Carmen Vander Heiden Brodie is no stranger to bad tattoos. She has lasered off many over the past 13 years. Infinity symbols, Luke Skywalker quotations, dolphin lower back tattoos, and even a design that someone received on a dare, which she vaguely remembers as a “skull on a beer stand,” are all examples of ill-advised ink.
But she knows tattoo erasure is more than a way to remove a regrettable mustache on your index finger. It’s all about helping people to move on with their lives.
She explained that people are changing the outside of their bodies to reflect what they’re doing on the inside. Looking at yourself, you will see that you have changed a great deal in the past five, ten, or twenty years. Our customers have created something that represents who they were at the time and what they believe or think is good. What art they liked was also a part of their work.
“Things are evolving, and we assist them in that evolution.”
Vander Heiden Brodie serves as the vice president for clinical operations of Removery, which has 148 locations throughout the U.S. and five in the Philadelphia region. (The newest one, in Cinnaminson, opened Tuesday.) It is only a tiny part of the tattoo removal market, which will continue to grow over the next four years. According to market research, the tattoo removal industry is expected to grow 19,3% annually between 2020 and 2027. This includes laser treatments, such as those offered by Removery.
Recovery specialists use lasers to remove unwanted tattoos over several sessions. The beams break up the ink in concentrated bursts. For patients committed to tattoo removal, this process can take several months and cost at least $1000. Vander Heiden Brodie states that customers usually consider tattoo removal for up to five years before booking their first consultation.
She said, “The time it takes someone to think about removal is usually very long.”[First] They’ll determine if they can live with the situation. Many will try to hide it first, but that doesn’t work. Then, they must make it twice as large and twice as dark.
They’re generally prepared to go when they commit to coming in for the consultation and make the time commitment.
Vander Heiden Brodie tells patients that their first treatment will be relatively painless. It’s similar to “a mighty rubber band snap” or hair removal. Complications might arise if they don’t correctly shield the affected area from the sun in between sessions — on average, tattoo removal requires 10–12 — but the procedure does not leave scarring. Removery uses picosecond lasers that, as their names would suggest, work fast. Sessions can be as short as 15 minutes.
Quick and easy partial tattoo removal! pic.twitter.com/xhwm2DWdyl
— Removery (@removery_us) February 3, 2022
You might expect people to come to the business’s door for the usual reasons: a young mistake or a failed romance. Vander Heiden Brodie says messy breakups comprise less than one-quarter of all business. Some people may seek removal for outdated artwork or poor applications. Recovery has a YouTube channel where patients describe designs that were not done correctly. The style, If they wanted to, came out larger. They were surprised to find that the results were better than anticipated. Others are tattoo collectors who have inked themselves so thickly that they need space to accommodate their next tattoo.
But the patient could also be leaving behind something more serious, such as time spent in prison or horrendous abuse.
VanderHeiden says tattoos are often given to incarcerated people or involved in sex trafficking. They may have been in prison for survival, but they got a tattoo that does not represent who they are. “It may not be what they would have chosen outside of prison, but it was for survival that they put on something and are now reentering the society,” Vander Heiden Brodie says.
For these patients — especially those with what industry pros call “job-stopper tattoos” along the face, hands, or neck — Removery may cover the cost of their removal sessions through the INK-initiative program. A letter of recommendation is required from an advocate such as a social worker, parole officer, or other person who can attest that the applicant has “community support” to move forward. Examples of tattoos that are acceptable include gang logos, as well as symbols of hatred like a swastika.
“They are not tattoos. They’re scars,” a woman named Robin, who had a two-year abusive relationship with a neo-Nazi, said in one video.
Vander Heiden Brodie says the business has changed a lot since she started. Nanosecond lasers were used, not picosecond, because they were harder on the skin. She also knows why people still think the procedure leaves scarring — because tattoo removal did before there were lasers specifically designed for body art.
Now, technological advances are making this service more accessible to more people.
“I am an old grandmother in the business,” she jokes. It’s fantastic to see the changes and advancements in the industry when I’ve worked in it. [it], and how much more we know now than way back in the day when I started.”
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