YEARS ago the only people you ever saw sporting a tattoo would be men working in the navy – merchant or Royal.

In recent years there has been an explosion in the popularity of body art and it is commonplace to see professional sportsman and women, actors and singers as well as members of the public with tattoos – some barely have a patch of natural skin to be seen.

But while a tattoo may have seemed like a good idea at the time, some people decide they want to rid themselves of the mark at a later stage. There are now a number of ways to remove tattoos – which were considered to be permanent markings at one time.

Laser removal is the latest and non invasive form of tattoo removal but earlier solutions were to use acid to remove the top layers of skin to reach the deeper layer where the tattoo ink lies.

Some people are now being tempted to buy DIY tattoo removal kits from the internet to avoid the expensive fees involved in laser removal.

But one young woman from Leominster, who decided to try DIY, was left with a hole in her arm an excruciating pain after trying to remove her ex-boyfriend’s name from her arm.

Jess Hardy, aged 23, used a solution she bought online for £15 but the attempt to remove the tattoo went disastrously wrong leaving her with a severely damaged arm which is now partly numb.

She said: “It felt like someone had poured like something flammable on my arm, lit it then poured a kettle on it. I can’t feel that. Now somebody could do anything to that but I can’t feel it at all.”

Jess’s story was last week featured on the BBC’s investigative programme Inside Out West Midlands, which found the product she bought contained banned ingredients.

On discovering the results of the investigation Jess said: “I’m shocked that it was a proper tattoo removal. Someone has actually sold that… I want my arm back, my normal arm.”

The UK’s leading clinical dermatologist Sean Lanigan told Inside Out that the products don't work. “I don’t think they work at all. Tattoo ink is sat in the middle of the skin. These sorts of things that burn the skin off are not going to work. People are not only wasting their money, they’re exposing themselves to a significant risk of damage,” he said.

The product Jess bought was tested at a laboratory in Birmingham University which found it contained trichloroacetic acid which is a banned substance under European law and shouldn’t be sold at all. It also found another ingredient - hexachloroethane which was formerly used to make smoke grenades and depressed the central nervous system.

Sean continued: “It’s highly likely to cause severe burns, quite possibly result in permanent scarring. It’s also very unlikely to remove the tattoo.”

Director of the Trading Standards Institute Christine Hemskeerk said: “This is a really serious risk and consumers should definitely not be using this.”

“I have to admit at the moment Trading Standards hasn’t really done enough to raise awareness for consumers because this is a fairly new product. But now we know that there are issues out there – hopefully we can get the message out there to consumers that they should not be buying these products.”