Over twice as many Aussies thinking of Tattoo Removal

We hear a lot about Tattoo Regret and the rising popularity of Tattoo Removal, but it’s hard to find any numbers on what’s really occurring. In the last 8 years, the number of people searching for Tattoo Removal has increased by approximately 140%

“In the last 8 years, the number of Australian’s searching for Tattoo Removal has increased by approximately 140%”

And while there are dips and troughs from month to month, the over-riding trend is obvious. More people are searching for Tattoo Removal than ever before, as the graph below shows:


A summary of the findings uncovered are:

  • Interest in Tattoo Removal has increased by approximately 140% from 2007 to 2015
  • Interest in Tattoo Removal peaked in January 2014 and has remained fairly steady since then
  • Queenslanders are the most interested in Tattoo Removal, followed by NSW and Western Australia.
  • Canberrian’s are the least interested in tattoo removal, searching for it around half as often as the typical Queenslander
  • Australians performed just under 20,000 searches on Tattoo Removal in June 2015, a 14% increase on the same time last year

So if you find yourself thinking about doing something about an unwanted Tattoo you’re not alone – more and more Australians are thinking about Tattoo Removal as well.

Psychologists have a name for your Tattoo Regret

Ok, so you got Duran Duran tattooed on your knuckles 15 years ago (made you look, yep it does fit) and now you’ve got a serious case of ‘tattoo regret’.

It might not help in getting it removed, but at least you can take comfort in the fact that your tattoo regret now has it’s own psycholgical name – ‘End of History Illusion.’

The ‘End of History Illusion’ refers to the fact that people who look back on their past selves can see a significant change in their tastes, likes and dislikes over time, but when asked to predict the future, assume that their tastes will remain the same going forward.

One thinks of the soon-to-be-regretted tattoo, impulsive purchase of a dream home, or ill-fated marriage

– Pyschology Today

So if I look back at the younger me, I can see that my taste in clothes, in friends, in music and television have changed as I’ve matured, but even though I acknowledge this, I assume I’ve reached the ‘end of my development as a person’ and what I like now is what I’m going to like for the rest of my life. I’ve reached the end of my (personal) history.

The study, conducted at Harvard University used a sample size of over 19,000 people aged from 18-69 and the results were pretty universal. Looking back people can see that they’ve changed, but looking forward they assume they’ll stay the same.

And guess what? If you look, getting a tattoo that you later regret is kind of the go-to example of the End of History Illusion.

So if you’re looking back on a tattoo with regret, and can’t quite understand what you were ever thinking, the answer is that the 20 year old you assumed that the 40 year old you would still think it was a totally awesome idea.

Dont worry mum im joining a band
Don’t worry mum I’m joining a band

And a gentle word of warning for anyone reading this who’s thinking of getting a tattoo:

  • If you’re thinking of getting a tattoo because ‘you’ll always like tattoo’s’ you might be suffering from End of History Illusion.
  • If you’re thinking of getting a tattoo of One Direction because they’re your all-time faves, your almost certainly suffering from End of History Illussion
  • If you’re thinking of getting a tattoo of One Direction above your collar-line because you’ll be joining a rock band and it won’t ever be an issue – please send us your photo – you’re the new poster-boy for End of History Illusion.

Visible Tattoos and Employment – can they stop you getting work?

The short answer (in case you’re rushing out to get a quick finger tattoo) is – Yes.

In most states of Australia visible tattoos are not covered by anti-discrimination or equal opportunity laws. That means that:

  • If you have visible tattoos an employee can choose not to offer you employment based on that reason
  • It’s lawful for a company to have a workplace policy on visible tattoos, and if you’re unable or unwilling to comply with that policy you can be denied employment.
  • If you’re employed at a company with an existing no visible tattoo policy and you subsequently breach that policy – either by uncovering a tattoo or getting a visible tattoo – you can be subject to disciplinary action and/or ultimately termination

The only possible exceptions to this bad state of affairs are:

  • If your place of employment introduces a no visible tattoo policy after your employment, that is deemed not ‘fair or reasonable’ (for example if many employees have had visible tattoos for several years and there’s been no issues) as was the case with Dapto Leagues
  • If you can genuinely argue that you have a visible tattoo AND it has to remain uncovered for religious, cultural or other reasons that are covered by anti-discrimination laws.
  • It’s possible that in Victoria you could argue your tattoo formed part of your ‘physical features’ and thus granted limited protection under anti-discrimination laws, however others argue that as a tattoo is ‘acquired’ it is therefore not included.

