Amber Halliwell immediately regretted the tattoo she received about 10 years ago. The Pennsylvania firefighter wanted a Maltese cross—the shape of a firefighter’s badge—on her lower leg. But the tattoo artist added a scary face of his own design in the middle of the symbol.
For years, Halliwell lived begrudgingly with what she called the “monstrosity.” Her toddler son was frightened by it. Now a mother of four, Halliwell decided to do something about her unwanted ink. She turned to Elimination Station, a growing small business that removes tattoos.
A botched tattoo job like Halliwell’s isn’t the only reason people seek to remove their ink. According to Elimination Station owner Rochelle Pommer, there are dozens of reasons. Sometimes tattoo wearers realize they made a poor or immature choice in getting a tattoo. In some cases, the tattoo’s meaning has changed over time—what was once precious or significant isn’t any longer. Most just want their God-given skin back.
Pommer says it’s her place to help, not to judge: “I don’t care what you have, where you have it, or why you’re getting rid of it. I just want to help you.”
Pommer started her business in mid-2016. She served about 150 clients in 2018 and is tracking to reach about 250 this year. In the treatment room, Pommer uses a laser to heat ink particles in a person’s tattooed skin. The heated particles swell and burst. Then the client’s immune system takes over. The body recognizes the burst ink particles as a foreign substance. The immune system flushes the ink out of the body.
Each session takes just a few minutes of exposure to the bright green laser. But most tattoos will need several sessions, spaced at least six weeks apart, to completely break down. The process is only mildly painful. Pommer compares it to the sting of a rubber band snapped repeatedly against the skin. “Afterwards, it feels like a sunburn for a few days,” she says.
Cost ranges from $75 to $350 or more, based on the size of the artwork. But for many, that’s a small price to pay for such large regrets—especially when removing a tattoo may help open a door in life that has seemed closed. Some young adults find that facial tattoos make it more difficult for them to be taken seriously in job interviews. Those are the tattoos Pommer most enjoys working on. She says removing them “is literally giving people a second chance.”