Tattoo removal becomes big business

Jason Lee with Unwanted Ink says people get tattoos removed for a variety of reasons.

The soaring popularity of tattoos in recent years is creating a booming business for those who remove unwanted ink.

Model Jenna Talackova, who competed in the Miss Universe Canada competition, uses heavy makeup to cover a large dragon tattoo on her back during pageants.

"I was 16 and just thought I needed this big tattoo on my back and I didn’t."

Talackova is currently undergoing laser treatment to remove the tattoo.

"It’s extremely painful. I love modelling and I love doing runway and I can’t have a honking tattoo on my back so I have to get it removed," she said.

"It feels like a hundred elastics hitting you at once."

In Canada, around eight percent of high school students have at least one tattoo, and among those don't yet have one, 21 percent are eager to get one.

That boom means big business for the companies that remove those tattoos down the line.

Nurse Stephanie Graham, who removes tattoos at Unwanted Ink in Surrey, B.C., says most of her patients are people who regret the tattoos they got in their teens.

Graham recently worked on removing a tattoo on a 15-year-old girl.

"She sobbed the whole time," Graham said. "This young girl was going to a private school and they were going to expel her because she had a tattoo on the back of her neck."

Graham said many customers also come to her seeking to remove the evidence of failed romances.

"It’s amazing how many people come in with names and they’re no longer together or it’s the ring finger with the name of the boyfriend who is no longer."

Some customers at Unwanted Ink also come in looking to get controversial tattoos like Nazi symbols or gang insignia removed.

"We’ve had teardrops on the face, which are usually signs of gang relations or that sort of thing, that sort of lifestyle," said Unwanted Ink’s Jason Lee.

"We’ve had personally controversial tattoos where people have written 'F Off' on their stomachs."

Because tattoo artists are not certified, Lee says customers also come in with mistakes that are hard to fix.

"I've seen a lot of mistakes just in lettering, spelling, grammatical errors," he said.

"Also some artists put too much ink in the skin, which causes raised skin so you end up with scarification after the tattoo. I’ve seen many different examples of tattoos gone wrong."