So employees can discriminate against visible tattoos – but do they?

Again – our quick summary for those on their way out the door for a neck tattoo – is quite often, yes.

More and more employees are publishing visible tattoo (and body piercing) work policies. At the bottom of this page we list some of the more prominent employees that do and we’ll add to that last over time. Organisations from the Australian Defence Force, the Australian Federal Police, most state and territory police departments, fire brigades, hospitals have policies in this area.

Having a visible tattoo may be an issue for particular workplaces and could affect your employment opportunities.

– Victorian State Government Better Health Channel


Refused Entry to Jupiters Casino for neck tattoo
Refused Entry to Jupiters Casino for neck tattoo

And that’s before you start to look in on private enterprises such as accountancy, legal or administrative jobs. Even in industries where you might reasonably expect self-expression to be encouraged, no visible tattoos policies are emerging. For example Jupiters Casino – along with some other venues in Queensland – have started refusing entry to patrons with visible tattoos (and one would assume therefore that the policy extends to staff)

And those are the companies with published policies. Remember, a HR manager or a prospective employee can reject a candidate on the basis of visible tattoos without it being discrimination. A study from 2012 released by Employment Office suggested that 60% of Australian’s considered visible tattoos unacceptable in the workplace and an even higher percentage agreed they should be covered up for a job interview.

Anti-discrimination laws could actually work against your visible tattoo.

So you have a teeny-tiny butterfly tattoo on your left ankle you got when you were 20. Most people probably wouldn’t put that in the same category as a face tattoo. But guess what? If an employee bans some types of visible tattoos but not others – even thought they really don’t care about your butterfly tattoo at all – then they could be opening themselves up to discrimination and thus simply implement a blanket no visible tattoo policy.

Likewise a poorly worded HR policy that sweeps up all visible tattoos in the one definition may mean an understanding boss or line manager may not have any discretion in overlooking your visible tattoos.

So what can you do?

If you’re thinking of getting a tattoo that could be visible, consider the following:

  • The closer it is to your torso the easier it will be to cover up now or in the future if necessary. A tattoo on your upper arm is covered by a short-sleeve and a long-sleeve shirt. A tattoo on your lower arm can only be covered by a long-sleeve top so you reduce your options. The same goes with the legs.
  • Think about your comfort factor and the practicalities of covering tattoos at your extremities. Yes you ‘could’ wear gloves to work every day but would you really want to? Are long-sleeve shirts working outdoors in the heat going to be comfortable when everyone else is getting around in short-sleeves?
Miss Tumilty with Visible Tattoos
What Miss Tumilty would like to wear
Is that how you want to dress everyday?
What she had to wear.
  • In the UK last year a trainee teacher was sent home for having visible tattoos and piercings which were not deemed appropriate for a Catholic School. To return to the classroom she had to cover up her visible tattoos. Have a look at the outfit on the right she had to wear to comply, and ask yourself, do you want to wear that outfit in the middle of an Australian summer? And to add insult to injury you can still see a visible neck tattoo if you look closely!

If you already have a visible tattoo (or two) and are going for an interview, consider the following:

  • Cover up your tattoos for that first job interview. It’s not a denial of your right to self-expression, it’s just a smart insurance policy ‘in case’ the interviewer isn’t a fan of body art.
  • If the job interview has gone well you could
    • Verbally enquire about the companies policy on visible tattoos
    • Wait until an employment contract is offered and check their written policies (if any) and then decide whether it will be a potential issue
    • Tell the interviewer you have some tattoos which are covered, and would you be expected to cover them if you were employed.

