Undoing Ink: My Decision to Do Laser Tattoo Removal
Think Before You Ink
In July of 2014, I made an appointment to get a tattoo I had been conceptualizing for months; a lotus flower (a common symbol in Buddhism) connected to a cross (a symbol in Christianity). As a Religious Studies minor, I had come to learn about different world faiths, only to reaffirm I believed in Christianity. In this reaffirmation, I identified I was a Buddhist sympathizer, an individual who does not subscribe to or regularly practice Buddhism, but appreciates and incorporates aspects of the Buddhist faith into their own life. Because of this experience, I came to appreciate the imagery and meaning of a cross integrated into a lotus flower.
With the image in my head, I stopped by a tattoo shop in Atlanta where the artist drew a beautiful version of my vision. However, I declined to put the art on my body because the size was larger than I would have liked, and we could not come to an agreement on a smaller, less detailed version. A week later I made an appointment with a shop where I had had other tattoos done. The artist there drew something much closer to my original vision, though it was larger than I had intended. I was confident I wanted a simple outline but took the advice of the artist that going too small would take away from the art of the tattoo.
As soon as the needle began to permanently ink my skin, a weird anxiety struck. I had been inked before, but had never experienced so much uncertainty in the moment I was being tattooed. I kept my thoughts at bay and let the artist finish. He was great, and let me give input as he tattooed, redoing any line that was not to my satisfaction. Of the artists that had tattooed me, he had the lightest hand, so the tattooing process barely hurt. In the end, it was beautiful! I loved the art of the tattoo, but something was off.
The Moment of Uncertainty
I realized too late the placement on my wrist was not to my liking. Since I had not thought to lift my arm vertically (as if I was waving) when I had looked at the stencil design in the mirror, I did not realize my tattoo would go crooked with the twist of my wrist. I tried to convince myself I was happy with the tattoo, but with each minute that passed, I recognized another reason I was not 100% certain I wanted my new ink.
The day after I got the tattoo I was already looking up safe and recommended methods for removal. Three days later, I called Dr. Tattoff in Atlanta to ask how long I would have to wait to start the removal process. The first question the Tattoff employee asked was how long I had had the tattoo, to which I replied “Three days”. “Oh no, what have you done?” she asked half laughing.
I am sure there are people who may think I did not contemplate my wrist tattoo thoroughly. The truth is I did, for months. It was not until it was on my body and I was living with a visible black wrist tattoo that I realized I preferred my tattoos subtle and easily concealed. I have 3 other tattoos that people rarely realize are in plain sight. I was disappointed I wanted to remove the tattoo, but more importantly, I knew if I was not 100% happy with what was on my body, why wouldn’t I do something? If I found myself wanting to cover it, why wouldn’t I change it?
Removing the Tattoo
Fast-forward to September of 2014, my Dr. Tattoff consultation in Atlanta. When I went to my consultation appointment, I felt so much relief to know I was a great candidate for laser tattoo removal (simple black ink, on fair/light skin complexion), and they were confident they could remove it in about eight to ten treatments. It is a time commitment to remove a tattoo; doing it safely takes months of laser sessions, care and follow-up. By the time my consultation arrived, I had become fond of my tattoo, but the consultation gave me the confidence to go through with what I knew I wanted more, a plain tattoo free wrist.
As of today, some of the ink is still visible because the company I was receiving treatment from went out of business. Though they had predicted 8 treatments, I had received 11 and still needed 2-3 more sessions. It is difficult to predict exactly how many laser treatments it will take for complete removal as everyone's body reacts differently to the laser. As pictured below, 11 treatments helped remove the majority of the ink; the tattoo is not nearly as bold or visible as it once was. I am happy with how subtle the tattoo is now and do not regret the process of getting it done or removed. I have not even considered paying for more treatments at an alternative business because I am content with the appearance. As much as you may think before you ink, it is possible to decide you are not 100% satisfied with your tattoo. Thankfully, ink is not nearly as permanent as people believe it is, and removal or fading is possible.
Think Before You Laser
When getting a tattoo, it is important to do research about the individual or business you are getting your tattoo done with. With ample Google and Yelp reviews available for almost all existing businesses, there is no excuse not to do a quick and simple google search with the name of the person or business tattooing you. The same advice goes for the business you choose to receive laser treatments from. A quick search on laser tattoo removal could direct you towards Groupon, which continues to feature affordable options to begin laser tattoo removal treatments. But before you click buy on that great tattoo removal deal, read the fine print and do your research about the business.
If you are new to tattoo removal, commit to a consultation, but give yourself time to consider if the business you may be receiving treatment from is:
- Clean! Your tattoo removal provider should be as sterile and tidy as a doctor's office.
- Fairly priced. Not all tattoo removal packages are priced equitably. With the introduction of new lasers every year, treatment continues to be more affordable, but make sure you are not being pressured into an expensive package. If the provider estimates a certain number of sessions but goes past that number, ask how they will charge you for the remainder of sessions needed.
- Friendly, timely and knowledgeable. I have often heard about laser businesses that pressure customers to buy expensive packages, charges high prices for extras like numbing cream or ice, and do not respect a customer's time by not honoring the appointment time. Do your due diligence to try to find an office that does none of the aforementioned things as you will feel trapped finishing multiple sessions at a business that does not really care for you and your treatment process.
If you have a tattoo, have you ever considered removing or fading it?
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2017 Nilza Santana-Castillo