I stumbled across an article on the Durango Herald the other day titled ‘When Ink Stinks’. As if the title wasn’t bad enough, the tagline, or subtitle, of the article is ’60 percent of people with tattoos have regrets’.
This figure is over 4 times higher than the latest data that I am aware of, so of course I wanted to know where it came from. Reading the first paragraph, it was immediately obvious that the author did a bit of research on the history of tattoos based on her mention of Ötzi the Iceman. Score 1 for Wikipedia. Next up was some statistical data taken from the recent Harris Poll on tattoos. Conspicuously missing from this data was the stat showing that only 14% of people with tattoos had any regret.
Reading further, I finally found it. A quote from Patty Purcell, licensed Esthetician and Managing partner at Four Corners Laser & Aesthetics.
“Durango is pretty tattoo-friendly, but 60 percent of people with tattoos have regrets. I haven’t even started really marketing yet, but I already have a waiting list,” said Purcell.
This is something that I have seen over and over again. People in the tattoo removal business always grossly overestimate the number of people who want tattoos removed and isn’t hard to figure out why. The target audience of the tattoo removal business is obviously going to be people with tattoo regrets. I would expect to see a similarly inflated number if a tattoo artist was asked about the percentage of people wanting tattoos, based on the people visiting a tattoo shop.
The worst part is that the author is obviously aware of the Harris Poll which directly contradicts the figure published in the article, so there really is no excuse.
Publishing figures like this only helps to perpetuate the stereotypes commonly associated with tattooed people. While not a truly negative stereotype, the idea that a majority of people will eventually grow to regret their tattoos is frequently used as ammo against tattoos in general and paints a very inaccurate picture of people with tattoos. Some anti-tattoo people see it as a huge “I told you so” and in their minds it validates the idea that tattoos are a bad decision.
Another important, but often overlooked, fact about tattoo removal is that just because a person has a tattoo removed, doesn’t mean they regret all of their tattoos. It simply means they no longer want that particular tattoo. Whether it is removing the name of an ex boyfriend or girlfriend, or just making space for a newer and bigger tattoo, removal is not an admission that you now hate tattoos. Can you claim someone regrets their tattoos if they have a single piece removed, even though they are otherwise covered in ink?
Until someone can show me new data to prove otherwise, the fact remains that an overwhelming majority (86%) of people with tattoos do not regret them.