The 7 Most Common Tattoos Women Get Removed, According To Laser Surgeons

by Eva Taylor Grant

Getting a tattoo removed, because of the time, cost, and discomfort, can feel like an even more major decision than getting a tattoo in the first place. So if you're looking into getting a new tattoo, or curious about whether it will stand the test of time, knowing about the most commonly removed tattoos can be an interesting added perspective.

Tattoo removal is not as uncommon, or scary, as it seems. "More and more people are getting their tattoos removed," Dr. Howard Sobel, cosmetic dermatological surgeon, tells Bustle. "This could be due to the fact they are bored with their tattoos, no longer want them to be visible, or the original meaning behind them has worn out its welcome." And laser surgeons see a lot of these removals, so they start to get some insight into what may be getting removed the most.

"Tattoo removals varies widely," Claudio Sorrentino, CEO and Founder of Body Details, tells Bustle. "Because each person typically purchases a tattoo in an effort to express themselves uniquely, the types of tattoos being removed range from cartoon characters to portraits of family members. That being said, there are some that seemingly are more commonly removed than others." While every tattoo is different, certain themes recur.

Here are the seven most common tattoos women get removed, according to laser surgeons.


An Ex's Name

According to a survey of RealSelf doctors, an ex’s name is the most commonly removed tattoo, with 78 percent of doctors surveyed saying that's the tattoo they remove the most.

"We have so many stories of women (and men) who come in wanting an ex's name removed," RealSelf plastic surgeon Dr. David Shafer, tells Bustle. "I even had one women who had, just the day prior to seeing me, had her boyfriend's name tattooed along her entire forearm." Denise Richards, Iggy Azalea, and Angelina Jolie have also all gotten ex's names removed, so this trend goes all the way to the stars.


Lower Back Tattoos

In the celebrity tattoo-removal club, Khloé Kardashian is perhaps the most famous example of lower back tattoo removal. This early-aughts trend, however, is now a trend in tattoo removal.

"We’ve been doing a lot of lower back tattoo removals on women," Susan Bard, MD, of Manhattan Dermatology Specialists, tells Bustle. While some may decide to keep this nostalgic memento, others are finding it doesn't stand the test of time.


Drunken Tattoos

While not all tattoos done on an inebriated whim end up being future regrets, laser surgeons do tend to see tattoos done when drunk — whatever they're of — being removed more than others.

"We frequently remove the tattoos that are done on a whim often after a night of drinking," Sorrentino says. "Far too often we get calls the night after from interested clients who woke up after an evening of bad decisions with tattoos such as a [partner's] initials or [another] ... tattoo that was funny at the time." Even years down the line, clients may realize they no longer want this permanent mark of a spontaneous decision.


Trends That Have Faded

Getting a trendy tattoo may feel incredibly tempting, but more classic tattoo designs tend to be removed less. And laser surgeons have recently noticed certain trends of the last few decades becoming more and more common in their offices.

"[It's common for people to remove] anything that was once popular, but now is an indicator of age," Sorrentino says. "For example, the barbed wire or tribal tattoos that were so popular in the late '80s and '90s are now just a permanent time stamp of a trend that died off long ago." Some day, certain Pinterest and Instagram trends may end up in this boat.


Tattoos From Teen Years

Some teenage tattoos end up being lifelong joys, but others end up feeling less impressive over the years. And certain teenage tattoo images, like birds, flowers, and butterflies, are particularly common for laser surgeons to see removed.

"The most common tattoos that are being removed are flowers and butterflies," Zara Harutyunyan, D.O.M., AGNP, MSN, leading clinician at LA’s Cosmetic Rejuvenation Medical Center (CRMC), tells Bustle. "Most of these tattoos were done when the girls were young, like 18 year old.” While current teenage tattoo trends may differ, these youthful images may still not end up standing the test of time.


Tattoos In Very Visible Areas

While some may be concerned about tattoo location and others aren't, lifestyles do change through the years, and laser surgeons see clients come in who no longer feel they can display a tattoo in the same way.

"We’re also doing a lot of tattoo removal on the ankles and fingers, as these women often times find themselves in jobs that don’t allow for tattoos in visible areas," Dr. Bard says. While a lot of workplaces are becoming more tattoo-friendly, surgeons still see people getting tattoos removed for new social or work settings.


Aging Tattoos They Want Updated

While the concept of tattoo removal may conjure the concept of an unwanted tattoo, surgeons say that often a removal procedure is actually an act of love for an aging tattoo.

"It is extremely common for tatted women to come see me for 'partial removal' or a 'fade' so that they can enhance with a different design," Graceanne Svendsen, cosmetic laser specialist at Shafer Plastic + Laser Center, tell Bustle. "It's not so much that they regret at all doing the original artwork, but see the tattoos as a living, breathing piece of moving art that they want to edit and improve upon." This common removal isn't about shame or disconnect from the tattoo, but rather a new step in the tattoo's lifecycle.

While there isn't necessarily a concrete study of the most commonly removed tattoos, laser surgeons who see a lot of clients do notice what kinds of tattoos they remove more than others. For these women clients, removals aren't always an act of shame, but rather an adjustment for a new stage in life.