re most likely to regret… one day, if not five seconds after you hear the subtle buzz of the tattoo gun.
1. Couple tattoos (in general)
Your love is real! Your love is true! Your love will last forever…but so will your tattoo! We have all wanted to brand ourselves with proof that we are happily spoken for, or else honor our special bae using our body language. But this makes the top of the list for the most obvious reason of all: if you break up, you’re stuck with a constant reminder of what once was. Those his and hers tattoos you see on Pinterest are totally cute while you’re together, but consider whether that tattoo will mean as much to you and make you as happy (let alone make sense) if the other half is no longer in the picture.
It’s sad but true. Just ask any of these celebrities.
2. Politics-related tattoos
The country is still reeling from wildly unexpected election results, and a whole lot of Americans are now stuck with tattoos they might think twice about from this perspective. Whether you wanted to show let your feminist flag fly by getting one of those Hillary Clinton forward-pointing-arrow letter-H logos, demonstrate your radical social reform politics with a Bernie caricature or get inked with whatever symbol best represents Jill Stein — if your candidate lost, you’re likely regretting branding yourself with a symbol of a fast-fading politician. It’s kind of like a bumper sticker but worse.
If you want to show your support for President Trump, you may be thinking twice about that permanent MAGA tat as approval ratings drop lower than a snake’s belly. Either way, you will not want to remember this election cycle for the rest of your life… unless it’s to regale your grandchildren with stories of the bad old days.
3. Band tattoos
If you don’t get a tattoo of lyrics or album art from your absolute favorite band, how will everyone know that you are truly the biggest fan of all? If you get called up on stage at a concert, how else will you guarantee a backstage invitation to hang with the lead singer if you don’t have some kind of eternal proof?
Well, funnily enough, you may be the biggest fan they have right now but odds are you won’t feel that way in a few years. Think about your favorite band ten years ago. I can betcha that it’s not the same as it used to be. If you want to commemorate your passion, that’s fine. But maybe choose something slightly more abstract that is not recognizably connected to a band that will likely make you cringe as an adult.
4. Infinity tattoos
This is one of the most common tattoos of all time. For that reason alone, you should not get it. It’s true that things become clichés for a reason — usually because lots of people genuinely do have the same thought at the same time. But do you really want to get a tattoo that at least one other person in the room is guaranteed to have? Unless you want thousands of built-in tattoo buddies in your school, workplace, town, city, etc, you might consider thinking about it a little longer. And anyway, what does this symbol even mean?
PS: Don’t think you’re tricking anyone by adding a variation, like weaving the word love into the infinity sign. It’s still an infinity tattoo!
5. Harry Potter tattoos
Don’t get me wrong. I am a huge Harry Potter fanatic. I started a Harry Potter club in fifth grade where we made our own brooms and competed in a daily trivia contest. I’ve read every book cover to cover a million times, as has everyone who is anyone in our generation. But that’s exactly the point. Being a hardcore Harry Potter fan is not a personality. Don’t use that blessed little Boy Who Lived to cover up the fact that you haven’t finished a book other than Harry Potter since your AP English class. Maybe the book had serious meaning for you, but I recommend going for something abstract rather than strictly lifted from the books.
[Editor’s Note: I have a Harry Potter tattoo. It’s fine — I still like it.]
6. “Live Laugh Love.”
Seriously, what is this one supposed to even mean? Is it a reminder that you should continue to live? Continue to laugh? Love like no one is watching? Are you really getting yourself a tattoo to remind yourself to do basic, unavoidable human functions? This tattoo is the emblem of an entire lost generation of cyborgs devoid of any personality not gleaned from blogs about dream dorm room wall decals, and I am done with it! Unless you truly trust people to read it as an entirely ironic, post-modern statement about the distance you’ve gained from the material past, present, and future, it’s time to let this one die.
The only acceptable iteration of this tattoo is if you’re heavy into the X-Files, and it’s a statement to convince others that aliens are real (which, of course, they are). I totally appreciate if you want to give a shout out to your religious or spiritual affiliation, so I will also put that in the category of tenuously acceptable… but chances are, the only thing you’re trying to remind yourself to believe in is yourself or your own potential, and that is simply dumb. If you need a reminder, it ain’t happening for you.
8. Really any quote
This is a controversial opinion, no doubt, but I do not think any of you should be getting any quotes. For starters, the risk of it getting messed up is just astronomical. A tiny mistake on a cool design? Probably not noticeable. A tiny mistake in spelling on a permanent tattoo? You look like an idiot for life, even though it is likely clear it wasn’t your fault. The bigger issue with this one is that there is no quote powerful enough to make up for how much power it loses when a nerd puts it on their skin.
