Tattoo removal builds business based on regret

Carmen Vanderheiden uses the laser to rid a client of an unwanted tattoo.

Carmen Vanderheiden has been running a tattoo removal business in Boston since December, and in that time, she has zapped away lots of ink on the lower backs of Hub dwellers.

“The old tramp stamp — it was coined that name — I see a lot of those. A lot of names, too,” she said, gearing up to meet with a client at her Newbury Street headquarters. 

Vanderheiden, owner of Tataway, has one of the only advanced laser devices specific to tattoo removal in the Boston area, she said.

The “PhotoAcoustic Technology” which penetrates the skin and targets each ink color with specific wavelengths, causes tattoos to fade.

It also lets Vanderheiden attack the once permanent markings in several sessions with less scarring or pigment changes than typical machines leave behind.

But it doesn’t mean it isn’t painful.

“Oh my God,” said a 20-year-old female client, who didn’t want to give her name. “It feels like splats of oil.”

Laying on her stomach, the client let out shrill chirps as the laser, which sounds like a bug-zapper, danced along her lower back where the name of an ex-lover was scrawled in perfect cursive.

“I got it a year ago,” she said, gripping the sides of her chair. “He kind of talked me into it.”

The client’s advice? Never get a tattoo you may regret.

“It’s not worth it,” she said, after her first 10-minute session with Vanderheiden.

Artist Markus Anacki, who works at Kaleidoscope Tattoo in Cambridge, agreed.

According to Anacki, more people come to the shop than ever for coverup tattoos after getting homemade ones blotted in their skin.

“When you tell someone you can’t cover it and it has to be lasered, they think it’ll cost a fortune, so a lot of people will either live with a tattoo they don’t like, or try and do a coverup,” he said.

When it comes to getting something permanently etched in your skin, you may want to think hard before the needle hits your body.

According to Anacki, people shouldn’t be getting tattooed with the notion they can one day remove it because technology is advancing.

“Getting a tattoo, that’s the whole point, you should know what you’re getting into and get something you know you won’t mind having on you for the rest of your life,” he said.

According to Anacki, specialized ink that breaks up easier under lasers was introduced years back, but many artists were against it because it defeated the purpose of the art form.

“As an artist, I hope people don’t think that way,” he said.


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