How Much People Spend on Tattoos and Other Amazing Facts About Ink in America

Amazing Facts Tattoos


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Amazing Facts Tattoos

Ink Again

Humans have been tattooing their bodies for thousands of years — the 5,300-year-old corpse of a man found in the Alps near the Italian-Austrian border was covered in them. It's the earliest known evidence of an art becoming increasingly common and socially accepted. (Remember when tattoos were a sign of a troublemaker?) In fact, more than 4 in 10 people in the United States have at least one tattoo, according to data from Statista. Here's a closer look at some of the more unexpected and eye-opening facts and attitudes related to ink in America.

Related: 30 Cheap Choices That Can Cost You in the Long Run

As Many as 145 Million of Us Have Tattoos …

As Many as 145 Million Americans Have Tattoos …

Statista spoke with 1,021 people for its survey, standing in for the 329 million people counted in the U.S. Census — and 44% said they had one or more tattoos, for a representative 145 million people. Most people (35%) have just one tattoo, and the number of people goes down as the number of tattoos goes up:

  • Two or three tattoos: 19%
  • Four or five tattoos: 18%
  • 11 to 20 tattoos: 9%
  • More than 20 tattoos: 3%

Still, that means about 4.4 million Americans have more than 20 tattoos on their bodies.

… But We Still Think People With Tattoos Are Rebels

… But People With Tattoos Are Still Considered Rebels

Asked how they would describe people with tattoos, 40% of respondents (hmm, roughly the same number who have tattoos!) said, "Rebellious." That was followed by:

  • Attractive (39%)
  • Spiritual (35%)
  • Respectable (29%)
  • Intelligent (28%)
  • Healthy (18%)
  • Irrational (11%)
  • Violent (10%)

"Body ink was associated with people who lived on the fringes of society, people who had been to jail or worked as sailors at best," according to the Statista report. "Nowadays, tattooed people are often still considered more rebellious and less respectable than those without, but having a tattoo does not lead to social ostracism anymore." 

Little Has Changed About Dating With Tattoos, Though

Little Has Changed About Dating and Tattoos

The cliches about "bad boys" are true: People find tattooed men more masculine, dominant, and aggressive but expect them to be bad partners and fathers, Psychology Today says in reporting — with some skepticism — the results of a study in Poland. Meanwhile, in a dating app study, 18% of women said men's tattoos were a turn-on, and 14% of men said they felt the same way about women's tattoos.

We Have More Tattoos Below the Belt Than on Our Face

Millions Have Tattoos Below the Belt

Forearms remain the most popular location for tattoos, with 40% of respondents opting for this body part. The next most popular spots:

  • Back (39%)
  • Hand or wrist (34%)
  • Upper arms (33%)
  • Chest (28%)
  • Shoulder (28%)

Where things get interesting is … well, where things get interesting. Around 5% of people have pointed the needle to their buttocks or around their genitals, for some 7.3 million Americans, while only 2% were bold enough to go for a face tattoo. That's a whole 3 million people, though, and another 12% (or 17 million people) take it on the neck.

Those Teardrop Face Tattoos Have Many Meanings
Björn Forenius/istockphoto

Those Teardrop Face Tattoos Have Many Meanings

Did someone say face tattoo? It brings to mind the infamous teardrop tattoos found on felons and in rap culture, which can have several meanings, according to a prison-savvy writer for Business Insider. It might signal a successful murder — or if the teardrop is just an outline, an attempted murder. Or it might mean a friend was murdered, and the killer had better watch out. But depending where you are, a teardrop tattoo might just signify a long prison term.

Outer Limits Tattoo
Outer Limits Tattoo/Yelp

The Oldest U.S. Tattoo Parlor Opened in 1927

Before it was the Outer Limits tattoo parlor and became part museum, this Long Beach, California, shop was Bert Grimm's Tattoo, so famous for its artistry that a whole tattoo district developed around it for a while. The steadiest customers were sailors on leave, but part of the appeal was Grimm's clientele before moving to sunny California: gangsters and bank robbers such as Bonnie Parker, of Bonnie and Clyde fame, and Pretty Boy Floyd. But being open for 93 years pales next to Tattoo-Ol, the Denmark tattoo that opened in the 1800s, according to The Richest, or a shop in Jerusalem that dates back to the early 1700s.

