Tattoo artist Hyun Gi Park on why we are so obsessed with face tattoos

Conversation with Hyun Gi Park

I say face tattoo, you say Aryan Brotherhood (or another gang). Famous face tattoo wearers like Mike Tyson and Charles Manson conformed to the stereotype of the rough character but we’re seeing a change nowadays with models and multi-color haired Soundcloud rappers. 


Historically, face tattoos were – and are still – observable among tribes all around the world. In the Berber culture, tattoo designs and carpet motifs come from the same root. The most important tattoo, vertical between the lower lip and the point of the chin, was performed on girls reaching sexual maturity. It was meant to foster fertility and protect against evil.

Six thousand miles away from Morocco is Burma, another country where women sport traditional face tattoos. Full facial tattoos became part of Chin culture nearly a thousand years ago. The origin of the tradition is obscure but folklore in the region suggests that it was used to make women more desirable.

Having a face tattoo is a statement of adhering to a non-conforming life. – Hyun Gi Park, tattoo artist

We spoke with tattoo artist Hyun Gi Park about the face tattoo trend:

As a face-tatted tattoo artist, how do you perceive face tattoos in the age of Soundcloud rappers?

Having a face tattoo is a statement of adhering to a non-conforming life. Though still seen as somewhat taboo, they have in a sense become more normalized through social media.

So, according to you, why are we so obsessed with face tattoos?

Tattoos are permanent on the body, but the idea of the impermanence of life has encouraged youth to do things previous generations would see as taboo. Social media celebrates and creates exposure for taboos, and we have always been obsessed with taboos. My parents still don’t know about my face tattoo and my family in Korea have no idea about my tattoos… turtlenecks and cover-up help.