Remember, if you wow them in the interview and THEN tell them about your tattoos they’re more likely to try and accommodate the issue (assuming it’s even an issue at all) than if the first thing they see are your tattoos before you’ve had a change to dazzle them

And of course, if you go into the interview room and your prospective employee is sporting a neck tattoo, well then rip off your shirt, jump up on the table and start playing the air guitar – you’re in!

If you have visible tattoos and your employee introduces a no visible tattoo policy

Discuss the matter openly, and early with your boss, line manager or HR department. In most cases a professional company will consult their employees and give adequate warning of any changes. Proactively voicing any concerns you may have or any potential issues you may face in complying, can go a long way in helping formulate the final policy.


Some Employees with Visible Tattoo Policies

Australian Army – Tattoos prohibited on the face, scalp, ears, neck and hands

Australian Air Force – Tattoos prohibited on the face only

Australian Navy – Tattoos prohibited on the face, scalp ears and neck

Australian Federal Police – Tattoos prohibited on the face and ‘common-sense should prevail’ for tattoos on other parts of the body

NSW Police Force – Neck and Facial Tattoos prohibited and arm tattoos to be covered up on formal occasions

WA Police Force – Proposed policy to ban neck, hand and face tattoos and other tattoos to be covered up when attending formal police events

QLD Police Service – Visible tattoos to be covered up, including long-sleeve shirts to cover arm tattoos

Victoria Police – ‘Subjective assessment will be made on place style and type of tattoo that cannot be covered by a normal uniform’

SA Metropolitan Fire Service – Visible tattoos must not be excessive or offensive…a full sleeve tattoo is potentially offensive

Tasmanian Dept of Health and Human Services – Tattoos of an offensive nature must be covered, if feedback is received that body art is offensive discussions must occur to resolve the issue

Queensland Department of Education – No policy, Queensland Teachers Union believes that if a teachers tattoo is inappropriate for their workplace it should be covered and not be visible.

Is there really such a thing as a timeless tattoo?

I was reading a blog post recently on Bustle that aimed to list ’10 Timeless Tattoos that will be cool your whole life’ – and it made me think about whether there was really such a thing as a timeless tattoo (as well as making me think what a bold claim it was to list them!)

I love a bit of exaggeration on the internet as much as the next person – after all Tatts a Mistake is without a doubt the most awesomely awesome website in the world – but when it comes to giving advice about permanently inking your body I prefer to err on the side of caution. Telling someone ‘you should get this tattoo design because it’ll be cool forever’ – isn’t the type of advice I’d be comfortable giving.

The one line that really stuck with me was “I’ve only started to dig hand artwork…but…a pair of hands….is timeless”

Hmmmm. So the author used to not like hand tattoos, but now she does and now they’re going to be timeless? The definition of timeless is “not affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion.” So if hand tattoos (or any tattoo) are timeless, surely she should have ‘dug’ them the first time she saw them?

Hand tattoos are timeless?
A timeless tattoo?

So is there really such a thing as a timeless tattoo? There’s many reasons to get a tattoo, but if one of your considerations is ‘will I still like this in 10 or 20 years’, getting your head around the concept of a ‘timeless tattoo’ is something you need to think about. So here are some thoughts to help your thinking

Have a look back on tattoo styles that ended up not being timeless.

There’s a tongue-in-cheek article claiming to be able to guess your age by the type of tattoo you have. If you have a dolphin tattoo your probably early 40’s, a barbed wire tattoo means your late 30’s and so on. And the reason you can guess a person’s age by their tattoo is because fashions change – none of those tattoo designs proved to be timeless.

And think about it – would you go out and get a barbed wire tattoo today? Or a dolphin on your bikini line? Chances are the answer is no. But what about the many, many people who did when they were in fashion. Do you think they walked into a tattoo parlour and said ‘give me a tattoo that’s going to go out of fashion’? Of course not. They were getting a tattoo they expected to be timeless.

Barbed wire tattoo
Remember the barded wire tattoo? Of course you do! Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

I have a mate with a tattoo on his lower back he got about 10 years ago and he HATES it. Why? Because it was totally cool until someone came up with ‘that name’ for lower back tattoos, and suddenly it wasn’t timeless, especially for a guy.

