Business booms for tattoo removal

Amy Winehouse.
Amy Winehouse.
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While tattoos are becoming a favourite among celebrities, more and more of us are turning against the trend and having them removed. Claire Dunwell found out why.

From Cheryl Cole to Samantha Cameron – more and more celebrities are having tattoos.

Whether it’s a discreet dolphin on the ankle or an imposing skull and cross bone on the neck, body art seems to have become a must-have accessory for all social classes.

Thousands of women will be inspired to indulge after Cheryl flashed her latest tattoo at this year’s National Television Awards.

But what happens once the ink has well and truly dried?

Studies show that 75 per cent of those who have tattoos live to regret it, With removals costing the NHS a staggering 40-million pounds a year – the figures speak for themselves. People are not only turning their backs, but also their ankles and arms too on a trend which was once preserved for servicemen and sailors.

Tattoo removal is becoming a booming business for cosmetic surgeons who typically use lasers in their work.

A tattoo is made up of large particles of ink and the laser works by breaking up these particles which can then be removed by the body’s own defence system.

Jooli Kirven, 52, is the co-owner of the Northern Cosmetic Laser Clinic based in Morley. She has worked in the industry for the past 13 years and has met people with tattoos from all walks of life,

She said: “My clients generally used to be aged 35 and upwards but I’m now seeing more teenagers these days who have had tattoos because of peer pressure.

“Even pensioners who are going on exotic cruises and don’t want a tattoo they’ve had for years on show come and see me. There really isn’t a stereotype but tattoos are becoming harder and harder to get rid of.”

Removal is a costly and often lengthy process.

Laser treatment at the clinic starts at 50 pounds but can run into thousands, depending on the size and quality of the tattoo.

According to Jooli, people choose to have their artwork removed for many different reasons. Behind the ink there usually lies a story, as she explained.

“I once removed a My Little Pony tattoo from a client’s bottom which they’d had done on a stag weekend and regretted afterwards. Someone else came to me with the name Barbara, who was an ex girlfriend, inked on his arm which I removed successfully but a year later he was back again.

“He told me he’d met a new girlfriend, also called Barbara so he’d had her name tattooed in exactly the same place. “They’d since broken up aswell so he wanted the name removing again. That one made me smile.”

In October last year, the Care Quality Commission deregulated laser tattoo removal which means there is no regulatory body acting on behalf of patients. It means clinics can set up using cheaper, imported machines which could be operated by untrained or poorly trained staff.

“This is a huge concern beause it means that anyone can set up and do a lot of damage without having to face the consequences,” Jooli said.

“People aren’t educated enough and shop around for the cheapest treatments thinking they are getting a good price but end up with a cowboy, It’s extremely worrying.”