For Julie Baird, the decision to get a tattoo of a fish on her ankle came just months after her high school graduation.

“When I got mine, I guess it was just kind of really on the front end of (tattoos) getting more and more popular,” said Mrs. Baird, of Ringgold, Ga. “And at the time, I think I probably wanted to kind of be different.”

Now, 13 years later, Mrs. Baird has changed her mind.

Coupled with her husband’s distaste for the tattoo and her desire to start a family, Mrs. Baird is having the tattoo removed through laser treatments at the Aesthetic Laser Medical Spa & Salon on Shallowford Road.

“It’s one of those things where I guess if it were just me, I probably wouldn’t have a problem with keeping it,” said Mrs. Baird. “But it’s kind of more — and I don’t want to say that I’m doing it for the people around me — but you don’t really realize how it affects maybe the people around you when you get one.”

Mrs. Baird’s case is not unusual. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, tattoo remorse is common.

Among a group of 18- to 50-year-olds surveyed in 2004, 24 percent reported having a tattoo and 17 percent of those considered getting their tattoo removed.

Aesthetician Dawn Valenzuela performs the tattoo removal laser treatments at Aesthetic Laser Medical Spa.

“(Business) is steady, but it’s not the busiest thing we do,” said Mrs. Valenzuela. “We get a steady number, and just here lately in the last six months, it has just increased. Like all of a sudden, people are wanting to get them off.”

During the tattoo removal process, a medical laser uses an intense beam of light to significantly lighten the tattoo.

“What’s going on is it is being drawn to that pigment. It picks up that color, and then when you laser it, it releases that dye into your bloodstream,” she said. “And then your body just breaks it down and gets rid of it.”

Having recently completed her second treatment, Mrs. Baird said she has seen a big difference in the fading of her tattoo.

“I’m anxious now to go back and get the third treatment because I have seen it fade a lot more after this second treatment,” she said.

REASONS FOR REMOVAL

Career: Because some employers have policies against visible tattoos in the workplace, Mrs. Valenzuela said, many clients come to her once they get a job.

Family: When Chatsworth, Ga., resident Sandy Epperson became a grandmother, she decided it was time to remove the tattoo she got on her shoulder eight years ago. “I decided that I didn’t need to look like the teenagers anymore, and I just want the grandmother look,” she said.

Cosmetic: Chattanooga resident Jan Webb said that the visibility of the blue and green cross she got tattooed on her chest nearly four years ago made it hard for her to wear certain clothes. “I just decided that maybe I had gotten it in the wrong place and maybe it was time to remove it,” she said.