Tattoo Removal

I love that nowadays when people say “you know, tattoos will be on your body forever….”, I can quickly retort with a big fat “No, they aren’t forever!  There is such a thing as tattoo removal”.

I got my first tattoo 20+ years ago, back before they were as accepted as they are today.  I had gotten my first tattoo on a weekend and went back to work on Monday.  No one said anything about my tattoo (it was visible, but not in a right-in-your-face location).  Sometime later that day, my boss came to me and said that another high-level employee approached HIM and said “did you know your employee has a tattoo?!?”.  As my boss told me this, I panicked.  What had I done?  Was he going to tell me it has to always be covered?  How could I manage that??!?  Instead, my boss said he had laughed it off to this guy and responded with “…and what’s your point??? (about my employee having a tattoo)”.  Phewf.  Glad he was accepting of my new ink!  But from then on, my radar was up and I knew that not everyone was open to body ink.  I was self-conscious about it, knowing that people were probably looking at it.  Although it didn’t change how much I liked my tattoo.

I didn’t get any additional tattoos for a very long time.  It was about 15 years later that I got my second tattoo.  Quickly followed by my third….then fourth…then fifth…now I’m up to nine.  I love them all….except the location / color of two of them.  One was on the inside of my finger, and the other on the inside of my wrist.  I did initially like them both for a while.  I started to gravitate, though, toward covering the one on my wrist, every day at work.  The color just really grabbed people’s attention right away, and might have distracted from whatever I was trying to communicate.  And the one on my finger was just as much of a distraction.  I prefer my tattoos that are totally concealed, or at least partially concealed.

I researched tattoo removal and quickly figured out that cheap isn’t necessarily good.  And a tattoo removal “spa” might not be the safest route to go.  I chose a plastic surgeon who had already successfully removed hundreds of tattoos (probably even thousands).   He was well known as an expert in tattoo removal.

I’m already 6 treatments in, having started the treatments nearly a year ago (July 2017).  What I’ve learned about the process….

  1. This isn’t a “one and done” event.  Like I said, I’ve already had 6 treatments done on the two tattoos.  I’ve seen a lot of fading, and some areas are completely gone.  But there are still some lingering areas that will need a few more treatments.
  2. It hurts.  Yeah, in the consultation they talk about what the treatment feels like.  They explain that the sensation feels like a rubber band being snapped on your skin.  What they don’t tell you is that it’s super intense.  Like you just want to scream out your deepest, darkest secrets just to make the treatment stop.  I did have the option of having the areas numbed via injection before the treatments (extra $), but I get through the treatment without it.  If the tattoos were bigger, I’d probably go with the numbing injection.  (And btw, at one of my treatment sessions, the doctor’s assistant told me that the patient to me that morning had passed out, and the patient before that nearly passed out (doc had to stop the treatment and tend to the patient’s almost-passed-out-state instead).  So yeah, it’s definitely not an easy treatment to go through suffer through.
  3. It takes a while to heal after each session.  The first time I did a treatment, I was really grossed out by the tattoo sites.  They had bigblood blisters, and a swollen, angry-looking red area all around (I’ll save you from the gross-out factor and not post THOSE pictures).  About 7 days later, I started to panic, thinking that my wrist and finger will look that way forever.  I thought, will I ever heal before the next treatment?  By about day 10, the scabs fell off.  The itching eventually resolved.  I found that for the tattoo on my finger,  it seemed that the tattoo spread out a bit…the lines got somewhat fatter as the treatments progressed.  Might be the ink breaking down and spreading out a tad.  Who knows.
  4. It’s not an exact science.  The laser has to be set based on the colors of the tattoo (it’s original state…the colors that were used by the tattoo artist).  The tattoo might not respond much to the laser if the setting isn’t right.  For one of the sessions, the doctor did half of the wrist tattoo at one setting, and half on the other setting (the same colors were used throughout the entire tattoo).  He compared the two sides at my next treatment, and used the setting that produced the better result.  But even then, some areas of the tattoo (for example, the tattoo border, which was the same exact color throughout), were stubborn and didn’t break down much after certain treatments.  This meant that the tattoo faded at different rates in different areas.  And another thing, they can’t predict how many treatments you will need.  It really depends on the tattoo and how your body responds.
  5. It’s expensive.  For the small tattoo on my wrist and the teeny tiny one on my finger, it’s about $350 for each treatment.  And like I said, I’ve done 6 treatments.  That’s a ‘whole lotta dough’.

Do I regret these tattoos?  No.  If I couldn’t get the tattoo removal for some reason, I could keep covering them easily.  A ring and some bracelets do the trick nicely.  What’s cool is that I can say I’ve had tattoos removed (and survived).  I’ll have that response ready for the next person that says “tattoos are forever, you know”.