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The business of tattoo removal

13 September 2014


In 2001 a study on the prevalence of body decoration including ear piercing and tattooing was reported on by the Commonwealth Department of Health. The statistics, collected in 1998, showed that one in 10 people had had a tattoo at some point in their lives. The random sample survey of just over 10,000 individuals aged 14 years and over noted among a number of other findings that there was an upward trend in recent tattooing among older women.

Eleven years later the odds had shortened to one in seven. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) study of more than 8000 individuals 16 to 64 years old also showed that men were more likely to possess a tattoo than women, but that women in their 20s were more likely to have tattoos than men in the same age group.

There is no doubt that tattoo industry is growing. In fact, industry research firm IBISWorld estimated in 2012 that the Australian tattoo studio industry would grow annually at the rate of 3.2 percent across the next five years.

So is there a counterpoint to all this inking?

SME opportunities

Ruby member Dani Ford and her sister Mandy, a laser technician, would say yes.

“I don’t know the numbers, but we’ve seen an increase in clients coming in for tattoo removal,” says Mandy.

The Cosmetic Physicians Society of Australasia (CPSA) noted in 2012 that its members were experiencing an increase of between and 15 to 20 percent in requests for tattoo removal. American statistics put regret at about a third of people, with 14 percent actively looking at removal.

Mandy who owns First Impressions Laser Clinic in Melbourne, has many a story about why a client wants de-inking but finds one common theme is 'lost love'.

“The removal of dates and names of ‘ex-lovers’ which have been inked onto the skin of clients is common. Lyrics from an ex-lover's favourite song another, or, in one case, we had a guy who had met a girl in a bar, spent the weekend with her and thinking it was true love had had a ring tattooed on his finger. The girl was anything but impressed,” says Mandy.

Most of her tattoo stories, she says, start in a Melbourne club or bar on a Friday night.

Studies consistently reveal that alcohol and drugs often play a part in the decision process to get a tattoo. The 1998 study found that 10 per cent of respondents reported drinking alcohol or using other drugs when the procedures were undertaken. 

There are a couple of lasers on the market being used for tattoo removal. Choice, the consumer watchdog, reported on the Q-switched, saying that a person’s response to the Q-switched laser removal process will be reduced if “you smoke, have tattoo colours other than black and red, have a tattoo larger than 30 square centimetres, or have a tattoo on your feet or legs more than three years old’.

Mandy uses the PicoSure Laser, which from her experience, “erases any tattoo in half the time of other lasers”.