That’s the end of tat: Tattoo removal industry is booming as more try to live without regret.
Joelle Murray is a typical Scottsdale soccer mom. She is 34. Two kids. She drives a BMW SUV. She takes yoga three times a week. She loves her life.
But she hates her ink.
“I hate to admit it, but I have a tramp stamp,” Murray smiles, referring to the derogatory term for a tattoo that a woman places on her lower back. “I hate wearing a bathing suit.”
Murray is not alone. Forty-five million Americans have a tattoo, and a recent study showed that at least one-third of them regret their decision to get inked.
“I see people who come directly from the tattoo artist, from a day to a couple weeks afterwards, because they don’t like what they got right away,” says Dr. Jennifer Mundt, attending physician at Delete Tattoo Removal & Laser Salon in Phoenix.
Tattoo regret has created a booming business for Mundt and others who are in the business of removing regret. According to a study by The Patient’s Guide, an online grouping of small medical publications, there will be 32 percent more tattoo removals in 2012 than in 2011.
“Most people get tattoos when they’re younger – 18, 19 or 20,” says Shelley Cook, clinical laser instructor and tattoo removal specialist at National Laser Institute in Scottsdale. “When they turn 30 or 40, they start to look at that Daffy Duck on their arm a little differently. I have lots clients who’ve simply outgrown their tattoos, and others who need to remove them to get ahead in the professional world. Of course, getting the ex’s name removed is a big one, too. And, there are a lot of people who want to take off their old tattoos to replace them with new ones.”
Experts say technology is making it easier than ever to remove a tattoo.
“The process of tattoo removal is actually really quick,” Cook says. “Depending on the size of the tattoo, a session can be over in a matter of seconds.”
According to Cook, this is how the laser tattoo removal process works: A highly concentrated pulsing light targets the black or multi-color ink. This breaks up the tattoo pigment within the skin — splitting it into tiny fragments that are flushed out through the body’s lymphatic system. The tattoo will fade over time, and most clients will need around 10 to 15 laser treatments for the best results.
“The success of the process can depend on several things, including a person’s body chemistry, as well as the size and color of the tattoo,” Cook says. “Black is the easiest color to fade, and blue and green are the most challenging. Also, the closer the tattoo is to your heart, the easier it will fade.”
Since treatments can only be done once every four to six weeks, tattoo removal can take more than a year to complete. As for cost, treatments range from $50-$400 per session, depending on the size of the tattoo, so you can expect to pay more than $1,000 for a successful tattoo removal.
“On average, it’s about 10 (sessions to remove a tattoo),” Mundt says. “I’ve gone has high as 15 and as low as three.”
As for the belief that removing a tattoo is more painful than the needles that created the tattoo in the first place, Mundt says that is just a myth.
“The No. 1 misconception is that it has to be painful,” she says. “It does not have to be painful at all. I numb probably 95 to 98 percent of my patients. My favorite saying when their first tattoo removal is done is, ‘Dr. Mundt, that was it?’ It can be very easy with numbing. They do not feel a thing.”
For Murray, who is three sessions into removing her tattoo, her goal is to be able to wear a bikini without regret by next summer.
“I got my tattoo at the spur of the moment when I was 20,” she says. “It’s a tribal design. I’m not in a tribe. It has no meaning to me.
“And even though I don’t see it when I look in the mirror, I know it’s there. My kids know it’s there. And even though I went out and got a tattoo in a moment of rebellion, I don’t want my kids to think it’s OK to go out and get a tattoo.”
5 TO TRY
Here are five tattoo removal clinics to try if you’re trying to rid yourself of tattoo regret:
Delete Tattoo Removal & Laser Salon
6020 N. 16th St., Phoenix
James M. Nachbar, Scottsdale Plastic Surgery, LLC
8896 E. Becker Ln., #102, Scottsdale
National Laser Institute Medical Spa
16601 N. 90th St., Scottsdale
Perfect Skin Laser Center
7045 E. 3rd Ave., Scottsdale
7312 E. Deer Valley Rd., Bldg. D, #105, Scottsdale