Tired of your ink? The ‘regret business’ is booming
Kansas City, KS — Tattoos are no longer just for crusty old sailors and outlaw bikers. They are considered works of art.
But as body art has grown in popularity, it was bound to happen eventually: a growing number of regrets.
“It’s hard to know what you are going to like forever,” Tyler Moody said.
Moody is the owner of Surreal Tattoo Studio in Kansas City, MO. He says regrets are big business for him. People come in often wanting to cover up something and turn it into imagery more suited to their current situation.
“Maybe it was something that had to do with the culture of the time that’s not popular anymore,” said Moody. “Or it’s something like a spouse’s name – or an ex-spouse’s name.”
Patrick McBride was a professional touring musician when he got his wrist tattoo.
“I was one of the few guys that didn’t have entire sleeves of tattoos,” he said.
Among a peer group covered in inked-on images, his small phrase was a subtle statement, but his work environment eventually changed.
“As things happen,” said McBride, “stations in life change and I got into a more professional career and I just didn’t feel like it was appropriate.”
In that case, a different design simply wouldn’t suffice.
“You don’t have to cover it up with a larger tattoo anymore,” reasoned McBride. “You can get it removed and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Dr. Julie Holding works in plastic surgery at the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, KS. She is treating McBride for tattoo removal. It’s a sentiment she says she’s hearing more and more: “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”
“I have many people who want to go into the military or even the police academy who say they cannot have any visible tattoos,” the doctor said.
Another woman in her office on the same day came because of a different kind of change in profession. What made her re-think that back tattoo she loved to show off in her 20s was becoming a mother, and she’s so embarrassed about it that she didn’t want to be identified.
“[It’s] not a conversation I want to have at the PTA with a bunch of small children,” she said.
The regret business has grown enough that the University of Kansas Plastic Surgery Department has started offering laser tattoo removal. Click here for more information on the program. Holding says the current technique is much more effective than the methods available decades ago, which often left scars.
“Using different wavelengths of light, it targets the tattoo pigment specifically,” Holding said. The new technology began coming into play in the 1980s, but it has advanced even more in recent years.
The first advancement came with lasers that could target the pigments in the tattoo ink, rather than pigment in general, which often targeted skin pigment along with the ink. Early generations of the treatment targeted just one color per laser.
“We’re getting the point where you can have one laser to try to target all of the pigments,” said Holding.
McBride admits it’s not painless.
“It felt like an extremely hot rubber band snapping on my wrist,” he explained.
He and Holding’s other patient both agreed, however, that the removal process still hurts less than it did when they put needle to skin way back when.
Laser tattoo removal is not a quick process. It takes multiple sessions. Below is a quick rundown to help you decide if the procedure is right for you.
Good candidates are those generally in good health and have a positive outlook and realistic expectations. Those with pale skin and dark tattoos respond more quickly.
You aren’t a good candidate if you have a compromised immune system (diabetes, HIV or other immune disorders), have Keloid or hypertrophic scar formers, take medications that make you sensitive to light (such as Accutane, some antibiotics, gold salts, etc.)
Those are are more difficult to remove are: new tattoos, professional tattoos, light-colored or flesh-tone tattoos, exotic or vibrant colors, especially newer fluorescent inks, on lower extremities (easier nearer to the heart), dark-complexion people (must be treated conservatively and slower to reduce risks of scarring and pigmentation