45 million Americans have them, but many of them wish they didn’t – tattoos. Because so many people regret adding that ink, the tattoo removal business is booming and might be even bigger if the process wasn’t so painful and pricey.
“I got this one when I was 17,” said tattoo removal patient Crystal Kelley. “It was really out of impulse.”
Kelley thought a tattoo was a good idea at the time, but she now has a different perspective. “I am close to finishing up my degree and realized that… I didn’t want it to interfere with any career choices,” said Kelley.
Job opportunities are by far the number one reason people remove their tattoos, according to laser technician Marie Coffenberry. She says the number two reason is a relationship that didn’t last.
“I have tattoos and I’ve always been told from the giddy-up – don’t put someone’s name on you,” said Coffenberry. “But I cannot tell you how many clients I have that do.”
Coffenberry doesn’t care why people want their tattoos gone, just about how they do it. Dermabrasion is an option, but comes with scarring. Laser removal is most common. Just make sure the laser is designed exclusively for taking off tattoos.
“Various lasers have different uses and you want to go for a laser that only does tattoo removal,” Coffenberry said.
“Laser treatment is the most popular way to have a tattoo removed,” said Angie's List founder Angie Hicks. “Be sure that you research your technician that’s going to do the work for you, and also look for one that has a doctor on site.”
Tattoo removal is a long process done in multiple sessions. Coffenberry says a black tattoo takes anywhere from eight to ten treatments, colored ones eight to twenty – each scheduled six to eight weeks apart. “Tattoos are meant to be permanent, so we have to go gradually. We don’t want to harm the skin in any way, so we want to make sure your skin is healed properly in between treatments.”
The process can be painful and some blistering is considered normal. And not all tattoos can be completely removed.
“As long as they’re barely noticeable, I think I’ll be happy,” said Kelley. “But I’m going to do as many sessions as it takes to get ‘em as completely faded as possible.”
Statistics show that 70 percent of tattoo removal patients are women, many of them in their 20s. Angie says the cost of each treatment can run anywhere from $100-$400 and the procedure is not covered by medical insurance.