TO The permanence of the tattoo was once considered part of the package, equally a source of chilling appeal and danger of finger wagging. But as tattoo removal becomes more common, many of those associations are changing.
In recent years, the laser removal process, which breaks ink into smaller fragments that the body can remove, has been embraced by many of the celebrities who helped cement the pop culture dominance of body art in the world. 2010s, since the Kardashians to the Osbournes. Recently, Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson scrubbed up his famous inked frame, which ranges from stoner jokes to ex famous – to pursue more film roles.
“I didn’t think they were going to get me into things, the movie business or something like that.” Davidson told Seth Meyers in May. “Now I’m burning them, but burning them is worse than getting them … before [the doctor] Every tattoo goes to the laser, you have to listen to it announce what the tattoo is to make sure if you want to keep it or not. All of a sudden, I hear, ‘Will we keep Stewie Griffin smoking a joint?’ “
Closer to home, the Tayla Harris, star of AFLW A dolphin was removed from her ankle in 2019, while former Love Island contestant and influencer Vanessa Sierra vlogging about how his sleeve was pricked in January.
“I think the main thing is that people change,” says Amanda McKinnon, who founded the Adelaide-based LaserTat removal studio nine years ago. “What they maybe got when they were 18, sometimes even younger, doesn’t necessarily look good on them now.”
But some of the reasons McKinnon clients seek treatment are far more heartbreaking. “A lady came a few years ago in a situation where her partner made a rather offensive tattoo on her body. She was very concerned that her children would grow up and read what was tattooed on her, it just didn’t sit well with me that there was nothing she could do about it. “
That woman’s story inspired McKinnon to establish the Fresh Start Program, which invites prospective clients in difficult circumstances to request free treatment.
Since the program began in 2019, the McKinnon team has worked with a wide variety of participants, from those who had been incarcerated to survivors of child abuse and breast cancer (“They get stitches inked when they receive radiation therapy and once they are cancer-free still have those tattoos, ”he says). “It was like opening a can of worms reading some of the stories, it was quite complicated,” he says of the applications. “But that’s what it’s there for.”
“One client in particular was a survivor of sexual assault. He got a tattoo to move on with his life, to show that he did move forward, [but] she has now realized that it is a constant reminder of that traumatic experience. So taking that away from your body is quite an important process in that healing. “
But seeking to have a tattoo removed or altered doesn’t always have to be tied to shame, trauma, or regret. For many tattoo artists, removal is just another welcome tool in an industry, and a broader conversation, that continues to evolve.
Tattoo artist Chiranjika Grasby, 24, who specializes in stick-and-push work with the name Poko Ono, has an estimated 80 pieces and describes his “collection” as somewhat similar to hanging works of art on a wall.
“At first I didn’t think I’d get any lasers,” says Grasby, who uses hers / them pronouns. “In the last few years, my mind has changed a lot, especially when I started to understand it myself.”
In late 2019 Grasby began treatment at McKinnon’s clinic to remove his first tattoo from a professional artist. “I kept looking at it in the context of my collection in general; the location vibe is so mild that it disturbs my view and seems to compete with the collection. So I’m going to take it off and get something that’s a little more enjoyable. “
Another piece that Grasby has removed was done at home by a friend, a reminder that the barriers to removing a tattoo are often still higher than getting one in the first place.
“It is an expensive process, much more expensive than getting a tattoo, and some people may not have paid for that tattoo in the beginning,” says McKinnon. “So it can sometimes be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s also a process, usually around six to 12 treatments for complete elimination, and that can take one to two years.”
While McKinnon hopes to establish Fresh Start as a nonprofit to make treatment more financially accessible, others are exploring novel ways to help clients overcome the pain barrier. In Sydney, the recently opened Next Level Tattoo Removal Clinic promises to combine tattoo removal with ‘holistic wellness’ industry expertise.
“I thought it would be nice to build a clinic that had a relaxing, really luxurious, high-end, smooth like day spa environment,” says founder Kylie Hayden of her clinic, where clients can expect a complimentary glass of “infused water ”or Gray Goose vodka upon arrival, generous amounts of numbing cream and a“ collagen elixir ”after treatment.
Like Davidson, Hayden says many of his clients are aspiring actors or Nida students who are wary of putting themselves at a disadvantage in the casting process.
Grasby talks to his clients about his work, and what might be acceptable, before the ink comes in contact with their skin. “Most of the people who are very conscious of hiding tattoos, or perhaps not having them at all, are people who work in very, very corporate formal professional settings,” they say. “Or, curiously, people who work in fast food and supermarkets. It’s pretty funny to think that they are on … opposite extremes. “
In between those extremes is a wide spectrum of industries where tattoos are more widely accepted. “I have many teachers; my second-highest demographic is probably nurses or nursing students, ”says Grasby. It’s a sign that the stigmas around tattoos, and perhaps the reasons for altering them, are also changing.
“I also don’t think it’s always about regret, “reflects McKinnon. “Sometimes people are cursed with that word ‘repentance’; Our parents tell us all the time ‘you will regret that tattoo when you grow up’. We certainly stray from that word, because that is not always the point. People who come in and remove tattoos don’t always feel that regret, they just want a change. “
Grasby agrees: “If I hit 30 or 40 and I don’t like it anymore, I shouldn’t be forced to live with it. I’m going to change as a person, why can’t my body keep changing with me? You can look at a piece and let it grow by covering it with something new, or it can disappear completely and have clean skin again. There is no shame in that.
“It is part of living with your body.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism