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The rise of the face tattoo

Face tattoos are huge right now, and while I’d personally never get one, I don’t hate them. To get the scoop on the what and the why of this ongoing trend, I chatted with two Nova Scotian tattoo artists. The verdict? Face tattoos are like any other tattoo, a personal choice.

Before I get going on this subject, I’d like to say that I know face tattoos are far from a new concept. Humans have been tattooing faces for thousands of years for cultural and religious reasons. I have great respect for those struggling to reclaim these birthrights after they were outlawed during colonization. This piece isn’t directed at those types of face tattoos.

What’s with the facial ink trend?

From celebrities like Halsey and Post Malone, to social media influencers like YouTuber Tana Mongeau, face tats have been growing in popularity. But why?

Kyle Young and Anthony Robicheau of The Collective Tattoo Studio in Kentville think the internet has a hand in things. 

“The internet has been a huge factor in the rise of face tattoos. People who care about tattoos can literally look at them all day long on Facebook or Instagram, which makes it easier to imagine yourself with bigger or more visible tattoos,” says Robicheau.

Young agrees. “It seems to be younger people asking for face tattoos now, who aren’t necessarily tattooed heavily elsewhere,” he says. “I don’t know why, but it seems to be that celebrity type of trend. There’s a lot of rappers with them.” 

While it’s trendy to get them, not all artists agree with jumping directly to the face. 

“I love face tattoos, but I think it’s not an early step in the tattoo collection process and I wish it wasn’t such a trend at the moment,” Robicheau says. “It’s easy to ignore a tattoo on your body that you may decide doesn’t represent you anymore, but you and everyone else will be seeing your face tattoo forever. So, you better make sure you’re committed to it.”

For Young, it’s less about clients choosing a tattoo they may regret and more about earning those visible statement pieces. 

“Most artists aren’t gonna tattoo your face. I wouldn’t tattoo anybody who wasn’t covered in tattoos first. It’s something you should earn. You don’t want to tattoo your hands if you don’t have a sleeve, so why tattoo your face if you’re not heavily tattooed elsewhere?” he says. 

The tattoo collection process

Only having one small strategically placed tattoo myself, I couldn’t imagine having the guts to wear a permanent art piece on my face. For those who love tattoos, however, it seems to be an eventuality for many. There’s only so much space to tattoo after all. 

On the topic of the tattoo collecting process, and the sentimentality of face tattoos, Robicheau believes they likely don’t have any more meaning than the next.

“Honestly, I think they have less meaning to most people who get them. When you’re at the point where you’re ready to tattoo your face, you’ve likely got the meaningful tattoos already. Because face tattoos are typically quite small it’s more so done for the aesthetic of it,” he says. 

Young agrees that for die-hard tattoo lovers, face tattoos tend to be just the next step in the tattoo progression.  

“Most of the face tattoos I’ve done have been on other artists. They’re already very tattooed. It’s almost like they’ve run out of room, so they just want something else,” Young said. “I tattooed a Star Wars symbol on Anthony’s face actually. We’re both fans of the franchise and it’s fun to tattoo your friends.”

Face tattoos can be special too

While both Young and Robicheau agree face tattoos are often art for the sake of art, some have substance and meaning.

Robicheau’s wife, Kristian, is also an artist at The Collective Tattoo Studio. Both sport several face tattoos, one of which has an extra special meaning.

“My favourite face tattoo would have to be the lightning bug I did on my wife last year to remind us of the night I asked her to marry me,” Robicheau says. 

For him, his own face tattoos also hold meaning, if not individually, then in their representation of his growth as an artist. His favorite is the word inspire, which sits over his eye. 

“My face tattoos were something I always wanted. Being a tattoo artist, I feel it’s important for people to see that I live and love what I do. By wearing my tattoos all over my body, including my face, I think that’s pretty clear.”

Are face tattoos here to stay? 

For those of us who aren’t tattoo artists, face tattoos might seem a riskier commitment, but the past decade has seen plenty of face ink action. 

There are definitely a lot more people interested in getting face tattoos now than there were 20-years ago when I first started tattooing. I’d been tattooing almost ten years before I ever got the request, now I get at least a handful of requests a year,” Robicheau says.

Whether they’ll continue to trend or taper off, we’ll have to wait to find out. As for whether face tats are meaningful additions, the last blank piece of canvas, or a random bit of fun, Young’s take on the trend tends to ring true: “I find it’s like any other tattoo. Not everything is for me or for you. It’s a very personal decision.”

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