ClearLase Tattoo Removal: Sheffield firm's addictive movies make it a TikTok sensation
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ClearLase Tattoo Removal’s films have been viewed billions of times on the social media site, on which it has 1.1 million followers, with one viral video alone recently racking up almost 100 million views.
Watching the ink disappear almost like magic beneath the laser beam makes for strangely compelling viewing, and the Kelham Island-based firm has capitalised on the craze for relaxing ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos to generate amazing publicity online.
It all started eight years ago after founder Ben Hartley decided to get some tattoos of his own removed using laser technology and it proved harder than he expected to find a reputable firm providing the service near him at a reasonable cost.
Spotting a gap in the market, he secured a grant from Barnsley Council, completed the training and has never looked back.
Initially operating out of other people’s studios, Ben quickly established a reputation and he and his partner were able to open their own studio, Everblack Tattoo Company, in Kelham Square, before in January this year launching a standalone tattoo removal clinic at the same location with two treatment rooms and three large lasers.
It was during the Covid lockdowns when, forced to close, he began posting videos on TikTok and was amazed by their popularity, which has led to an upsurge in bookings.
How much does laser tattoo removal cost, does it hurt and how effective is it?
"We’ve had customers travelling all the way from places like Essex, Newcastle and Wales, which would never have happened were it not for the reach our videos have given us,” explained Ben, who graduated with a degree in sports science and had planned to become a physiotherapist before opting instead to get into the tattoo industry.
"We’ve been fully booked since coming out of lockdown and we’re in the process of expanding to meet the increased demand.
"I think the videos are quite satisfying to watch, and we get people asking lots of questions in the comments.
"The most common questions are about how it works and how painful it is, because it has this reputation as something which is really, really painful, not particularly successful and will leave you scarred, which really doesn’t have to be the case.
"Done properly, with the right equipment, skill and experience, it can be a very successful process, as we hope we’ve proved.”
Ben says most of his clients rate the pain as between five and seven one a scale of one-10, and compare the sensation to that of an elastic band snapping on their skin, though it depends on that particular customer’s pain threshold, the type of tattoo and how sensitive an area of the body it is located in.
Ben, who is aged 32 and lives in Kelham Island, also described how the cooling system used at his clinic can help to quite dramatically reduce the pain experienced.
The videos he shares are of the first treatment, and as the ink disappears viewers see what is known as ‘frosting’, which he explains is caused by the tiny gas bubbles and water particles which are released as the laser breaks down the ink particles before they are slowly absorbed through the body’s immune system.
Getting a tattoo removed is not a quick process, Ben explains, with between six and 10 sessions typically required and six-12 weeks left between sessions, though he says ‘every person and every tattoo is different’.
Each session costs between £25 and £100, depending on the size and density of the tattoo and on the different colours used.
What tattoos do people most often want to have removed, and why are some tattoos easier to erase than others?
A typical appointment lasts for around 30 minutes but the laser treatment itself takes as little as five seconds and no longer than five minutes, even for very large tattoos.
As for the tattoos which people most often want removed, he says ex’s names rank highly but the most common request is for tribal tattoos, which were very popular in the 90s and noughties but have fallen out of fashion.
Some colours are easier to remove than others and Ben explains that at his clinic they use multiple wavelengths so they can treat as many different colours as possible, including blue and green ink which he says most lasers cannot remove.