July 21, 2008 / 8:15 PM / 11 years ago

Women more likely than men to erase tattoos

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tattoos have become increasingly popular among U.S. young people, but women may be more likely than men to regret getting their “body art” so much that they try to have it removed, researchers said on Monday.

File photo shows a tattooed spectator awaiting the start of the Punk and Rock'n'Roll fashion show on a moving underground train as part of Berlin Fashion Week July 17, 2008. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

About a quarter of Americans ages 18 to 30 have at least one tattoo, and this figure is expected to jump to 40 percent in the next few years, the researchers said.

Along with lots of happy customers — an estimated 80 percent are pleased with their tattoos — some are so unhappy that they undergo laser treatment to have them erased. An estimated 6 percent of tattoo customers eventually undergo procedures to erase them.

A team led by Texas Tech University’s Myrna Armstrong went to tattoo removal clinics in Arizona, Colorado, Massachusetts and Texas to see who was getting rid of their tattoos and why.

About two-thirds of them were women. And many said their tattoos had caused them embarrassment, drawn negative comments and created problems when choosing clothing to cover them up.

A similar study a decade ago found that more men than women sought tattoo removal, the researchers said.

“You can’t go to a wedding these days without seeing one bridesmaid with a tattoo on her back. But there are still a lot of people in our society who have problems with that. So anybody who gets a tattoo takes a social risk,” Armstrong said in a telephone interview.

The women in the study, published in the journal Archives of Dermatology, said they were pleased with their tattoos when they got them, but changed their mind within a few years. Women are estimated to make up about half of those getting tattoos.

The people in the study got their tattoos at around age 20 and had them removed around age 30.

Armstrong said tattoo removal is no fun, with the repeated laser treatments being described as being smacked over and over with a rubber band, or like hot grease against the skin. Some tattoos resist removal even with repeated treatments.

For those not ready to commit to a tattoo for a lifetime, Armstrong said a new type of tattoo ink can be readily erased.

Editing by Maggie Fox

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