Innovation Spotlight: Goodbye Dye meets 'big need' for tattoo removal

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Angel Pratt loves elephants.

She has several assortments of elephant items, and when she was 18 years old she decided to add one seemingly permanent elephant tattoo on her ankle to her collection.

The dark gray design detailed in pinks and reds, complete with a butterfly at the end of the elephant's trunk, is about the size of a fist.

At 18, the tattoo sounded like a great idea.

Now she's a professional woman in the social work industry and doesn't think the elephant on her ankle is such a brilliant thought anymore.

"I don't like where it's at," she says. "It's hard to cover up and I can't with summer dresses or shorts or for work."

Enter Goodbye Dye, a physician-owned-and-operated clinic in Dublin that uses lasers to remove everything from unwanted body art as souvenir of a spring break whim to the ink of former gang members trying to turn their lives around.

Dr. Theresa Luken started the tattoo removal practice four years ago when she was looking at branching out into cosmetic services. The business has been a success from day one.

"There is a big need for this," Luken says. "It has exploded."

As more and more people have gotten tattoos over the years, more and more have to get them removed, she says. The military is very strict about tattoos that are showing, as are several other industries where having a spider web creeping up one's neck might not be the first thing a customer wants to see.

Sharon DeLay, founder and president of BoldlyGO Career and HR Management, says whether or not her clients should have their ink removed depends on the industry they are working in, and in some cases boils down to the personal preferences of a single hiring manager.

"In a more conservative industry, such as banking or a sales position, having a tattoo (showing) may not be what the company wants to present to a customer in an 'out-front' positon," DeLay says. "It's subjective. Some people make snap judgments about someone before getting to know the person or whether the person might be the best qualified for the job, (but) we're getting to the point where you don't know someone without body art."

However, Luken says the professional reasons for tattoo removal are generally secondary to the personal reasons people have to make body art disappear.

"Eighty to 90 percent of it is tattoo regret," Luken says. "Someone may have gotten a 'tramp stamp' when they were 18 and now they're in the 30s and have kids and they are embarrassed, or they have a tattoo of their ex and want to have that removed."

She tells the story of one client who had a giant tattoo of his wife on his arm. They were going through a contentious divorce and he wanted the image deleted "right away."

Her partner in the clinic is her husband, Dr. Robert Miller. The idea to start Goodbye Dye came in 2011, and their state-of-the-art laser technology was added in 2012. Luken says the laser basically breaks down the ink over several treatments so it can safely be absorbed back into the skin. Different lasers are used for different tattoos with different types of ink, she says.

While business is booming, Luken says, it does come at a price.

Tattoo removal is an elective cosmetic procedure and not covered by insurance, she says. The cost of one session is $125, and most tattoos require five to 15 sessions for complete removal.

"Even a small tattoo can cost $1,000 to remove, easy," she says. How long it takes to remove a tattoo depends on the size, the color and what type of ink was used to create the body art in the first place.

Plus, she says, it's not painless. It can hurt about as much as getting the ink done in the first place, though Lukens tries to minimize the pain by using a "skin chiller" in conjunction with the short laser session that goes along with the removal process. It helps reduce pain and swelling, she says.

In Ohio, physicians are the only professionals licensed to use the laser technology, according to Luken.

Luken, who has a tattoo of her own, says she does her best to put her clients at ease and, for Pratt, she literally erased the elephant in the room.

"They've been very flexible and willing to work with me," says Pratt after about her tenth treatment. "They've made the experience fun and comfortable."

Kelli Milligan Stammen is afreelance writer.

Goodbye Dye

7243 Sawmill Rd. #105

Business: Physician laser tattoo removal medical service

Owner: Theresa Luken

Number of total employees: Four

2014 revenue: $80,000