Tramp Stamp tattoo
Tatts a Mistake, Not Timeless

But, you say – that was then and it’s obvious those tattoos weren’t timeless. Tattoo designs today are so much cooler – they’ll be timeless.

Beware the ‘end of history’ illusion.

We’ve discussed it here before – but the end of history illusion is a phenomenon we all suffer from. Simply put, it describes the fact that we can look back on our personal history and see that our tastes have changed, but looking forward we have the illusion that our tastes will remain the same – that we’ve reached the end of our (personal) history.

“I’ve changed in the past, but I’ll remain the same in the future.”

And to look back on old tattoo designs and say ‘ fashion has changed since then’ but at the same time look forward and say ‘but these designs will be timeless’ is to fall prey to the ‘end of history’ illusion.

If it’s going to be timeless tomorrow, it has to be timeless yesterday.

A tattoo can’t suddenly become popular and then become timeless. Unless you’re coming up with some totally new design, or a new location to put it on your body, the tattoo you’re getting has history. And if it wasn’t timeless back then, you can’t expect it to become timeless today. So if you’ve always liked Chinese character symbols, and you still like them today, then perhaps they really will be timeless for you. But if you’ve only just warmed to the idea of a full sleeve tattoo (a style that’s been around for a long time), then chances are it isn’t actually timeless

What about things that are personal to me?

Now perhaps we’re getting closer to a timeless tattoo. Fashions change, but something that has personal meaning to you should remain a constant. Except just when you think you’ve found the answer – it’s in this category that the ‘least timeless’ tattoo lurks – the ‘ex’ tattoo. According to one report the average person will fall in love twice before they meet ‘the one’. And then it’s a sad statistic that around 40% of all marriages end in divorce. So getting a tattoo of your soul-mate the first time you fall madly in love is almost guaranteed to not be timeless (sorry!)

What about your BFF? According to Bustle again (which seems to be the spiritual home of timeless tattoo advice), here’s an article listing ’15 Timeless tattoos ideas for you and your best friend’

BFF tattoo
They’ll be in a jam if they ever stop being besties

But I remember my best friend when we were 18. As a sign of our BFF’ness we bought matching leather jackets and gave them to each other as a christmas present (cringe-worthy I know). And now I probably see him once every 2 years – nothing particular happened, we just went our separate ways. Had we decided to get a couple of timeless BFF tattoos instead of leather jackets that have long since been chucked way, I can only imagine how silly I’d feel every time I looked down at that lonely tattoo.

But of course there are things that are personal to you that really should stand the test of time. The love you have for your parents, or for your children should remain a constant. The place where you came from can’t change over time, and I guess the sports team you follow usually remains a constant (although the jury’s out on whether getting a tattoo of your favourite football team has ever been timeless!). Likewise if you’ve had a passion for something for a long time – as long as you can remember (and assuming you’re not a goldfish) – then perhaps you’re close to finding something timeless – like this person who ‘chose two things that have consistently appealed to me all my life: birds and skulls’

brids and skull tattoo

So what’s my pick for a timeless tattoo?

I’m not convinced that there’s really such a thing as a generally accepted timeless tattoo – but then again, that shouldn’t be the criteria for getting one. Striving to get a tattoo just because it’ll be considered timeless by everyone is probably as bad a reason for getting a tattoo as doing it just because everyone else is. It should be meaningful to you – and yes, it’s something that you should genuinely believe will be timeless just for you.

If I had to pick two ‘timeless tattoos’ I’d go with:

  • Tribal Tattoos. I’m not a huge fan of them personally, but my opinion of them has remained constant, so in that respect I guess they’re timeless. I’ve always considered them a safe design and I think the same about them now, so I think it’s fair to say I’ll think the same about them in the future
  • In memory of. I have relatives in Canada whose beautiful mother/grandmother passed away a few years ago. In memory of her – she was born in Ireland and moved to Canada – all the extended family got tattoos of a Gaelic harp tattooed on their shoulders. Now I don’t know if gaelic harp tattoos have even been ‘in’ and I don’t know if they’ll ever been nominated as timeless – but for my money there’s no more perfect example of a timeless tattoo than that.
Gaelic Harp
Timeless because it means something personal and unchanging