Gone are the days when to warrant a skull tattoo you had to listen to death metal, draw for badly applied kohl pencil around the eyes and have the A for Anarchy Tipexed on your low riding rucksack despite your only act of anarchy being the time you stole a Bunsen Burner from school to hold a séance in your mum’s back garden.

Enter the sugar skull. 

Each November, Mexicans take to the streets to celebrate the Day of the Dead. Spirits of the deceased are invited to come back to earth for a bit of a knees up and sugar skulls play an important part of the ritual.

LI-RGC-DDP-002cTraditionally sugar skulls are made of clay moulded sugar and painted with intrinsic patterns in vibrant colours and they are nothing short of beautiful. Marigolds (Mexico’s native flower) are often placed within the eye sockets as their bright colour and pungent smell are thought to lure spirits, but just about anything goes; feathers, glitter, gem stones etc. The name of the deceased is written on the skull’s forehead and placed on the alter as an offering. 

These, dare I say it, cheerful skulls are increasingly being celebrated the world over, particularly in the form of tattoos. Could this surge in sugar skull tattoos indicate a shake-up of Western attitudes towards mortality?

image (7)Skulls have been a powerful source of inspiration for tattoo art in Western culture but typically they symbolise the brutality of death, decay and all things macabre. In Mexico however, mourning the deceased isn’t a sombre affair. Death is seen as a gateway to another life and the journey is celebrated. 

I see it like this, death doesn’t discriminate, you can try as you like to transcend death but it’s coming to us all so we may as well make peace with it, right?

image (6)Sugar skulls make beautiful tattoos and work in black and grey and colour and in every tattoo style. Whether it’s a neo-traditional 2D sugar skull or a realist portrait of a woman with Day of the Dead face paint, skulls have come into the mainstream. 

So there you have it. If you’re thinking about having a sugar skull tattoo, pop into the studio and let’s run through some ideas. Alternatively send us an email at or get in touch with Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. 

And remember, as Elbert Hubbard so aptly put it: “Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.”


Jess is our shop manager/PR guru at Parlour. She scribbles a weekly post giving her undiluted opinions on tattoos and the industry for the heavily inked and those that are yet to feel the wrath of the tattoo machine!