We Met People Covering Up The Tattoos They Got For Their Ex

Think twice or ink twice.
A fresh(ly) inked start for Alyx.
A fresh(ly) inked start for Alyx.

Let’s face it, love can — and often does, sweep us up in the moment. From whirlwind romances that burn bright and fizzle fast, to sealing the deal with a matching set of tattoos.

Only, dating doesn’t always turn out like a fairy tale, and so ending up with a matching tattoo with an ex, or one that reminds you of them, can be a bit of a buzz kill when it comes to meeting someone new.

Awkward questions can arise like, are you still in love with them? Why did you do it? Would you do that with me…?

This is exactly what happened to Alyx. She shows me her leg and a small Lego-like figurine stares back at me.

“I was 19,” she says. “My ex-boyfriend and I got matching ones of each other.”

She explains that, in the moment, it was a big statement. “We thought we’d be together forever – it was just so fun.”

According to Tinder: “New research reveals 60% of singles have at least considered getting a tattoo for someone they were dating,” they said. “While almost half (48%) of young singles admit they regret their body art as it reminds them of a past relationship.”


That’s why the dating app decided to weigh in and help those looking for a new shot at love.

With the help of some highly skilled artists, Tinder’s Ink Twice event decided to help around 50 people cover up tattoos of past flames, get closure and move on.

Alyx was one of them. She’d become tired of people asking who the little fella was.

“I just don’t like the look of it,” she says. “I’ve had some awkward conversations too, I don’t want people to keep asking me about it. I don’t want to keep talking about my ex.”

She shows me the updated Lego man, now sporting a bright red void stamp across his chest. “It speaks for itself now, doesn’t it?”

Sitting on the plush settee at Sixty Ink with Laura Wilkinson-Rea, Senior Director Communications, Northern Europe at Tinder, she tells me that for her, it’s about helping people find their groove with dating again. But, what sparked the idea?

“I was reading a news article about a young couple that had gone on a Tinder date in Australia,” she tells me, “And the first thing they did together was go and get matching tattoos.

She explains that the comments underneath the post were a mix of love for the romanticism and cautionary warnings of regret.


Turns out, some 40% of 18-25-year-olds report that they’ve explored getting ink that reminds of a past ex/flame reworked. Laura decided that, given Tinder’s size and audience, why shouldn’t they step in to help? Why shouldn’t they give people a hand getting back on the horse by bringing new meaning to artworks of exes? “It’s as simple as that,” she says.

This help was greatly appreciated by Eszter, who was nursing a sore heart following a summer break up.

She shows me her thigh and says, almost apologetically, “It’s supposed to say ‘Thank Gods’,” She shrugs, “I was always teased for saying it by my ex because it’s what I always said whenever we arrived at where we were getting to and it was still open.”

For Eszter, her summer romance came to an end when her love interest moved back to California. She tells me that, for her, having the tattoo covered up is complicated.

“I caught feelings,” she says, “I want to remember her — but forget the bad tattoo.”

The replacement, a black panther, symbolises strength, courage and determination to Eszter. She says, “Having a tattoo that reminds you of an ex is a constant reminder.” For her, the challenge of staring at good memories became too much. Her new tattoo symbolises what you have to do to move on, to survive.

“I’m really happy with it. It’s something I’ve always wanted.”

Tattoos have become increasingly popular thanks to their accessibility and rise in fashion.


On Tinder, mentions of ‘tattoos’ and ‘tatts’ in UK bios have increased by 183% since 2021, of which more than 60% are found in Gen Z’s Tinder bios. “We have seen that the word ‘tattoos’ in bios, from about 2020, has steadily increased every year,” says Laura.

Ro, who is heavily tattooed tells me, “I’m covering up the number 24, it’s my ex’s birthday.”

When I ask why they want to change it, they’re quick to tell me that — seeing as they’re both blocked on social media, it’s time to move on.

“I don’t want it to be a talking point. A lot of time has passed and it’s time to not talk about the ex anymore.”

Ro looks at the stencil on her shoulder and smiles. I ask them if they like what they see, smiling, they say, “It’s all about the aesthetics. I’ve been working hard in the gym. I want to show off these shoulders.”

Tattoos certainly don’t have the permanent reputation they once did. Though some tattoos are difficult to cover up and some of us need to manage our expectations with what’s achievable — maybe we can afford to be a little reckless when it comes to matching tattoos. So long as we’re prepared for the pain and financial aspect of what a cover-up or laser removal can mean.

After all, we only live once.