But regardless of motivation, perhaps the most striking statistic was the gender ratio of the patients seeking tattoo removal: 69 percent women versus 31 percent men. The observed gap was a big shift from the breakdown of an earlier study the research team had conducted in 1996, in which more men then women had been seeking tattoo removal.
In the current study, women were also found to be experiencing more negative reactions to their tattoo than men, whether in a public, workplace or school setting -- often forcing them to cover up their tattoo with make-up and bandages.
Armstrong and her team offered women a practical tactic for coping with such stigma.
"I want to stress that we are not being judgmental at all," she noted. "But we recommend that women might think about controlling where the body placement of their tattoo is, so they have control over how it's exposed, and don't have to show it if they don't want to."
Dr. Jeffrey S. Orringer, an associate professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and director of the university's Cosmetic Dermatology & Laser Center, said the findings make "nice sense" and dovetail with his own patient experience.
"And there are a lot of reasons we can speculate as to why," added Orringer. "Women's clothing certainly tends to reveal more of the chest or lower leg area, whereas for men in a business setting, a shirt and tie is covering these areas. And women tend to go through transitions -- both professional and social -- in their 20s, where they might come to feel that what plays on the college campus may not be appropriate in the board roo
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