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Social stigma drives some women to remove tattoos

July 21, 2008 |  4:08 pm

Tattoo It appears sexism is alive and well when it comes to 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 today in the Archives of Dermatology. Previous studies have shown that about 20% of people end up dissatisfied with their tattoos, and about 6% 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 2006. 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 2006 survey, women also reported that they felt stigmatized by the tattoos. For example, 93% said having to hide the tattoos on occasion was a factor in the removal compared with 20% of men. About 40% of women endured negative comments at work, in public or in school compared with 5% of men.

So, ladies, think about that tattoo before you get it. And when you get it, think long and hard about where you're putting it.

"Societal support for women with tattoos may not be as strong as for men," said the authors from Texas Tech university. "Rather than having visible tattoos, women may still want to choose self-controlled body site placement, even in our contemporary society."

-- Shari Roan

Photo: Laser removal of a tattoo. L.A. Times/Beatrice de Gea

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