Tattoos: I want you zapped -- I want you zapped for good . . .
Cheryl Cole is the latest celebrity whose tattoo, declaring her love for her ex-hubby, has outlived her marriage. Deirdre Reynolds reports on the long and costly process of erasing unwanted body art
She won't be 'Mrs Cole' for much longer, and now newly single singer Cheryl Cole wants rid of the tattoo to the contrary.
Having already zapped away her cheating husband, pop princess Cheryl (26) is reportedly itching to have her embarrassing bodily tribute to love-rat Ashley zapped away too.
The formerly smitten sex symbol had the ebony declaration 'Mrs C' etched onto the nape of her neck in 2007.
But three years and five alleged affairs later, the tattoo has already outlived her marriage.
Betrayed Cheryl has changed the locks on her Surrey mansion, replaced her wedding ring with a telling skull ring and jetted to LA in a bid to erase all evidence of her ex.
However, literally erasing the reminder of her failed marriage with laser tattoo removal -- which uses high-power laser beams to break up the offending ink at six-week intervals -- will be a far more prolonged and painful process.
She's not the first star to suffer tattoo regret after going under the needle in the name of love.
After splitting from fiancée Winona Ryder in 1993, Johnny Depp famously had some crafty laser work to make his "Winona Forever" tattoo read "Wino Forever".
Tatt-fanatic Angelina Jolie underwent laser treatment before resorting to yet more ink to cover the homage to ex-hubby Billy Bob Thornton on her left upper arm -- which is still faintly visible.
Peter Andre has revealed he's begun sessions to say ta-ta to the tatt of ex-wife Katie Price's name on his wedding ring finger -- while Jordan settled for a crude black 'X' striking out her own 'Pete' wrist tattoo in the wake of their split in May last year.
Despite such high-profile cautionary tales, it seems loved-up Irish lads and ladies still haven't learned that getting a tattoo of your inamorata's name is rarely a good idea.
"Laser tattoo removal has become one of our most popular treatments in the two years since we opened," says nurse Cora Murphy of The Hospital Group in Dublin.
"It's become more affordable and the technology more advanced.
"Quite a few of our clients undergo laser treatment to get rid of the name of an ex. About 60pc of clients for this procedure are women in the 20-35 age group.
"If you've got the name or initials of somebody you're no longer in a relationship with displayed on your arm, then you're definitely going to want to get rid of it," adds Brian Barrett of cosmetic laser specialists Laserway.
But it's not the only type of regrettable body art that has young professionals here turning to the laser -- which costs around €100 per session and can take anything from three to 15 sessions to fully fade.
Sporting a strategic up-do at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York earlier this year, Sin City star Jessica Alba was notably minus her daisy and ladybird neck tattoo.
The 28-year-old actress got the tattoo as a "bonding experience" with her mum and aunt three years ago; but now a mum herself, it seems she has outgrown the childish design. And just like Alba, it seems Ireland's 20-somethings are also having second thoughts about rite-of-passage tatts.
"We see a lot of cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny, Taz Devil and Tweety Birds that were a trend for tattoos in the late '90s," explains The Hospital Group practitioner Cora Murphy. "Mostly, the client got the tattoo as a teenager but, now that they're a bit older, have outgrown them."
Women, in particular, usually live to regret the notorious 'tramp stamp' -- a lower back tattoo synonymous with sex -- says Brian Barrett of Laserway.
"The type of tattoo we're asked to remove most often is the so-called tramp stamp" he says.
"It might look great while you're in your twenties, but by the time most women hit 30 they want to get rid of it."
However, the laser gun can't wave a magic wand over unwanted ink, warn both experts -- skin colour, the age of the tattoo and colour of ink will all impact on the outcome.
"While it's rare for the client to be left with an outline of the tattoo like Angelina Jolie, it is possible," explains nurse Cora Murphy.
'Black ink is the easiest to remove but green ink will never fully fade. Scarring can be a risk as each person heals differently.
"Laser tattoo removal is also unsuitable for coloured skin. And all-over body tattoos or a tattoo over another tattoo are best not tackled."
If you've just woken up with a thumping tattoo hangover, however, there's fresh hope.
As well as traditional laser tattoo removal, Dublin clinic Laserway now offers EliminInk, the latest ink removal innovation from the US which can help reverse brand new tattoos.
"Every summer, we get panicked phone calls from parents who have come home from holiday to discover their teenage son or daughter has gotten a tattoo," reveals Brian Barrett. "I have to explain that their child is not a candidate for laser tattoo removal for another six months. When you get a tattoo, the skin is really traumatised -- going at it with a laser will only scar it.
"The advantages of EliminInk are that you can treat the unwanted tattoo straight away and it's suitable for dark and Asian skin," reveals Brian Barrett.
"However, it's a lot more expensive that regular laser tattoo and can take longer."
Prevention is better than cure, reckons tattoo artist Fran Hartnett of Zulu-Tattoo in Dublin.
"A tattoo is for life," he says, "so the main thing is to pick something of personal significance, rather than something just because it's trendy.
"For instance, the name of your children or a portrait of a relative who has passed away is not the type of thing you're going to regret getting a tattoo of -- but the name of your current boyfriend could be."
He adds: "It's not our job to talk people out of getting a certain tattoo; but we talk to everyone who comes into the shop to make sure it isn't a spur-of-the-moment decision. The last thing we want is for a customer to have regrets.
"Sure, you can have it removed later -- but a €30 tattoo could end up costing you €1,000."
For more information on laser tattoo removal see www.laserway.ie or www.thehospitalgroup.ie