First Tattoo Over 40: Why These Women Waited to Get Inked

By Megan O. Steintrager | Today |

If you were to picture a woman who just got her first tattoo, do you picture someone barely out of their teens or a 40-something with kids of her own? It might be time to at least add the latter to the picture.

The number of people with tattoos in the United States is on the rise: A 2015 Harris Poll found that about 29 percent of Americans had at least one tattoo, up from 21 percent in 2011. While the poll didn’t address the age at which people got their first tattoo, the data indicates that people in every age group are getting more tattoos, and the number of women getting tattoos has risen faster than the number of men getting tattoo. So it stands to reason that some of those women are getting their first tattoo after the age of 40.

“I have noticed an increase in women getting tattooed later in life, past their 40s,” said Julie Duncan, a tattoo artist at Lady Luck Tattoo in Phoenix, who recently gave 74-year-old Janice Graham her first tattoo. “I think it’s simply because we as a society are moving forward and removing a lot of the taboos surrounding tattoos,” Duncan adds. “It’s honestly probably something they always wanted but were too worried about social norms and being judged to actually get. I think it’s great that a lot of those preconceived notions about tattooed people are falling away slowly. Everyone should feel free to be themselves, whether that involves tattoos or not.”

Graham and other women who got their first tattoo after 40 told TODAY Style they’re thrilled with their tattoos, using words like “euphoric” and “exhilarating” to describe the process and results. One thing none of them said they felt? Regret. That jibes with the Harris Poll, which says that the top-ranked reason people say they regret their tattoo is that they were too young when they got it.