In the past, the traditional tattoo of Samoan women, called malu, was performed on young women somewhere between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five.
These women were important members of a family whose special role was celebrated by marking the body. Today, fewer women wear malu, and there are no firm restrictions regarding who may wear one and when it should be applied. Malu is placed primarily on the thighs and knees, but it can also be found on the lower abdomen, wrists and hands.
Like pe'a, malu is bilaterally symmetrical, but the design is sparser, almost lacey, containing linear motifs arranged in vertical, horizontal, and diagonal rows. While men and women share many tattoo motifs, the lozenge-shaped motif called malu is limited to women. Significantly, it is often the first motif applied by the tufunga ta tatau, placed behind the knee joint.