9. Meme-related tattoos
This one seems obvious, but there are a surprising number of people with “back-talk SpOnGeBoB” tattoos appearing on their bodies, so it must be said. The beauty of memes is their impermanence. They cycle in and out of relevance. Of course, not every tattoo needs to promise to stay relevant for the rest of your life. That is not the issue quite so much as people are going to be asking you to explain it for the rest of your life. If it looks cool on its own, you can play it off. However, if it is in any way recognizably meaningful and not just a design, you will be forced to explain a meme forever.
Also, memes change meanings all the time i.e. Pepe the Frog’s a white supremacist now. Sucks for the person who got a Pepe tat before the switch.
10. Anything penis-related
This…this should simply go without saying. There should be no world where anyone is getting a penis tattoo. Not just because it is incredibly stupid, and makes you seem just… awful and immature all around. But also because many of us spend most of our lives trying to forget what penises look like. Nobody wants to see your real one, and nobody wants to see the one you wish you had, either.
It is quite literally never as funny or charmingly irreverent as you think it’s going to be, and instead, says to everyone you meet from now on that dicks will never be far from anyone’s mind as long as you’re around.
11. Pocket Watches
Pocket watches are just up there with infinity tattoos. They even seem somehow related, though perhaps in inverse. One speaks to the fluidity of spacetime, and one to the finality of human mortality. And that’s being very generous. The main count against pocket watches is just that everyone has one. Much like the freshman reading a piece about losing his virginity in his intro to poetry workshop, chances are you have no new thoughts on time, its passage, or how it makes you feel. Ink doesn’t need to be unique, but do you really want to match every other person who thought they’d be a little more original than the classic infinity symbol (emphasis on “a little”)?
Mandalas look cool. There is absolutely no argument there. The symmetry and detailing on any mandala are always gorgeous, and the intricacy hides mistakes well. Here’s the real thing. Unless you practice Hinduism or Buddhism, your mandala tattoo is likely appropriative as hell. A mandala is not just a cool design that makes you seem earthy and oh-so Urban Outfitters-esque. It’s a spiritual and religious symbol which (and it may be counter-productive to tell you this) typically symbolizes the universe.
But, you may say, the universe means so much to me! No! Stop! Stop right there. As connected as you felt to everything after your first shrooms trip last summer, that does not mean you have nearly the depth and understanding enough to appropriate a symbol from another culture. Sorry but that’s the fact.
13. Watercolors with no lines
Watercolor tattoos are beautiful. I will say that up front. I have considered it myself on more than one occasion. I mean! Who wouldn’t want a lovely splash of koi fish across their arm? The issue with these is purely practical. Over time, all tattoos shift around and fade. Colors even more so, particularly light ones. You’re going to spend a lot of money and go through a lot of pain, and before you know it, the tattoo will be a blob. You can even ask your artist and as excited as they will probably be to get to try out this style, they will have no choice but to admit that the tattoo will have a pretty short life in the vivid detail you want it.
14. UV tattoos
Ulraviolet (black light) tattoos are, again, an awesome idea. Having a tattoo that looks negligible by day and glows in the dark at the club is basically the finance worker’s dream come true. But this is another one where practicality is the main concern. No one really knows if these tattoos are fully safe yet. The technology is new, so even tattoo artists who do them tend to be careful to let you know that they cannot make any promises about long-term safety or efficacy. Worst case scenario, within a few years (or less), the cool glowing will fade, and you’ll just have a weird scar.
15. Finger tattoos
The main issue with finger tattoos is that your fingers are always touching each other. Constant friction means constant movement of the skin cells. Bony ridges (like fingers) are some of the hardest places to get tattooed, just from a pain perspective. Pain is no reason not to get the tattoo of your dreams, but you may consider that you are likely going through all of that for something that will be entirely illegible within a year. The design itself will also start to get muddled making it an all the more useless experience.
Your hands are constantly exposed to the sun and the cold, constantly touching stuff, getting scratched up, and it won’t be long before whatever you got tattooed there is a mere memory (in the form of weirdly displaced ink).
16. Inner lip tattoos
The issue with lip tattoos is almost exactly the same as finger tattoos, but with the added bonus that they are in your mouth of all places. So you start out with something that is already probably pretty hard to read, just cause, you know, you’re getting a tattoo on a wet material that is barely real skin, and then you have to flip your lip down if you even want anyone to see. But what’s more, mouth skin cells turn over faster than any other part of your body. You know how when you get a cut in your mouth, it’s magically gone by the next day? Imagine that happening to something you just spent a lot of money on. Best to avoid it.