Tattoo removal procedures gain popularity

Dr. Gregory Herbich
Dr. Gregory Herbich

By Leland Kim - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - It's a popular trend among teenagers and those in their 20's. We're talking about tattoos, and more than a third of young people under 25 have at least one, according to the Harris Interactive Poll. But what happens when you no longer want that permanent art on your body?

With tattoos' popularity, there is a growing niche among doctors who perform tattoo removal surgery. Thanks to laser technology, the process is less painful than it used to be.

As many as 45 million Americans sport these permanent body art, and tattoo parlors have become synonymous with trendy individualism.

"You go into a tattoo parlor and you get it done," said a woman who has several tattoos. "You pick something and you get it done."

But what happens when your art no longer expresses who you are? That's exactly why this woman we'll call "Jennifer" decided to get rid of her tattoos.

"I didn't think it through and I didn't realize that the one that I picked was not something I want to live with for the rest of my life and I just didn't think it through," said Jennifer.

She came to see this man: Dr. Gregory Herbich, a dermatologist who does a lot of tattoo removal procedures.

"They change their lifestyle," said Dr. Herbich. "They want to have a more professional image, or their job requires that they remove their tattoos."

Jennifer says she wants to project a different image in her 30's.

"You're getting them removed today. How are you feeling?" asked KHNL.

"Kind of anxious and nervous as always but, it's a simple process actually and when it's done, it's not sore. It's not painful," she said.

That's because Dr. Herbich uses Q-switch lasers, which are more gentle on the skin than old methods.

"The laser pulverizes the particles and the body's immune system eats the particles and takes it deeper into the skin," he said.

The patient can use local or general anesthesia depending on how extensive the procedure is. After several treatments, the tattoo is permanently erased.

"What do you want to say to young people who are thinking of getting tattoos?" asked KHNL.

"To think it through," said Jennifer. "To try out those henna tattoos first and pick something that is meaningful to yourself."

As many as 100,000 Americans get their tattoos removed each year. If you get it done, make sure your doctor is board certified and accredited by the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery.