Australians forking out 10K a year for dream tattoos
Australians are forking out nearly $10,000 a year to get tattoos inspired by their favourite sports stars and Hollywood celebrities.
The nation's appetite for tattoos has not faded with devotees opting for bigger and bolder inkage just like AFL champion Dustin Martin and Canadian pop star Justin Bieber.
An estimated 15,000 people are expected to visit the Australian Tattoo Expo this weekend surrounded by more than 300 local and international artists with needles at hand.
Kevin Mack, the expo's director, said tattoos were as popular as ever in Australia and people were prepared to pay big bucks to get what they wanted.
"On average it costs $150 an hour to get a tattoo," Mr Mack said.
"It takes 50 hours over a year to get a body suit, 10 hours for a sleeve and 15 to 20 hours for a back."
The oriental and dot styles were hot right now but realistic portrait has been "elevated to a new level".
"People are getting a portrait of their favourite musician or actor or athlete and they are mind blowing," Mr Mack said.
"They are tattooing famous basketball stars with the detail down to sweat dripping down their face."
There will always be celebrity trendsetters but for the diehard tattoo enthusiasts it comes down to seeking out the best artists.
"The audience that comes to the show we find these people either come to get a tattoo or come to find their next tattooer," Mr Mack said.
It's a different story for first timers who are more likely to be inspired by famous faces.
Nick Turner, studio manager at Celebrity Ink, Highpoint, Melbourne, said the Tigers' Dustin Martin has become a poster boy for tattoos in Australia - just as soccer ace David Beckham had done in the UK.
Martin has a collection of tattoos starting from his neck down to his legs, including an impressive mix of female portraits.
"Yeah, absolutely Dustin Martin," Mr Turner said.
"We've got some of the best artists at hand and they do some big portrait jobs."
Movie and music artists are a favourite for choice of portrait at Celebrity Ink, which has 20 stores across Australia.
"If you want to put it down to an area music is popular," Mr Turner said.
"We recently done a Tupac portrait and he is quite obviously a big music person and Post Malone."
Hollywood starlet Angelina Jolie and Bieber are other big influencers.
"People use platforms like Instagram and Pinterest and we are finding if someone is obsessed with a celebrity they want it too," Mr Turner said.
"Justin Bieber has a tattoo on his neck with the words 'Patience' and people come in and say 'I want that'. Females too."
Mr Turner said tattoos were addictive with first-timers usually returning for more.
"They just need to overcome their first tattoo; they get something small and say 'it didn't hurt at all', and then they come in for more and more," he said.
"We get a lot of people that spend lots of money, up to thousands of dollars, for a sleeve."
But tattoo virgins are being warned to think carefully before making a mark.
Lynne Bekhor, director of Laser Dermatology in Melbourne, said tattoo removal is complicated and costly.
The number of laser tattoo removal treatments will depend on the amount, colour and type of tattoo ink, the depth of tattoo ink into the skin and the method of tattoo application.
Generally clients needed to allow for 12 or more treatments at six to eight week intervals starting at $265 per session - or $3180 over two years.
"You can get them done for $50 (per session) at the corner store but you don't know what they are using," Ms Bekhor said.
"We believe it is very dangerous technology in the wrong hands and it should be done in a medical setting."
She also points out that a clinic can give you an anaesthetic to relieve the pain.
The clinic sees at least three people a day for tattoo removal, citing regret and diminished job prospects.
She urged anyone that wants a tattoo removed to seek a skin specialist on the Australasian College of Dermatologists website.
The Australian Tattoo Expo is on at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre at South Wharf until Sunday.