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Motivation for removal


There are a number of studies published in academic journals that investigate the reason for tattoo removal. For example, according to a study by Armstrong, et al. (1966), motive for removal, cost in terms of pain, money, and risk of scarring influenced decision to remove a tattoo. The researchers gave a questionnaire to 64 males and 41 females from ages 17 to 62 at a laser dermatology clinic. Results indicated participants obtained their tattoos with the motivation at an early age of establishing an identity; now that they had matured they wished to disassociate with that identity. Armstrong et. al. (1996) surveyed 105 tattooed individuals and found the following reasons given for tattoo removal were: feel better about myself; tired of tattoo; increase credibility with peers; prevent people judging me; separate from earlier life experiences; and remove a label associated with a bad group. In a 2008 study by Armstrong and colleagues, they found that now more women than men were seeking tattoo removal. Those desiring tattoo removal cited that their quest for uniqueness turned into a stigma, negative comments regarding their tattoo and problems with clothing choices..

A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology by Varma and Lanigan (1999) investigated the psychological and social impact of tattoo removal. In their study 71% of participants had recieved their tattoos before the legal age of 18 years old. The main reason given for getting the tattoo was for the sake of fashion. On average patients regretted their tattoos for 14 years until they decided to remove it. Reasons given for tattoo removal were improving self-esteem and social reasons. In another study by the same authors, they found the following reasons for getting a tattoo: fashionable (45%), peer pressure (22%), under the influence of drugs/alcohol at the time (13%), because of "sheer stupidity" (7%), because they were in love (6%). Main reasons for removal were self esteem improvement and decreasing social stigmatizing.

A study by Shelton and Peters (2008) looked at the correspondence between reasons to acquire and remove tattoos (see table).

Reasons for tattoo acquisition

Commemorate life event
Symbol of personal identity
Statement of spirituality
Control over the body
Body aesthetics
Mark group affiliation
Relationship vow
Initiation rite

Reasons for tattoo removal

Sever ties with previous life period
Loss of art value or uniqueness
Peer pressure in purchase decision
Impression management
Repair body aesthetics
End group affiliation
End of relationship
Social rejection
Family pressure


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