Tattoo Regret

With increasing popularity of tattoos comes an increase in second thoughts.

People who get a tattoo do so for a number of reasons. Whether it be artistic expression, group identification, cultural/spiritual recognition, or just plain rebelliousness, tattoos have cemented their place in mainstream America, and with television shows like Ink Master, Tattoo Rescue, and Bad Ink, it’s clear they are here to stay. On the other hand, more and more Americans seem to be suffering from tattoo regret, and thanks to recent advancements in skin care technology, blasting away their ink is becoming as simple as getting it done.

“A number of reasons can influence a person’s decision to seek tattoo removal,” says director of the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York, Dr. Roy G. Geronemus. “Young woman become mothers, people experience changes in work status, and sometimes it’s just a matter of maturity. We call it 'Tattoo Remorse.'"


A recent Harris Interactive poll asked 2,016 adults in the United States if they currently had a tattoo and, if so, what was their reasoning behind the tattoo. Results of the survey indicated that around one out of every five U.S. adults (21 percent) had at least one tattoo, with the majority (38 percent) lying between the age of 30 and 39. Americans between the ages of 25 and 29 accounted for 30 percent of the tattooed population while those aged 18 to 24 made up for 22 percent. Accounting for 16 percent of the survey, it seems Americans over the age of 50 aren’t afraid to show off their ink.

Around 25 percent of the respondents admitted their tattoo makes them feel rebellious and three out of 10 said their ink makes them feel sexy. Twenty-one percent said their tattoo made them feel strong, while 16 percent said it was a spiritual thing. Only nine percent of survey participants indicated their tattoo made them feel healthy, and only eight percent said attractive. Of those surveyed, 76 percent said they had never regretted their decision to get a tattoo, but that thought may change as they get older.


According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), tattoo removal is on the rise and people are paying top dollar to clean up their skin. The number of tattoo removal procedures in the U.S. reached 45,224 in 2015 compared to 40,801 procedures in 2013. Women seem to be having the hardest time with their ink, seeing as they accounted for 32,888 (72.7 percent) of procedures. The amount of money paid for tattoo removal treatments also experienced a steep increase, doubling from 2013 to 2015. In 2015, the national average for tattoo removal procedures topped $1000.

Judging by the ASAPS’s recent figures, the average American's reaching of mid-life caused them to rethink their decision to keep their ink. Out of all ages, 35 to 50-year-olds accounted for 19,046 of tattoo removals preformed in 2015. Even more surprising, Baby Boomers have started to seek laser removal in record numbers. For the first time in the ASAPS’s Cosmetic Surgery National Data Bank’s history, Americans over the age of 65 have made a dent in tattoo removal with 424 procedures being attributed to this group.

“As more people continue to get tattoos, the more people are having tattoos removed,” added Dr. Geronemus, who is also a clinical professor of dermatology at NYU Medical Center. “With recent advancements in skin care technology, tattoo removal has become significantly easier. For example, in the past the colors blue and green have been problematic in removing from the skin. However, today these colors have become increasingly easier to remove.”

Fortunately for everyone, this evolving technology is providing new pathways toward resolving these "mistakes of youth", or simply facilitating changes in personal taste and maturity. This is an exciting time to be aware of and take notice of these rapid changes, and to realize that your relationship with your tattoo may no longer have to be thought of as