Rethinking Ink: The Business of Tattoo Removal Is Booming

tatto removal, before and after photo

Courtesy of Roy G. Geronemus, MD

Given the number of people sporting inked images on their arms, legs and backs, it’s obvious that people love their tattoos. That is, until they don’t, which is why more and more of them are turning to aesthetic professionals to have them removed. In fact, according to research by IBISWorld, revenue for tattoo removals has surged 440% to an estimated $75.5 million over the last decade and is expected to hit $83.2 million over the next four years.

Part of the reason is simply that the overall tattoo industry is also still growing. According to the research, there are nearly 8,000 tattoo businesses in the U.S., which together will earn revenues of $3.4 billion this year. Simply put, the more people getting tattoos, coupled with an aging population, changing lifestyles and employment concerns, means continued growth in the market for their subsequent removal:

Increased social acceptability of and interest in tattoos has driven demand for them, which ultimately increased the pool of potential customers who may regret their initial decision and want their tattoos removed, says IBISWorld lead analyst Andy Brennan.

That’s certainly the case among the Tattoo Removal community on RealSelf, where users have already conducted more than a half-million searches on the subject this year. Analyzing the data shows:

  • A 40% increase in searches from May to June
  • 23% of respondents had considered tattoo removal, citing regret, impact on professional life and past love as the main drivers
  • 18% felt that their tattoo had held them back from getting a job, date or other opportunity

That’s a lot of interest and the conversation among community members runs the gamut from heartfelt stories about youthful regrets to inquiries about color differences and relative costs to the pros and cons of various treatment options. Longtime community members are happy to share their stories, new ones are hungry for information they can trust and doctors who join the discussion have a great opportunity to connect with a group of aesthetic consumers that’s only going to grow in the years to come.

Doctor Takeaway

Patients who hate their tattoos love the doctors who help remove them

Doctors who engage with people interested in having tattoos removed — by answering questions online or posting before and after photos — lay the groundwork for building relationships that lead to multiple visits and repeat business. And since patients give tattoo removal a Worth It Rating of 85% (98% for PicoSure), there’s a good chance they’ll share their results (and the doctor who provided them) with their friends.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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