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April 1996

Motivation for Tattoo Removal

Arch Dermatol. 1996;132(4):412-416. doi:10.1001/archderm.1996.03890280068009

Background and Design:  Motivational issues surrounding tattoo removal are important to understand because tattooing is flourishing, thus creating many requests for tattoo removal. A descriptive study and a 67-item survey were used to examine characteristics of tattooed patients seeking laser therapy for tattoo removal. The setting was the Laser Dermatology Center, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, a large metropolitan ambulatory clinic. Patients queried were 64 tattooed males and 41 tattooed females between the ages of 17 and 62 years with a wide variety of vocational and professional occupations. We assessed risk factors surrounding tattooing decisions and experiences that might later influence their motivation to have the tattoos removed by laser therapy.

Results:  Motivation, treatment, and cost, in terms of money, pain, and risk of disfigurement all entered into the decision making to have the tattoos removed. Strong elements of purchase and possesion risks were documented as well as an improved sense of self and maturity. The patient's maturation was in contrast to the notion of a waiting room filled with ill-behaved stereotypical tattooed individuals. Most participants impulsively obtained their tattoos for internal expectations of self-identity at an early age and were still internally motivated to dissociate from the past and improve self-identity.

Conclusions:  Poor decision making and subsequent personal regret seem to be frequent motivations for tattoo removal, thus viable methods and accessibility to tattoo removal programs are important. In addition, educational programs for adolescents about tattooing to reduce risks and promote dissuasion should be implemented.(Arch Dermatol. 1996;132:412-416)