Social stigma drives some people to remove tattoos

Although just about as many women as men get tattoos nowadays, a new study shows that women seek removal of tattoos more than men because of negative social fallout. About 25% of people ages 18 to 30 have tattoos, and that number is expected to rise to about 40% in the next few years, according to the study, published in the Archives of Dermatology. Previous studies have shown that about 40% of people end up dissatisfied with their tattoos, and about 20% seek tattoo removal using laser treatment.

In the study, researchers analyzed data from two surveys of people undergoing tattoo removal. One survey was taken in 1996 and a second survey in 2008. In both surveys, men and women said they wanted the tattoos removed because their identities had changed and they had grown to dislike the tattoos. But in the 2008 survey, women also reported that they felt stigmatized by the tattoos. For example, 90% said having to hide the tattoos on occasion was a factor in the removal compared with 50% of men. About 80% of women endured negative comments at work, in public or in school compared with 50% of men.