Removing Tattoos: Who Does It and Why

Study Shows More Women Than Men Decide to Get Rid of a Tattoo

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on July 21, 2008

July 21, 2008 -- It seemed a good idea at the time. But you were young, wild, and in love with Roland. Now you are getting married to Ed and you want Roland's name off your right calf.

It seems that when it comes to getting tattoos removed, more women than men go in for the procedure.

Researchers compared results of a 1996 study to a 2006 study looking at how people feel about their tattoos. Participants were people who came to four dermatology clinics in Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Texas.

The study was led by Myrna L. Armstrong, RD, EdD, of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.

In background information presented with the findings, the researchers write "the vast majority of individuals who are tattooed are pleased with their skin markings (up to 83%)."

Apparently about a fifth are estimated to be unhappy with their tattoos, while "only about 6% seek removal."

In the 2006 study, researchers interviewed 196 tattooed people; 130 of them were women and 66 were men.

The researchers found that today more women (69%) than men (31%) came in to get tattoos removed.

According to the 2006 study, a typical woman who gets a tattoo is between the ages of 24 and 29.

Most women with tattoos are white, college educated, and unmarried. They describe themselves as "risk takers, from stable families, with moderate to strong religious beliefs."

More women are motivated to get the tattoo removed because of pressure from others or social stigma.

The top six reasons both men and women gave for tattoo removal:

  • 58% just decided to remove it.
  • 57% suffered embarrassment.
  • 38% had lowered body image.
  • 38% new job/career.
  • 37% problem with clothes.
  • 25% experienced stigma.

(Do you have tattoos? Have you ever considered having any removed? Talk with others on the Health Cafe board.)

Why People Get Tattoos

The 2006 study shows people get tattoos for these reasons:

  • 44% wanted to feel unique.
  • 33% wanted to feel independent.
  • 28% wanted to bring attention to a particular life experience.

The researchers write that one out of four American adults aged 18 to 30 has a tattoo.

In both studies, the main reason for wanting to get rid of a tattoo was that people had a "shift in their identities," and wanted to do away with the past.

The findings appear in the Archives of Dermatology.

Show Sources


Armstrong, M. Archives of Dermatology, 2008; vol 144: pp. 879-884.

JAMA news release.

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