PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – “Got so many tats can’t even count ’em up”…”in the shop every week can’t seem to get enough.” Those lyrics are from superstar rapper Wiz Khalifa.
Humankind has been gilding the lily for a long time. The word “tattoo” comes from Polynesian culture and was traditionally a rite of passage. It continues to be wildly popular.
“For some reason, Pittsburgh has more tattoo parlors, salons, than almost anywhere in the country,” says Dr. Lori Cherup, a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon.
Body art is big business. An estimated $1.65-billion is spent annually on tattoos in the United States.
Forty percent of Americans ages 26 to 40 have at least one tattoo.
But, a new service is also growing fast – tattoo removal.
About 17 percent of people have some regret after getting their tattoo, while 11 percent have one removed.
There appear to be several reasons for tattoo regret.
“A person that they’re no longer married to, an organization, they don’t believe in that religion anymore,” Dr. Cherup said.
Joining the military is a major reason for removal because you cannot have a tattoo in a site that is visible with the uniform on.
However, recruiters may re-consider accepting applicants if an attempt is made to remove those tattoos.
Summer Drummond, of Mt. Lebanon, wears eye protection, as technician Alysse Sistik, is using a laser to remove her ankle tattoo layer by layer.
“At the time, I was a teenager,” says Drummond. “I got my astrological sign with some tribal around.”
In her 30s now, Summer teaches at a local college, and does hospital research.
“So, I prefer not having anything on my body that I can’t easily cover up at this point,” she said.
Invisible Ink in Robinson Township opened this past July.
They’re using a “Picosure” laser, which is new and has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration,
It takes fewer treatments and is said to eliminate the tattoo more effectively, and helps to avoid scarring in surrounding tissue.
Summer’s tattoo is fading after just three treatments.
“The older technology used to break up your ink in pebble-sized pieces. The ‘Picosure’ breaks it up into sand-sized pieces so it’s easy for your immune system to carry out,” Sistik said.
More successful removal depends on skin type. Working on fair skin is easier than darker skin. Blue, green and black inks are also more easily removed, while other colors are more stubborn.
“The most stubborn color, I would say, are reds,” Sistik said.
Getting rid of a tattoo causes little discomfort with mostly post-procedure redness and swelling.
Each treatment takes just minutes, but it’s expensive and depends on size, color and location of the tattoo.
Summer is paying $350 for each session and stops by on her lunch hour.
She remembers paying about $100 for her tattoo. Erasing it could cost up to $1,500.
“Price to pay for a bad mistake,” she said laughing.