Here today... still here tomorrow

Dr Caroline Owen
Dr Caroline Owen

Tattoos are more popular now – and more socially acceptable – than ever before, but is is a temporary fashion whim with permanent results that many could live to regret?

Dermatology specialists at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust have been praised for their research into tattoos.

Dr Caroline Owen, Consultant Dermatologist at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and her colleague, Registrar Arif Aslam, travelled to a national conference in Birmingham to present the results of their study “Fashions change but tattoos are forever: time to regret”.

A significant number of people regret having a tattoo, and the longer they have had one the more likely this becomes. With a tattoo parlour popping up on every high street and the popularity of tattoos increasing, the study – presented at the British Association of Dermatologists’ Annual Conference – seems timely.

Trust Registrar and author of the study, Arif Aslam, said: “We feel it is important for people to know that it’s very likely that one day they will regret their tattoo. They are not that easy to remove and unwanted tattoos can affect people’s life chances and cause them upset and unhappiness.”

The study used a questionnaire and took place over a six-month period within the dermatology department at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust. Patients (aged 16 or over) who had a visible tattoo during general skin examinations were asked to complete the questionnaire which looked at age, the age at which the tattoo was acquired, whether it was done by an amateur or a professional, how long they had had it, whether they had other tattoos, the site of the tattoo, whether they still liked it and whether they would have it removed if they could.

As the basis of the study 580 responses were analysed with a split of 53% men and 47% women. The responses revealed that:

l Most tattoos were done by a professional

l Half of the patients were over 40

l 45% of the patients had their first tattoo done aged between 18 and 25 years old

l Almost half had between two and five tattoos

l Almost one third regretted their tattoo

l Men were more likely to regret their tattoo than women

l Men were three times more likely to regret their tattoo if it was done when they were under 16 years of age

l Women over the age of 21 at the time of their first tattoo were the least likely to regret it.

l Most patients who regretted getting a tattoo had them on their upper body.

l Fewer than half those who regretted their tattoos would have them removed.

Dr Caroline Owen, added: “From our research we found that many of the people we questioned regretted their tattoo/s, therefore we’d encourage members of the public to have a ‘cooling’ off period or to seriously think about what effects getting a tattoo may have on their lives in the future.”