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Tattoo Removal Gains Popularity

Tattoos have become popular in the United States among younger age groups, and having one on your body no longer marks you as a rebel. In fact, so many people have been getting tattoos in the U.S. that a reverse trend is now emerging, tattoo removal.

David, who does not want to use his full name, says his large tattoo protected him in combat when he was deployed with the U.S. army in Iraq.

"It's just a double-headed eagle with a shield in the middle," he explained.

But today, David is the father of three young children - and like many others across the United States he's had a complete change of heart about his tattoo.

He went to a laser tattoo removal clinic in Washington to get rid of it -- for good.

"I didn't think that one day I was going to have kids and what they were going to think about it," he said. "I want to be a good role model for my children. And with my recent addition, I just had a newborn baby and I'd really like it if he never even saw it."

Ken Saler, who runs this laser center, says his typical client is a professional woman, who feels the tattoo she got during high school or college is holding back her career.

"Some are extremely emotional and they say 'This is the best day of my life. I've looked at this thing for 20 years. I've wanted it off. You can't imagine how much I've wanted it off,'" he explained.

According to the Pew Research Center, more than one in three Americans, between the ages of 18 and 40, have at least one tattoo. As they grow older, more and more of them are going to clinics to have their body art removed.

Clinics and training schools that specialize in laser tattoo removal say business is booming, doubling each year by some accounts.

Jennifer Bezdicek, an attorney in Washington, went to Ken to have a small tattoo of a heart and a rose removed from her ankle.

"I got this tattoo when I was 18," Bezdicek explained. "Wasn't the smartest decision I've ever made. It was not conducive to seeing clients or being in high profile places. So I just want to get rid of it altogether and not have to worry about it anymore."

New laser technology makes the procedure less painful and much more affordable. The laser breaks up the particles of tattoo ink, until the pieces are small enough to be absorbed and removed by normal body processes. It takes several sessions for the tattoo to fade completely.

"I thought it was something I would want to have forever, but you don't always need to have an image on your body to portray who you are and how you feel. That should be something that's just inside of you," David noted.

As more and more Americans like David come to regret their tattoos, clinics will be ready to zap away those images from the past.