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Studio busy removing tattoos for military recruits, others

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published February 16, 2011

 John Motyka, owner and operator of Elite Ink, on Van Dyke in Center Line, performs a treatment to remove a decades-old tattoo for Rick Morrow of St. Clair Shores.

John Motyka, owner and operator of Elite Ink, on Van Dyke in Center Line, performs a treatment to remove a decades-old tattoo for Rick Morrow of St. Clair Shores.

Photo by Brian C. Louwers

CENTER LINE — They probably got them with the best of intentions.

Maybe the tattoos were professionally done, and they thought little if any about the long-term implications of having them where they have them. Or maybe, in some cases, it was a spontaneous mistake done at home or at a friend’s house with makeshift materials, like a bottle of ink and a needle.

Whatever the case, John Motyka has been busy removing tattoos from the hands, arms, necks and other spots of customers who no longer want them.

Motyka, owner and operator of Elite Ink, on Van Dyke in Center Line, said many of those who walk through the studio’s doors these days are military recruits, looking to meet the enlistment standards of the various armed forces.

“You have people, good military candidates; unfortunately, they’re not qualified to go into the military because of their tattoos sometimes,” said Motyka. “We offer them an alternative for removal. We’ve noticed that’s a growing trend, actually. We’ve had recruiters contact us for the work we’ve been doing. We’re seeing guys come in basically on a daily basis.”

Each branch of the U.S. military has defined policies regarding tattoos for its members.

The Air Force, for example, “prohibits tattoos and/or brands anywhere on the body that are obscene, or advocate sexual, racial, ethnic or religious discrimination,” for its members both in and out of uniform, according to their official website. Additionally, “any tattoos and/or brand prejudicial to good order and discipline or of a nature that tends to bring discredit upon the Air Force are prohibited in and out of uniform.”

The Air Force also bans members from displaying “excessive tattoos that would detract from an appropriate professional image while in uniform.” “Excessive” is defined as tattoos that cover more than 25 percent of a body part.

Whereas in the past, the military may have helped defray the cost of tattoo removal through its health insurance, Motyka said, many civilians are left to foot the bill for the treatments themselves.

He said Elite Ink, which of course specializes in tattoo art and body piercing, offers removal treatments starting at about $75, an amount he said is “way less than the industry standard.”

Size, color and age of the tattoo, its location and the quality of the original work are all factors that determine how easy or difficult an unwanted tattoo is to remove.

Motyka said the removal treatments take only a few seconds to perform, as high-intensity light impacts the ink and removes it, for the most part, by breaking it down and enabling the body to digest the pigment.

While recruits are a big part of his business in terms of removal, other customers often stop in looking to erase the tattoo mistakes of their youth.

Rick Morrow, 60, of St. Clair Shores, sat down in the chair last week while Motyka used the laser to remove “R” initials from his arms. The initials were made 45 years ago with India ink, a needle and thread.

“I never realized you could (remove them),” Morrow said. “I thought about going to a doctor.”

A few zaps on each arm, which Morrow said felt like a rubber band snapping on his skin, left the decades old ink almost completely invisible.

“What’s great about the latest technology, with the sophisticated lasers that are used today, they’re 99 percent guaranteed not to damage skin or tissue,” Motyka said.