- Associated Press - Saturday, June 20, 2015

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) - Eight years ago, Sarah Little of Marquette paid $40 for a tattoo on her ring finger.

Now, she’s paying $400 for laser treatment to have the wedding ring tattoo that once commemorated her marriage removed as she moves on to a new chapter in her life.

Little, who recently underwent a second laser treatment to remove her finger tattoo, said erasing that memento from the past is worth the price and the discomfort.

“I have never considered leaving this tattoo or adding to it because it is just a constant reminder of that marriage,” Little said.

She’s not alone, the Press-Gazette Media (http://gbpg.net/1IkzWTm ) reported.

Market research by IBISworld shows the tattoo removal industry has grown 440 percent in the last decade, and now is a $75.5 million per year business.

Peter J. Katz, a dermatologist with Dermatology Associates of Wisconsin in Appleton, has seen a dramatic increase in tattoo removals in the last seven years. Most patients, he said, are between 35 and 45 years old.

“I think in general a lot of these people who are at this point (of having a tattoo removed) are probably in the young professional category,” Katz said. “Or even those in the 40-year-old range, maybe got a tattoo between 18 and 25 that just doesn’t mesh with their current profession.”

Katz said another factor responsible for the industry’s surge is the military’s new, stricter rules regarding tattoo appropriateness and placement.

Tattoo removal is done with medical lasers that use powerful, pinpoint beams of light to break the ink into tiny particles beneath the skin’s surface. Any leftover fragments are then removed through the body’s natural cleansing mechanism.

David Theeke, co-owner of Green Bay Laser Center and owner of Artrageous Ink Tattoo Studio, sees tattoo application and removal on a daily basis.

The certified laser technician and tattoo artist said the biggest reason for removal is regret. However, a poor-quality tattoo also can play a role.

“People are thrilled they have a safe and effective option to get rid of a past mistake,” Theeke said.

Although becoming more common, tattoo removal is neither a quick or cheap fix.

Removal sessions range from $200 to $500, depending on the tattoo’s size. Larger, more intricate designs require multiple sessions. Total removal for any tattoo is not guaranteed - colors like green and blue are most stubborn.

Another emerging trend is the tattoo and removal industries essentially working together.

Lisa Priewe, owner of Skinny Buddha Tattoo in Green Bay, said she has begun to see cases where people will have one removal session to lighten the ink of an unwanted tattoo to then add new artwork.

Similarly, Theeke has had clients say they are more apt to get tattoos because they can be removed later.

This is not a mindset he recommends.

“Regardless of advancements in laser tattoo removal, tattoos are still permanent,” Theeke said. “Besides cost, time and pain factors, there are always risks assumed with laser tattoo removal.”

One major side effect is hypo-pigmentation, which is the whitening of skin surrounding the area of a tattoo’s outline.

Little’s finger tattoo was originally done in brown ink but her skin quickly rejected it, which required her artist to apply black ink much deeper into her skin. This has made Little’s removal process more difficult - something she urges those interested in tattoos to consider.

“Definitely be aware and make sure you love what you put on your body,” Little said. “For a simple, small tattoo, it is costing me 10 times more money than the initial cost.”

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Information from: Press-Gazette Media, http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com

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