With the tattoo business rising steadily through the '90s and into the new century, a measure of tattoo regret has grown with it. Thus, with the advancing technology in laser tattoo removal, the business of removing tattoos is growing as well. Although laser tattoo removal businesses have been around the Lower 48 for some time, they are relatively new to Anchorage. Many of the patients getting tattoos removed are doing it for career purposes as they begin to realize that a tattoo put on as a statement in youth can turn out to be a hindrance in adulthood.
A NEEDED NICHE
The Solara Cosmetic Laser Center, located in the University Mall in Anchorage, added laser tattoo removal to its business in the summer of 2004, and has seen dramatic growth in that part of its business since. "When we opened up (in 2003), we were getting four or five calls a week from people (asking for tattoo removal). We had to tell them no," said Dr. Norman Means, co-owner and medical director at Solara. After researching laser tattoo removal with his business partner, Ted Ragains, they decided there was a market available in Anchorage, and purchased the equipment. Means believes the future is full of potential growth.
"There's one estimate I've read that of the incoming college freshmen, 25 percent or more have a tattoo somewhere, and half of those people want their tattoos off because they're dissatisfied with it in some way."
Solara uses a Palomar Q-switched Nd:YAG laser system. Another method of tattoo removal, called "Intense Pulse Light" can actually scar the skin, according to Means. The Palomar system does not. "It's like an electronic shutter, like on a camera; the system allows you to generate incredibly short pulses of light," says Means. When applied, the beam of laser light penetrates the outer layer of skin to the tattoo ink below, where it is absorbed by the ink and converted to heat. The ink is then broken up by the intense heat and the ink fragments are slowly, naturally removed by the body.
FEARS OF PREJUDICE
Two young Anchorage men told the benefit of having their tattoos removed, and are enduring the painful, multitreatment process to do so. Both are in their late teens, and the duo preferred to remain anonymous due to fears of reprisal in the work force. They have career aspirations for their future, which they say, will be much easier to attain without their tattoos.
"When I'm around people who are successful and make good decisions, tattoos usually...