We Get Tattoos at 18 or Even Younger

People Get Tattoos at 18 or Even Younger …

If tattoos are a rite of passage, Statista finds that most undergo it at age 18 or younger (40%). The next most popular span for getting inked: 19 to 29 years old (39%). After that, the numbers decline dramatically:

  • 30 to 39 years old: 11%
  • 40 to 49 years old: 6%
  • 50 to 59 years old: 2%
  • 60 or older: 1%

That still means some 1.5 million people in the United States are getting ink in or after their seventh decade.

But Still Think Kids Shouldn't

… But Still Think Kids Shouldn't

When would you let your kids get a tattoo? When they're younger than 18? A vast majority of respondents said no, that 18 or older was best (50%). Another 19% of respondents suggested the child would have to be 21 or older (though once a child is past 18, it may be hard to control such a decision). Sixteen percent of parents said they would never allow their children to get a tattoo. Good luck with that, folks.

Millions Have Spent Thousands on Their Ink

Millions Have Spent Thousands on Their Ink

About 2% of Statista respondents said they had spent more than $5,000 on tattoos, and 4% had spent $2,501 to $5,000, which suggests that upward of 9 million Americans have dropped thousands of dollars on their skin art. If "cheap tattoo" sounds like a bad idea, consider that most ink fans (27%) paid less than $100 for theirs.

Tattoo Fans Believe in True Love

Tattoo Fans Believe in True Love

It's rarely a good idea to etch the name of your partner permanently on your body — but who listens? About 43% of survey respondents said they would get a tattoo in honor of someone they love. Does love last? Tattoos do. Other popular reasons for getting a tattoo:

  • Style or beauty (37%)
  • To mark a new chapter in life (34%)
  • To remember a place or event (27%) 

Tattoos Owners Have No Regrets

Most People With Tattoos Have No Regrets

We all have regrets in life. For most people, getting a tattoo is apparently not one of them. Just 19% of survey participants said they regretted getting their tattoo, while 81% have never had second thoughts. In another survey question, just 2% reported getting a tattoo removed, and another 18% said they could imagine someday having one removed. That was unimaginable to 68% of people with tattoos.

People Try to Remove Tattoos at Home

People Try to Remove Tattoos at Home

If you're among those with tattoo regrets, you don't want to try to correct the situation yourself. Home solutions — which include trying to literally remove the tattooed skin and rubbing in salt; scraping with sand; and applying lemon juice or (harmlessly but pointlessly) aloe vera and yogurt — are all bad, useless, and might cause permanent scarring, Healthline reports.

Tattoo Removal Will Probably Cost Way More Than a Tattoo
Some of Us Just Don't Know What to Get

Some People Just Don't Know What to Get

Nearly one in five Americans (17%) without a tattoo says it's simply because they can't decide on a theme or part of the body. Other people have abstained because they:

  • Don't find tattoos attractive (17%)
  • Fear it will hurt (20%)
  • Worry they won't like it after a while (20%)
  • Simply don't want one (42%)

It's Quality Over Cleanliness

Cleanliness Doesn't Come First

When searching for a tattoo parlor, people are driven by one dominating factor — and it's not hygiene.

  • The artist who will do the work (77%) 
  • Hygiene (66%)
  • Cost (59%)
  • The studio's reputation (51%)
  • Recommendations (35%)
  • The brand of ink that's used (19%)

It's the Age of the Tattooed News Anchor
FG Trade/istockphoto

It's the Age of the Tattooed News Anchor

In what professions are visible tattoos most acceptable? The lion's share of respondents (70%) said they're perfectly acceptable for restaurant servers. For other professions, less so:

  • Police officer: 62%
  • "Top manager": 56%
  • Teacher: 54%
  • Doctor: 52%
  • Lawyer: 49%
  • News anchor: 49% 

"Today, tattoos are a means of self-expression [and] have become acceptable for professionals," the study says. "While they have been hidden in public under long sleeves and collars for decades, they are now often shown off proudly; professional reasons are rarely cited for not having a tattoo nowadays."