Today, we’ll look closely at the history of face tattoos, the celebrities who get them and where we stand. We look at this trend from the early and somewhat controversial beginnings of face tattoos to their increased popularity among rappers, celebrities, and Instagram models. Is it here to stay?

The History of Face Tats as Body Art

It seems like with each passing year, face tattoos become more popular, but where did the trend originate? 

Face tattoos are an accessory that can set you apart from the rest. You might be surprised to find out that they aren’t anything new. Throughout history, face tattoos go back thousands of years to ancient traditions and religions. 

For example, we see the Maori people, who are native to New Zealand, as some of the first ancient tribes who incorporated face tattoos to signify social status. They would do so by making incisions to their skin then apply ink into their wounds. 

In the Southwest, ancient tribes would give facial tattoos to young girls by their elders to signify their rite of passage into womanhood. In other places like China, individuals would get facial tattoos to symbolize their religion and proudly display their spiritual beliefs. 

Cute Face Tattoo? History with Prisoners, Killers and Punks

Initially, getting a facial tattoo was originally for spiritual reasons or as a status symbol. 

However, face tattoos weren’t always used to signify proudness, spirituality or social status. They were also used as a brand to identify particular individuals as social pariahs their whole lives. 

Prisoners, slaves and outcasts often received marks or tattoos on their faces to signify a lack of acceptance by society. For example, a teardrop tattoo that prisoners wear symbolizes that they had taken someone’s life during their sentence in prison. 

Gangs and cult members would rely on using face tattoos to show their affiliation. One prominent example would be Charles Manson. He would carve X’s into his follower’s foreheads to indicate their exclusion from society. 

Manson later carved a Swastika into his head to show his hatred and insanity. At this time, many held a stigma for facial tattoos because of the criminal and abnormal nature connected to them. 

With the invention of the electric tattoo machine in the 1890s, tattoos gradually became more of a form of self-expression within collective groups like the punks. They were the first to decide to tattoo their faces for social disruption (unsurprisingly). These same punks and anarchists used tattoos to signify that they knew society would never accept them. This was especially prominent in the U.K.

Meanwhile, in the United States, it was becoming more common for gang members and similar folk on the fringes of society to tattoo their allegiance onto their faces. 

Many respectable tattoo artists will refuse to ink your face if the rest of your body has not been covered. Think of it as sort of a rite of passage.

Celebrity Face Tattoos

In the 21st century, facial tattoos have made a popular comeback, with many celebrities and music artists in the industry touting them. 

Music artists Lil Wayne and Birdman were the most notable celebrities to tattoo their faces in the beginning. Attitudes can change quickly in society, and this gave rise to even more popularity towards the idea of tattoos in the 90s and 2000s. Before you knew it, more “regular” people started to catch onto the trend as well. 

These days, celebrities like Post Malone get “stay away” tattooed on their faces just to disappoint their mothers. We look at a facial tattoo as more of a fashion trend than a symbol for a social pariah. 

The symbolism flipped after a rapper by the name of Gucci Mane got an ice cream cone tattooed on his face. He didn’t care what they thought of him: this was a big moment for the popularity of face tattoos, bringing it into the mainstream. I mean, even heartthrob J Biebs ended up getting one!

Now, a face tattoo can help turn you into an internet star on social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok or Twitter. The reason for this is because they can make your face easily recognizable, building your brand while at the same time giving you the possibility of skyrocketing to influencer fame. Although a tattoo isn’t a guarantee for clout and fame, this is the main appeal, especially for a younger cohort. 

Should You Get a Face Tattoo?

While we at Sage Tattoo and Art Gallery love the freedom of self-expression, we are in no way endorsing or advertising face tattoo ideas.

We think that right now, it is a trend. It’s essential to understand the repercussions of getting a tattoo somewhere extremely visible, like your face, especially when it could just be a phase.

There is also the matter of cultural appropriation. For example, when legendary boxing star Mike Tyson received his “tribal-inspired” facial tattoos, he also received some backlash. Especially from the Maori people, for appropriating their culture. 

Before getting a face tattoo, you should always consider what it will mean to you and how it will affect your lifestyle. While it may look cool for a while, think about how you feel about it in the future. 

It might be challenging to find a reputable tattoo artist to get the job done. In many cases because many don’t want to deal with client remorse. 

Plus, the skin on the face is a lot more fragile than anywhere else on your body. This means it is a lot more difficult to tattoo. Your potential tattoo artist needs to make sure that the needle doesn’t penetrate too deeply into the skin, as the lines will start to bleed.

You will need to find an artist who has experience doing facial tattoos and can guarantee that your tattoo will turn out the way you expect it. So there is no disappointment or regret in the long term.

Another good idea is to use henna or apply a temporary tattoo before taking a needle to your face. This way, you can live out your dream and see how your face tattoo will look and feel before committing to it for the rest of your life.

Lookin’ for a Reputable Tattoo Shop in Ottawa?

Sage Tattoo and Art Gallery is a premium Ottawa-based tattoo shop with friendly and knowledgeable staff. Getting a tattoo can be a celebratory and fun event, or it can be a bit nerve-wracking for a newbie. 

At Sage, we understand this. We are a dedicated team, providing you with the best experience to make your dream tattoo a reality. Contact us today for your consultation!