Scott McLennan


Lets face it tattooing is very popular. Some think it is sexy, for some it is a cultural right of passage, and for others they couldn’t think of anything worse. 

I remember working in the 90’s with an elderly opinionated general physician who always muttered under his breath when we reviewed patients with tattoos “tales of a misspent youth”. 

The popularity and the adoption of tattooing among the generation-X during the 1990s were indeed huge, and now leaves a very large proportion of that generation decorated with ink. Yesterday’s rebels are now today’s professionals. Leaving behind some very interesting statistics:

  • In 1936 – 2% of Americans had tattoos. (Life magazine)
  • The National Geographic News stated in April 2000 that 15% of Americans were tattooed (or approximately 40 million people!)
  • Esquire Magazine estimated in March 2002 that 1 in 8 Americans was tattooed.
  • In 2003 16% of Americans had one or more tattoos, (Harris Polls)
  • In 2006 36% of 18-25 year olds had tattoos (pew Research Centre)
  • In 2006 40% of 26 to 40 year olds had tattoos (Pew Research Centre)
  • A 2006 study done by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that 24% of Americans between 18 and 50 are tattooed; that’s almost one in four. And the survey showed that about 36% of Americans age 18 to 29 have at least one tattoo!
  • According to the American Society of Dermatological Surgery, they stated in 2005, that of all the people they treat with laser and light therapy, only 6% are getting a tattoo removed.
  • In 2008 14% of Americans had one or more tattoos. (Harris Polls)
  • Over 50% of kids and adults say they have tried temporary tattoos. 

No longer seen as taboo, the popularity of tattoos and temporary tattoos highlights that skin ink is here to stay and even increase in prevalence – here is some data that may surprise you about tattoo internet searches: 

  • Back tattoos rank the highest in searches (lower, upper and all over). But, not far behind: necks, arms, wrists and ankles. Unmentionables also rank fairly high. 
  • Angelina Joley’s tattoos rank the highest in the celebrity category closely followed by: Nicole Richie, Alyssa Milano and heavy metal rockers Metallica. 

Some interesting things that people have to say about tattoos today include: 

  • Three in Ten Americans with a Tattoo say having one makes them feel sexier.
  • Just under half of adults without a Tattoo say they would like to get one in the future.
  • Most people with a tattoo say they plan to get more tattoos or purchase more temporary tattoos.  

In the past five years, much has been discussed about the stigmas of those with tattoos. But, that does not seem to have much of an impact of the number of people who have them as just 2 percent fewer Americans say they have tattoos. Also, the number of people who regret their tattoo has also not really changed in the past five years. There is a trend now though that shows that the number of younger people (under 18) continue to shun tattoos. If that continues as younger teens hit 18, there may be a change in those having tattoos in the long run. 

So with all the popularity of getting a tattoo, what is the popularity of getting them removed?

Well simply with only 6% of people being treated with laser and light therapies seeking tattoo removal, we probably need more research into how this translates into the true number of people being treated. But essentially the anecdotal discussions amongst clinicians is that the number of tattoo removal procedures performed each year is projected to grow. 


So sometimes people get tattoos they may regret, or they are in the wrong spot, or they are not as meaningful now as what they once were. Removing tattoos though is not easy – and certainly not as easy as getting one. With different colours, different pigments and different depths at which the ink is placed each complexing the task more and more. Tattoo removal lasers are also very different and the practitioners trying to remove them are extremely different . Depending on who they are, how qualified they are, and how experienced they are they are able to make adjustments to target different aspects of each tattoo. Black and Blue pigments are often the easier to remove; however greens, organs and yellows can be very difficult to remove and often leave scars. Tattoo removal lasers are programmed to use precisely the right laser wavelengths to destroy the difficult to remove colored ink from within the epidermis without damaging the surrounding tissue.

Each procedure takes about 30 minutes to complete, and physicians normally charge between $150 and $300 per treatment. Treatment packages range from 6-12 procedures on average, spaced out 4-6 weeks, is usually required to effectively eliminate all traces of the tattoo from the patient’s skin. This means that each tattoo removed generally costs around $2000.

It is rare for a beauty parlors and laser clinics to have the right laser and skill to remove tattoos however doing an appropriate amount of research into the clinician and the technology they have will assist in ensuring the best result for each tattoo, with hopefully little scarring or damage.

However, the best way to remove a tattoo is to probably not get it in the first place. Prevention is always better than cure, or just make sure that the tattoo that you invest in today, you will still want tomorrow. 

Nevertheless I still do think there are some amazing tattoos, and then there are some lets just say “interesting” tattoos – that you just know will cause the person wearing them some regret in the future.







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