D.C. bucks trend in tattoo removal

The DC Tattoo Expo is held Jan. 17 through 19 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Crystal City.

(WTOP/Alicia Lozano)

WASHINGTON — Across the country, people are lining up for pricey laser treatments to remove tattoos — but it seems the Washington area is bucking the trend.

MarketWatch reports revenue for tattoo removals has surged 440 percent nationwide over the last decade. And yet, the D.C. dermatologist known as “the queen of lasers” just isn’t seeing it.

“Washington is unique,” says Dr. Tina Alster, director of the Washington Institute of Dermatologic Laser Surgery.

She says lots of people have tattoos in the Washington area, but they tend to be be small and easily hidden.

Alster says she saw a lot of demand when laser treatments to remove tattoos first came on the market about 20 years ago.

“We had a whole backlog of people who regretted having their tattoos,” she says.

They included job hunters, the lovelorn and patients with aging skin who found their old tattoos were getting faded and — well, a bit saggy.

Those patients are still showing up, though in smaller numbers. Alster says that more and more, those who are unhappy with their tattoos in the D.C. area are deciding to just keep them.

She says there is more tattoo acceptance in society, especially among the young, who tend to see tattoos as high fashion. The trend could be thanks to all the sports stars and entertainment icons who are sporting ink.

Alster says cost may be the biggest single deterrent to tattoo removal. New pico lasers do a great job and cut the number of treatments required, but removal “is still costly in terms of time, money and energies.”

The price of treatment depends on both the size and intricacies involved. Small, simple tattoos can cost hundreds of dollars to remove, getting rid of a large one can cost into the thousands.

One way of cutting the problem of unwanted tattoos could be the use of semi-permanent ink. Top scientists have been working on it, but Alster has her doubts. While the inks may be great, she says, top tattoo artists want the permanency attached to what they see as a great piece of wearable art.

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