Tattoo boom sometimes leaves the sting of regret

An Ottawa woman, Kate Moody, is one of a growing number of people seeking laser removal for their tattoos as the popularity of skin art grows despite a lingering stigma against it.

A bearded, fanged green and yellow monster bares its teeth over most of Kate Moody's foot, butthe Ottawa woman isspending thousands of dollars to ensure she won't be staring it down for much longer.

Moody is one of a growing number of people seeking laser removalof their tattoos, as the popularity of skin art grows despite a lingering stigma against it.

The removal of Kate Moody's tattoo will require up to eight more painful laser treatments and cost thousands of dollars. ((CBC))

"I am kind of the poster child for tattoo regret," Moody said. "Whenever I hear people that are like, 'I'm going to get a new tattoo,' I'm like, 'Think about that.'"

Moody once worked for a "funky clothing company" where her tattoo fit in, but now she's a fitness trainer, and she fears her tattoos may hamper her attempts to advance within her company.

"They don't appear professional, they're not something I'm proud of," she said. "I find it takes away a little bit from my credibility … people think I'm a kid. You get a judgment from society, I find, which is something I could do without at this point in my life."

Moody said her tattoos don't seem professional, and she worries they may hamper her job advancement. ((CBC))

Moody has so far had about a third of the tattoo removed by dermatologist Dr. Sharyn Laughlin at an Ottawa clinic through a painful procedure Laughlinpioneered using a pulsed laser to minimize scarring.

Moody expects that up to eight more treatments and possibly thousands more dollars will be needed to erase a decision she made earlierin her life.

The American Association of Dermatologists estimates that 50 per cent of people who get a tattoo come to regret it, which means that Moody is far from alone.

Nevertheless, those in the tattoo industry, like Nick Janna who works at Planet Ink on Ottawa's Rideau Street, say TV shows such as Miami Ink have made tattoos more popular and mainstream than ever.

"It is becoming more socially acceptable. Ten years ago these are things we were praying for," he said. "We wanted this to happen. It's good for business."

Tattooists avoid hands, necks, names

Janna said his industry tries to ensure people don't come to regret their tattoos. His shop won't tattoo anyone under 18, and also avoids hands, necks and the names of boyfriends or girlfriends.

Tattoo artist Jimmy Roberts says he was pressured into giving someone a tattoo that made it look like the customer's throat had been slashed: 'He'll probably never get a job in his life.' ((CBC))

Laughlin, the dermatologist removing Moody's tattoo, agreed that most tattoo shops have similar rules.

"They do really try to avoid situations where people will definitely want them off. They do try and make them discreet if they can and hide them.And they'll say, 'No, you really don't want it on your face,'" she said.

"But they get talked into it."

Jimmy Roberts, a custom tattooist at Planet Ink,said he recalls just such a case.

"We had a guy come in, he'd just turned 18, which is when we'll tattoo people. And he wanted to make it look like his throat was slashed. So we told him no, we can't do that," said Roberts,who said he has probably covered a hundred tattoos with new ones after his customers regrettedthe original.

Finally, after returning month after month, the customer who wanted the throat tattoo threatened to go to another shop.

Roberts, concerned that another shop might not do a good job, finally agreed. Hesaid the customer claims he doesn't regret it— yet.

"It's pretty gory, it's pretty realistic," Roberts said. "He loves it, but he'll probably never get a job in his life."