Wednesday, August 2, will mark the grand opening of youbaby Skin Spa, a new business in Lafayette whose specialties include tattoo removal. In advance of the big event, co-owners and sisters Susan Melching and Nina Smith spoke with us about the ten most common reasons people in Colorado (and plenty of other places, in all likelihood) decide to have their tattoos removed.
"Tattoo removal is a growing need," Melching points out. "That's why we really wanted to focus on it."
Melching is the namesake of Susan Melching Skin Care Professionals, which she operated in Boulder for more than three decades before selling it in 2015, four years after Smith relocated to Colorado from Montana and joined the firm. Since then, the two have been working toward developing a new enterprise, and youbaby is the result. And while the spa also offers skin-rejuvenation treatments, permanent makeup and Pico Genesis laser skin treatments designed to remove benign pigments and lesions (commonly referred to as brown spots), the siblings are perhaps most excited by the opportunity to use Enlighten Pico, which Melching characterizes as cutting-edge tattoo-removal technology.
"There used to be a lot of limitations," she points out. "It would take eight, fifteen, twenty treatments to remove a tattoo, it wasn't possible to remove all colors with the same device, and there was often scarring. But Enlighten uses three different wavelengths of energy in order to address all tattoo colors, and it releases energy at one trillionth of a second, so it's very fast — so fast that it's almost difficult for the brain to perceive pain. It's much more comfortable than older techniques, because it actually breaks up the pigment, and the body's lymphatic system carries it away over time."
"Think of the tattoo ink as a boulder," Smith interjects. "Enlighten will break it up into rocks at the first treatment, and then the next treatment will break it up into little pebbles, and the treatment after that will break it into sand, and so forth — and each time, the body will continue to absorb the fragmented parts."
Even with Enlighten, removing a tattoo requires patience. Melching acknowledges that "it may take anywhere from four to six sessions with about eight weeks in between each session — so it could take a year to remove a tattoo."
A person needs to be totally committed to making a tattoo go away to sign up for this process — but plenty of folks are doing so these days. Here are their top ten motivations according to Melching and Smith.
Number 1: A name you'd rather forget
The woman whose photo is seen at the top of this post "has a tattoo on her neck — the name of a person she was formerly in a relationship with," Smith says. "She received the tattoo really against her desire...."
"She was in an abusive relationship," Melching adds.
"For the last three years, at least, she's been covering it up every time she goes out," Smith allows. "For her, removing the tattoo is an opportunity to have a fresh start once it's all gone — to have more confidence and feel a little more empowered."
In Melching's words, "It's about putting the past behind her..."
"...which is really what we're finding," Smith continues. "The emphasis behind this is that they want to let go of what that signifies for them."
Number 2: Out-of-date ink
"This is very common," Smith maintains. "People find that a tattoo no longer suits their current situation, or they feel it's an embarrassment for them. It's something they can't relate to anymore, and removing it is an opportunity for them to start over with a clean slate — to provide a cleaner canvas."
As an example, Smith cites "a client who got a tattoo and thought it was really cool at the time — but hours after getting it, she wanted it off. It was that quick of a regret. It's been years, possibly twenty years, since then, but it still bothered her, and there were some awful horror stories about scarring with the old technology that scared her away from doing anything about it. But now the technology is a lot better."
Number 3: Work by a tattoo artist who doesn't deserve the name
"We hear it a lot — people with multiple tattoos who say, 'I love all my tattoos except for this one,'" Smith recalls.
"Sometimes it's just poor work, sloppy work," Melching says. "Or maybe it was the state of mind they were in and who they chose to do it. Because not everyone is an artist who does tattoos."
As an example, Smith references "a gentleman we're working with right now who has a tattoo on his arm. He loved the design in the pattern, but the execution was really poor."
"The lines were very muddy," Melching goes on. "And because of that, the tattoo doesn't look nearly as good as it should."
Number 4: Family matters
By Melching's estimate, "around 67 percent of people removing tattoos today are women in their thirties with children — and maybe they don't want their kids to do the same things they did."
"One of our clients graduated from college within the last ten years," Smith notes. "She's 32 now, and she lives in a younger neighborhood with other people who have families. She has a daughter who's in preschool a couple of days a week, and she's started focusing more on her personal life — looking at herself and thinking, 'I don't really want this on my body anymore.'"
Smith acknowledges that "a lot of businesses have become more accepting of employees with visible tattoos. But in some of the more white-collar businesses, they're a little less accepting of tattoos that you can see."
"That's our young woman; she's a perfect example of that," Melching stresses. "She's going back to school and wants to go into a different profession, where she's afraid she'll be judged."
Number 5: Moving on
Tattoos are personal by their very nature, with people often choosing them for reasons of great personal significance. But over time, their opinions of them can change.
"We have one client who had the actual footprint of his twin baby daughters, who died at birth, tattooed on his chest, along with their names and the dates," Smith says. "That was history right there. But around ten years later, he's finally ready to move on with his life, and removing the tattoo is part of that. It's incredibly emotional for him, but when he dates, there's always this barrier — like, his past life is right there in front of them. And now he's at a point in his life where he knows that the memory will always be there, so the tattoo doesn't have to be."
Number 6: Distortion
Once upon a time, lower-back tattoos were ultra-popular. But they're less so now, and not only because of the derogatory name — "tramp stamp" — given to them.
"That's an area that can sag really badly when people get older," Melching says. "They can look really nasty. And that's one reason why people have tattoos removed — because what's there now doesn't even look like the original tattoo."
Number 7: Break up that makeup
The only kind of tattooing done by youbaby is "cosmetic tattooing, which is also sometimes called permanent makeup: eyeliner, lip liner, eyebrows and a lot of clinical tattooing, such as areolas for breast-reconstruction patients," Melching divulges.
Problem is, cosmetic tattooing can be done incompetently, too. Melching says "the biggest one is bad eyebrows. We've had to remove a lot of bad eyebrows."
Number 8: Take a ring off it
It's trendy in some quarters for couples to get matching ring tattoos rather than purchase actual wedding rings. But what happens when they get divorced? "They want the tattooed rings removed," Melching replies.
"Or maybe they put some script on their fingers that's become unnecessary for them now," Smith says. "It was a touchstone, something to give them confidence and support or reassurance, but they don't need that anymore."
There are also people who've done what Melching calls "the Blues Brothers thing of putting 'love' and 'hate' on their fingers, and they want that taken off."
In fact, Melching guesses that fingers are some of the body parts from which people most want tattoos removed — along with the neck.
Number 9: Going straight
"Another type of person who comes to us is someone who's been in a gang," Melching says. "All of the gang members get tattoos as part of the initiation, and they're all visible — and they want to remove the tattoo as a way of removing the stigma of that gang."
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Number 10: Change is good
What's the most basic reason for wanting to remove a tattoo? "People will just decide, 'I'm sick of this tattoo,'" Melching reveals. And when the time comes, youbaby is ready.
The grand opening of youbaby Skin Spa, located at 390 Empire Road, Suite 200, in Lafayette, is scheduled to take place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 2, complete with a ribbon-cutting ceremony featuring local dignitaries. For more information, phone 303-442-7921.