Not-so-permanent ink

tattooIt may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but tattoos can sometimes become awkward in the workplace. Depending on your job, a tattoo may mean covering up more than you’d like.

In a U.S. study, tattoo removal had risen by 32 per cent from 2011 to 2012. The survey, conducted by The Patient’s Guide, cited “employment reasons” as the new leading factor for tattoo removal. A rise in tattoo removal is something Dr. Earl Minuk, a laser and cosmetic dermatologist in Winnipeg, is also noticing. While people want tattoos removed for many reasons, Minuk says a large number do come in wanting the treatment for employment reasons. “Some people are not allowed to be tattooed at work. They’ve had to cover up,” he says. “They have a tattoo on their arm and they have to go golfing with an executive.”

Laser tattoo removal used to be about getting rid of a “mistake”, he says, where something that seemed like a good idea at the time, doesn’t look so hot anymore. “It used to be people coming in with ‘NBA’ tattoos they got 20 years ago,” he says about his increase in clients. “Now people are coming in with visible tattoos.” These are the tattoos that are easy to see – on your arm, wrist, hand, feet, neck, or even face. Certain tattoos are sometimes hard for employers to let slide in job interviews, as well. “It’s very hard to get a job if you have tattoos on your face,” Minuk says.

While piercings, for instance, have gained more respect in the workplace, it’s not always the case with tattoos. “I think this is as wrong as any other kind of discrimination, but patients tell me that their tattoos are affecting their professional life. Many feel that their body could be holding them back,” said Dr. Eric Bernstein, a laser expert and clinical professor at the University of Pennsylvannia, in a release about The Patient’s Guide study.

Other leading reasons for tattoo removal, according to Minuk and The Patient’s Guide are: the tattoo has an association with an ex-partner or spouse, they simply don’t like the tattoo, they’ve changed beliefs, or the tattoos are gang related. Minuk will often remove gang tattoos for free to help people break out of the gang lifestyle, which sometimes also depends on their getting back into the workforce.

If you choose your tattoo removal clinic wisely, there are very few risks to the treatment. “When you treat it enough, there’s risks of losing [skin] colour or scaring,” Minuk says, adding, “but many patients don’t care. They just want it off.” It usually takes several treatments before a tattoo is removed completely.
It’s important to choose a clinic that has many years of experience and good results. Many tattoo parlors and other places offer tattoo removal, but Minuk suggests getting it done by a medical professional. He says he’s had many cases where people’s tattoos weren’t removed properly. “Tattoo [removal] should be done in a medical setting,” he says. “Otherwise someone’s going to get hurt.”

Of course, not all body art is going to hurt your job prospects or your work environment, but sometimes, in certain cases, cover-ups are called for.

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