Celebrity Dermatologist On Tattoo-Removal Business

The Tattoo-removal business appears to be booming. The Los Angeles area's Dr. Tatoff's tattoo-removal chain is looking to expand and perhaps go public. Dr. Will Kirby, a dermatologist and co-founder of Dr. Tattoff, offers his insight.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Here's a business that's booming in this recession: tattoo removal. We read about a tattoo removal clinic called Dr. Tattoff - yes, that's really the name - in today's L.A. Times. The story said there are three Dr. Tattoff locations around L.A. and it's looking to expand, maybe go public. Dr. Will Kirby is a dermatologist and co-founder of Dr. Tattoff. He's also somewhat of a reality TV star. He was on the show "Big Brother." He joins us now. Hi.

Dr. WILL KIRBY (Co-founder, Dr. Tattoff Clinic): Hey, how are you?

BRAND: So tell us a little bit about your business and why it's booming right now?

Dr. KIRBY: Absolutely. First of all, let me congratulate you on your annunciation. I love it. Dr. Tattoff, you're so appropriate.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. KIRBY: It's, you know, obviously the name is what we do. We remove tattoos. Tattoo removal is a huge industry. It's a booming industry. And people are really sparking to what we do.

BRAND: Well, it's kind of surprising because it's expensive to remove a tattoo, right? It costs more than a thousand dollars.

Dr. KIRBY: Well, no, not necessarily. Everything's relative. So, it really does depends on the size of the of the tattoo. We'll treat a single dot and that is really, really affordable, obviously. Or we'll treat an entire back. And obviously becomes more expensive.

BRAND: So, why is it do you think that your business is booming?

Dr. KIRBY: Oh, a couple of different reasons. I think a lot of people want to say that the economy is bad, people are looking for jobs. And you don't want to have a tattoo and have that be a barrier for entry into the workforce. But I don't know how true that necessarily is. I think as people age, they want to remove their tattoos. They want to remove some of the memories they have from the past. And I think also just my reputation as a physician, who specializes in this, is growing as well. So, I think a lot of different factors come into play.

BRAND: And what is the strangest tattoo that you've had to remove?

Dr. KIRBY: Well, I can tell you some of the most bizarre but I'm afraid you guys will throw me out on the street.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. KIRBY: We treat tattoos in very private areas of the body, on the genitalia. We see it occasionally. I'll see tattoos on the inside of the lip. And I'll even see tattoos on the eyelids, so that when you close your eyes it looks it looks as if your eyes are still open.

BRAND: Really?

Dr. KIRBY: Absolutely. So this is what I tell people: the strangest, most deranged tattoo that you can think of, we've seen it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: All right. And who comes in to your offices? Because I would imagine be lot of maybe ex-gang members…

Dr. KIRBY: That's what you would - I mean that the incorrect perception is that it's ex-gang members and bikers and that's simply not the case. Our average patient is between the ages of 18 and 34, female and makes more than $50,000 a year. So we keep really, really specific records. We try to target our information to our consumer. And like I said, if you go to the lobby of my office, it's mostly female.

BRAND: Hmm. And what tattoos are they removing? What are the tattoos that have gone out fashion?

Dr. KIRBY: Well, there's a lot of different trends. We see - you know, Pamela Anderson did a movie probably about 12 years ago called "Barb Wire."

BRAND: Mm-hmm.

Dr. KIRBY: And she got a barbed wire tattoo around her arm. And we see a lot of women who come in with a barbed wire tattoo. We see a lot of Disney characters, see a lot of Mickey Mouse, see a lot of different cartoons characters. Just -there are certain trends within the tattoo community that have fallen out of favor. So…

BRAND: What about that lower back tattoo that was big a while ago?

Dr. KIRBY: Yeah, that has the - that has an unflattering name - called the tramp stamp.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. KIRBY: I didn't make it up, so don't hold me to that. But that is falling out of favor and I think, you know, as women age, they are starting to not really be pleased with that.

BRAND: Not so great. But people are still getting tattoos, right…

Dr. KIRBY: Absolutely.

BRAND: …I don't think that's fallen off.

Dr. KIRBY: Apparently, there are 20,000 tattoo shops in the United States. So that's a pretty impressive number if you think how many people are putting on tattoos on a daily basis. And I challenge you to walk outside today, go to a beach watch, you know, a sporting event. Every single person I know has a tattoo in one way, shape or form.

BRAND: Do you?

Dr. KIRBY: I don't but if I did, I would get one in black because that's the easiest color to remove.

BRAND: Okay. Dr. Will Kirby, he's a dermatologist and co-founder of Dr. Tattoff - I said that right.

Dr. KIRBY: That's beautiful. I love it.

BRAND: Dr. Tattoff, it is tattoo removal company. Thanks.

Dr. KIRBY: Oh, thank you.

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