Branding - used for millennia by African tribes and inflicted on slaves and criminals - is now regularly carried out in Manchester tattoo parlours.
But experts warn the technique, in which designs are burned onto people's skin, is dangerous because wounds can easily become infected.
Graham Martin, owner of Holier Than Thou tattoo parlour in Oldham Street, is now branding at least one person a week - up from just one a year.
Customers pay up to £70 for their skin to be permanently scarred with red-hot cauterising pens.
The small implement has a wire across the end, which is heated to around 1,000C and used to outline the design.
Graham, whose own arms are branded as well as tattooed, said the procedure - which carries the risk of nerve damage if it goes wrong - is no more painful than a regular tattoo.
"It is not like burning your skin on a cooker," he said. "We don't use old-fashioned cattle rods. The heat numbs the nerves so it doesn't hurt much."
Human branding was introduced as a punishment in England during the middle ages but was abandoned in the mid 18th century. The branding of livestock has been outlawed by animal welfare legislation.
But the internet and mass marketing of alternative culture has made the technique increasingly fashionable, although only over 18s can legally have it done. Tattoos and piercings are now so commonplace it takes a more extreme form of body art to stand out.
Graham, who is also president of the Tattoo and Piercing Industry Association, said: "We've always had a few people coming in to ask to be branded - from students to teachers and policemen - but it's just snowballed over the past few years."