Tattoos can symbolize very meaningful things to some people. They can also stand as an everlasting symbol of a giant mistake.

In fact, the tattoo removal business is booming here in the Coastal Bend, but it's not a simple or easy process.

Gloria Felan of Physician's Medi-Spa said that, in the last year, she has noticed a dramatic increase in consultations for laser tattoo removal.

"If they had a name and they're no longer with that person, that's very, very common," Felan said. "People just want that name gone, like yesterday."

Take Kristin Fletcher. 10 years ago, she celebrated her 20th birthday with a tattoo of her zodiac sign on her right shoulder blade.

"I wish I'd never gotten it, because I wouldn't have to go through the removal and everything like that," Fletcher said.

For years, the sales executive was becoming increasingly self conscious that her tattoo would show through light colored shirts. Then, two years ago, she was planning her beach wedding.

"Ran over and showed my girlfriend my new dress, and she said, 'Maybe now is a good time to get rid of that,'" Fletcher said.

Others, like Jeremy Stewart, are opting for a "do-over."

"It's not that you're regretful that you're being tattooed, but perhaps regretful of the imagery you once chose," said Tina Lain of Pinnacle Laser Tattoo Removal.

For Lain, providing tattooing and tattoo removing services under the same roof only makes sense.

"I think that's why we've been so successful," Lain said.

Stewart, a collector of body art, is in the process of lightening his full sleeve.

"At one point, I realized it wasn't as nice a tattoo as I'd like to represent myself with," Stewart said.

Whether you want optimal removal or lightening for a cover-up, there are some factors to take into consideration. First, the number of laser sessions depends on skin color, in addition to the size, color and depth of the ink. Greens and reds may take extra sessions. You can expect around 8-10 treatments.

That means a year or more to fade an image.

By many accounts, to say laser treatment is a discomfort would be putting it mildly.

"Yes, to say the least! A lot of my clients do say it hurts more than the initial tattoo itself," Felan said.

For the new bride, however, time, money and discomfort was a small price to pay.

"Is everyone looking at my tattoo on my shoulder while I'm walking down the aisle? Or are they looking at the dress?" Fletcher said. "So from that standpoint alone, it was worth it just to get it done."