The Loweell Sun wrote this story "To Tattoo or not to Tattoo ?" Those aged 18 to 29 -- the $3.4 billion-a-year tattoo industry continues to grow in America as social acceptance of body art steadily increases. At the same time, the demand for tattoo removal is also rising, as advancements in laser technology make it easier to erase regrettable ink.According to market research by IBISWorld, the tattoo-removal industry's revenue grew 440 percent over the past 10 years, with an estimated $75.5 million in revenue in 2014. Mike Tierney, owner of Tierney's Tattoos in Lowell, draws some patriotic art on the back of Gary Ferreira Jr. SUN/Ryan McBride Millennials have the most tattoos, according to a 2010 study by the Pew Research Center, with 38 percent of the age group having at least one. Nearly half of tattooed millennials have between two and five tattoos, while 18 percent have six or more.Tattoos are also popular among "Generation Xers," with 32 percent of those ages 30 to 45 having ink. The trend begins to trail off in older generations. Fifteen percent of baby boomers (ages 46 to 64) have tattoos, while only 6 percent of the "silent generation" (age 65 and older) sport ink. Mike Tierney, owner of Tierney's Tattoos in Lowell, pegged the popularity for tattoos on their presence in the media and television, as well as the prevalence of tattoo designs in fashion."I think it's letting everybody know it's OK and it's an expression," he said. Technological advances have also led to lighter and efficient machines that allow artists to create better work, Tierney said. Tierney, who has about 60 percent of his body covered in tattoos, said he has never been worried about any social stigma. "I go to the grocery store, and little old ladies will say, 'Oh, nice ink,' and take my arm and look at it," he said. Mike Tierney, owner of Tierney’s Tattoos in The demographics of his customers are pretty evenly spread, Tierney said, from people just turning 18 to those getting their first ink in their 40s or 50s. He has tattooed people as old as 70, he said.Yet for the number of people getting tattoos, there are a bunch who want them removed. It's created an entirely new industry. Regret it? Remove it Dr. Khalil Khatri is a dermatologist and owner of The Skin & Laser Surgical Center of New England, which has locations in Chelmsford, Revere and Nashua, N.H. He said the majority of his patients seeking tattoo removal are in their 30s and 40s -- "at that time, when life is a little bit more settled, and then they look at themselves and say, 'I don't want this. "Or when they have kids, they realize, 'I don't want my child to see this skull on my arm,'" Khatri added. Sometimes tattoo removal is fueled by regret. A visible tattoo might interfere with getting a job, and sometimes one doesn't turn out as expected, Khatri said. He said one of his most common requests is to remove the name of a former lover or spouse. The lasers work by emitting wavelengths of light in short pulses against the skin, breaking the ink particles into smaller particles that are then cleared by the immune system, Khatri said. Because the latter part can take quite a while, there is a six- to eight-week waiting period between treatments, he said. Khatri uses the more common nanosecond laser, which pulses at one billionth of a second. He said a more effective picosecond laser has been created over the past few years; it pulses at one trillionth of a second. Khatri said most of the lasers used today were created at Massachusetts General Hospital's Wellman Center for Photomedicine by Drs. Rox Anderson and Suzanne Kilmer. A few years ago, Anderson invented an ink that could be removed in only one or two treatments, Khatri said, but it failed to catch on. "The tattoo artists didn't want to use it because it was a lot more expensive than the other ones, and the people didn't want to use it because when they get a tattoo, the mindset is that it's forever," Khatri said. While a laser removal can be done fairly quickly -- as little as two to 20 minutes, depending on the tattoo's size -- it can be painful and expensive, Khatri said. Many tattoos can be removed in two to three treatments, but some may require as many as six or more, he said -- at a cost of $500 to $1,000 per session. Khatri said there are instances when the expensive cost of tattoo removal can be either forgiven or reduced. In one instance, Khatri said he performed a removal free of charge for a woman who couldn't afford the procedure to erase her abusive ex-husband's name from her shoulder. He said he also offers free removals of gang-symbol tattoos for anyone who has left the lifestyle. Regret it? Cover it! Exceptions aside, if removal is financially out of the question, getting more ink can be a more cost-effective option for those so inclined, Tierney said. He said covering old tattoos with new art is one of his specialties. At $100 per hour, plus materials, he said it's much cheaper and quicker than laser removal. With computer-imaging technology, Tierney said he can take photos of an existing tattoo and use Photoshop to superimpose designs that can successfully cover the old image. "So we can give the client kind of a visual of what we plan to do and why it's going to work before they even get it," Tierney said. He said it's important to consult with customers. He said he tends to advise against name tattoos, noting that relationships don't always last. He said he also cautions people to think twice about a neck, face or hand tattoo. Both Tierney and Khatri said that no matter what side of the tattoo industry a customer may be headed to, he or she should seek out a licensed, trained and experienced professional for optimal care, safety and cleanliness. Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter and Tout @alanamelanson. Factors affecting tattoo removal :Type: Amateur tattoos are easier to remove than professional tattoos. Age of tattoo: The older it is, the easier to remove. Ink: The kind used, how much was used and how deep it is in the skin. Color: Black and blue are easy to remove, but colors like green and yellow are difficult.Desired visibility: Some people want their tattoos removed completely, while others are happy lightening them just enough to place another tattoo over the area.

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Lowell Ma 01852

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