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Tattooing in adolescents and young adults

Neerav Desai, MD
Section Editor
Diane Blake, MD
Deputy Editor
Mary M Torchia, MD


The epidemiology and health hazards associated with tattooing will be reviewed here. Body piercing and issues related to tattooing in pregnancy are discussed separately. (See "Body piercing in adolescents and young adults" and "Maternal adaptations to pregnancy: Skin, hair, nails, and mucous membranes", section on 'Tattoos and piercing'.)

For the purposes of this topic, "tattooing" generally refers to permanent tattoos. However, some sections discuss temporary (eg, henna) tattoos.


Tattooing is increasingly common among adolescents and young adults [1-6].

Although there are few data regarding the prevalence of tattooing in adolescents, small surveys of college students (18 to 25 years of age) consistently indicate that 20 to 25 percent have tattoos [1,5,7]. The prevalence is slightly higher in larger surveys of adults (18 to 35 years of age), ranging from 22 to 47 percent, depending upon the age groupings [6,8,9].

Surveys evaluating the association between tattooing and high-risk behaviors (eg, tobacco use, drug use, sexual activity) in adolescents and young adults have inconsistent results [3,10-19].

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Literature review current through: Dec 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 26, 2017.
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