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More women in Singapore getting tattoos

Singapore Showbiz
22 July 2013

More members of the fairer sex are walking into tattoo parlors in Singapore these days.

Yahoo! Singapore spoke to eight tattoo artists and they all reported an increase in the number of females getting inked.

Females made up about 10 to 20 per cent of the client base a decade ago, but now they make up as much as 50 per cent.

The tattoo artists attribute the rise to more discreet tattoo styles gaining popularity around the world, as well as pictures of tattoos circulating on social media,

These types of tattoos appeal to females as they are not too “unladylike” and are more of a fashion statement, they explained.

UV ink, for example, became big about five to ten years ago.

White ink requests started trickling in three to five years back, and are now at an all-time high.

In contrast, men tend to get more “classic” types of tattoos such as dragons and mountains, and mostly in normal ink.

White ink

Tattoo artists in the city-state currently see about 10 to 30 requests for white-ink tattoos each month, mostly from female clients.

This type of tattoo, which is created by injecting white dye into the skin, has been made popular by celebrities such as Lindsay Lohan, who has a white ink tattoo on her wrist.

"Image heavy applications, such as Instagram and Tumblr, mean people have access to tattoo types and designs. They pick up trends and become more interested in getting a tattoo. White ink tattoos are making their rounds these days," Joe Finch of Ink by Finch, a 37-year-old tattoo artist who has been in the industry for 11 years, said.

Singaporeans, who as a group are generally conscious about how society may perceive an inked body, also welcome tattoos that depart from the traditionally harsh black or coloured tattoos. White ink tattoos, which are subtle, and UV ink, which can only be seen under blacklight, help safeguard one's image of being clean-cut, he added.

At the peak of UV tattoos’ popularity, about five to 10 years ago, artists saw roughly the same number of requests as they see for white ink each month at present.

The artists expect the demand for white-ink tattoos to continue growing and surpass that of UV as social media exposes people to more tattooed bodies and makes getting inked less of a taboo.

Choosing a design

The artists interviewed all agreed it is imperative to choose a design with a strong personal meaning and attachment, instead of the image du jour.

As many people decide to simply pick a tattoo design off the Internet, a once unique design ends up with replicas all over the world.

Tattoo ink types come into fashion and go out of fashion, as do designs, explained Joseph Siow, 34, of Visual Orgasm.

Siow, who has been in the line for 11 years, has witnessed the passing of time through tattoo trends. Once sought-after images of barbed wires, tribal symbols and nautical stars have now entered the category of faux pas to avoid.

“The only way to really love and enjoy your tattoo years down the road is if you really feel for it, and not get it on a whim or to be trendy,” he explained.

“And if you don’t want your personalised tattoo design to end up on someone else’s skin, don’t put it online,” he advised.

Demand for birds, single words or quotes, and dream-catchers is high these days.

“I do a bird or feather-related piece every other day,” said Vince Tan, 28, a freelance tattoo artist. “It’s really big now, and can become kind of a cliche.”

The rest echo his observation.

“Often, a client comes in with a print-out of a tattoo of the internet, and asks us to replicate it,” Tan said.

Artists usually try to dissuade such pieces, and may suggest ways to personalise it, he added.


Watercolour-style tattoos are new on the Singapore scene, and artists have so far seen only a handful of inquiries.

The softer, faded style, reminiscent of textured brushstrokes, are difficult to master, and can cost twice as much as other styles. They also tend to fade faster than the usual coloured tattoos, as they are applied with a lighter hand.

“I’ve only done a few of them, but I think more people will be asking for them in time to come,” Joe said.

Scarification, a type of body modification, is something else to look out for.

Scarification attempts to form specially-designed, raised, pinkish-red scars. The result is similar to a tattoo, but achieved through methods such as etching or burning, instead of ink.

Sylvia Thong, a freelance tattoo artist, said scarification is still very rare in Singapore and it is hard to find places that offer this service.

She has a self-inflicted scar-like white ink tattoo on her forearm. While the method used to achieve the scarring effect is different from usual scarification techniques, the final product is similar in texture.

She decided to get it done to "test out new tattooing methods on myself".

The tattoo is about four years old, and despite its prominent placing which regularly sees sun, it has not faded, unlike most white-ink tattoos.

She is happy with the end result, and thus would be glad to accede to client requests for a tattoo of this style, she said.

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