The Astronomical Rise in Tattoo Removal Doesn’t Mean People Should Get Bad Tattoos

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The process that one goes through to get a tattoo removed is long and arduous, much more than the tattoo itself. Despite that, removing that snap-decision you made in college is becoming increasingly popular. The tattoo removal industry gained a 440 percent increase in popularity in the last decade, making an estimated $75.5 million in revenue. This number shouldn’t surprise most.

While estimates say people ages 20 to 29 are most likely to get inked, those getting their tats removed are primarily in their 30s and 40s. That’s a decade or two for regret to sink in. New parents and seasoned professionals are looking at their inked skin and saying, “hey, I probably shouldn’t have gotten that fairy smoking a joint above my ass because my kids now call it my butt-erfly.” And rightfully so. 

In 1961, the city of New York banned tattooing. The ban was finally dropped in 1997, which led to the backlash of people bum rushing to get inked. Let’s do some math. It’s 2014, which means tattoos were legalized in NYC 17 years ago. If you add 17 and 18, the legal age to get tattooed (and most likely when people in the 90s were getting tattooed), you get 35, the median age of people now apparently getting tattoo removals. Convenient.

I don’t think it has anything to do with the ease of access to removal technology or the fact that this generation is obsessed with impermanence. I think it has more to do with the fact that people in the 80s and 90s were getting tattooed because it was the ‘new’ thing to do. It was the rebellious, cool, hip thing to do. To get tribal bands wrapped around biceps and naked chicks sitting atop skulls on forearms. Breeds of these same undying tat trends still exist today, but that’s another story.

Regret plays a lot into the removal of tattoos, but the new turn to removal might have more to do with who we are when we get old tattoos and how different we feel from that person years later. Over time, changes in lifestyle or careers or relationships can sculpt us. The tattoos we got — as nice as they are — might not reflect who we are today. The article references Johnny Ford, who instead of removal, covered up his “voluptuous nude fairy with wings riding a guitar” (if that isn’t the most 80s tattoo, I don’t know what is). Melanie Griffith, who sparked the conversation about tattoo removal, had Antonio Banderas’s name removed from her arm forever, both a literal and metaphoric choice.

While I may not love all the tattoos I have on my body for one reason or another, I still choose to keep them. Call it stubbornness, but I decided to get it done, so it’s there to stay.

What makes me the most nervous is the fact that people may more often get shitty work done because the “permanent” aspect of tattoos no longer exists and that gives a bad name to the tattoo industry. Tattoos are art and should be treated as such. It’s not a pen drawing of a rose you did on your wrist while you were bored in your lecture class in college. It’s something you put a good amount of money into and assume it will be on your skin, forever. You don’t get a receipt with your tattoo in case you want to return it. So don’t go into getting tattooed with the assurance that you can one day get it removed. You should want it to be there for good. It’s your skin.