Who can say the person they are today is the same person they were 10, 15, 20 years ago? My guess is very few, myself included. We change and grow, our interests evolve as we journey through life. While many pull out a photo album to remind themselves of the person they once were, others need only a mirror. Tattoos can be a beautiful form of expression representing the very essence of being; yet, over time, the ink will fade as may the fondness for the values once held. Thanks to advancements in laser technology, there is no longer a need to simply accept an undesired reflection.
Knowing firsthand what it is to have a tattoo that simply no longer suits me, I made it a point to stop by the go! tattoo removal booth during the Villain Arts Tattoo Convention in Philly this past weekend. Having been through both laser removal and cover-ups myself, I wanted to shed more light on the technology that allows people the freedom to re-invent themselves. I was able to spend a few minutes with business owner Mike Panic as he openly discussed not just erasing the ink, but its associated stigma.
Linda Marie: Okay, Mike. How did you get started with doing this (laser tattoo removal)?
Mike Panic: The short version of the long story is I started getting tattooed in 1995. A lot of my friends are tattoo artists, piercers, shop owners, tattoo machine makers. I pursued a career in the corporate world. I’m almost 40 and it didn’t quite go the way I wanted it to. So about seven years ago, a friend of mine and I started talking about how nobody in the tattoo industry was working with tattoo artists for lasering and fading stuff for cover-ups. So he and I started doing some business planning, some research. Did people want it? Was this a viable market? What is the cost? How effective is it? Basic business-building 101.
From there, we realized that nobody was working with tattoo artists. Nobody was saying, “Hey, listen, we can fade what you can’t cover and make things far more easy to cover with far less nuance or dark or heavy images. You don’t have to change what you want for the final product as much as you have to anymore. The client can get what the client wants and you’re going to live with the artwork you want. So we help fill that void. We were one of the first companies to work with tattoo shops. At this time, in 2012, when we opened up and before the year prior, we realized most of the market was built around the idea of regret. There were companies marketing towards shame, regret, ex’s names, drunken nights on the boardwalk, college frat tattoos. That’s not this market. People change their hair color. Men shave their beards off or grow them bigger. We change clothing styles on a regular basis.
Tattooing has evolved dramatically and the styles are better than they ever have been. So people that have older pieces that are now in the way of bigger pieces are able to get them by coming to us for a few sessions. We also work heavily with people trying to join the military who can’t as far as dress code violations. We removed the finger tattoos, the tattoos behind their ears, on their necks and such.
The other part that we deal with is people who are Vets. They’ve served in the military, now they want to be law enforcement officers or State Troopers but the tattoos they got in the military prevent them from doing that. So, we help get rid of those [tattoos] so they can further pursue their career in law enforcement. We filled a niche when we got into this business and now we work with a ton of tattoo shops. We’re not anti-tattoo, we’re pro-tattoo. 80% of our business is fading for coverups.
Linda Marie: I was going to ask you that.
Mike Panic: Yeah. The majority is fading for coverups because again, people just change their mind. Maybe something that they got when they were 17 that meant everything in the world to them has now changed. The goal for us is to make them feel comfortable with their skin. The thing that drives me the most nuts is that you never hear of a hair salon advertising to fix that regretful box dyed color, or they regret the horrible haircut that they got. You hear in the market about how beautiful they can make you, and how flowing the hair can be. In the tattoo removal industry, it’s the exact opposite. They focus on shame and regret.
“We focus on body positive images where we want people to be comfortable in their skin, whatever that means to them. We’re going to help them reach that goal without judgment.”
Linda Marie: That’s amazing. That’s where I wanted to go with this. I feel like a lot of people are still unaware of the process. You’re right, there’s a shame associated with doing it, but you’re putting a positive spin on that. I really like that.
Mike Panic: The technology’s been around for about 25 years. The first major innovation was the Pico Sure™ about six years ago. It was the first laser to effectively do blue, green, and purple. But we still assume that most of our clients know nothing about laser. And to relate this back to the hair industry, if I have a friend who needs to get her eyebrows done, you probably have five people to send her to. Same with hair, same with a restaurant suggestion, a mechanic, a handyman and so on.
“Tattoo removal is still so new to American society that nobody has firsthand experience, so myself and my staff work very hard to not only educate how the process works but to ensure they have a positive experience in the office.”
They [clients], in turn, become spokespeople for our business, and the industry as a whole.
Linda Marie: True.
Mike Panic: One bad experience in the industry, period, brings shame on the entire industry, not just this.
Linda Marie: Somebody looking to have laser tattoo removal… What do they need to know about where to go?
Mike Panic: My recommendation always is to look at a clinic, at their before and after photos, and the length of time they’ve been in business. The biggest turn off as a consumer is seeing the same photos provided by a laser manufacturer on multiple websites across the country. I understand that in order to start this business you don’t have your own photos, but it’s important that a client get a realistic expectation.
If you feel pressured at all, like somebody’s telling you to come in at a sooner interval than what you think should be, or that you need more treatments at a faster rate, ask them to see dated photos of their existing clients and the progress they’ve achieved. The two things a clinician can offer is energy on the machine and time. More time between treatments always yields more results, however, not all businesses want to operate that way.
Also, photos don’t lie. So those are the two biggest things that I look for. The reviews on Google and Yelp and Facebook are good, but less than 1% of people that actually visit a business will ever leave a review. And more often than not they are mediocre or bad experiences. The good experiences don’t always do it, so don’t go off just a review. The other thing I always almost advise is the clinic offers to do a consultation at a fee or a cost avoid them unless it’s rolled into the first treatment. They should talk to you for free. They should explain the process up front at no cost.
Linda Marie: That’s great advice. Where are you located?
Mike Panic: Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Linda Marie: Are you on social media?
Big thanks to Mike for chatting with Fan Fest News! This is a subject that touches me on a personal level and I want everyone to know that they need not live with ink dismay. Be sure to check out their website: www.gotattooremoval.com