Are you the not-so-proud owner of some regrettable ink? Well, welcome to the club. I have four (five, if you count the one on my back as two) tattoos from my late teens and early twenties that I could definitely do without. So, this year I set out to do just that: get them removed.
Here’s what you need to know about tattoo removal.
It will take months—if not a year or more.
Tattoos don’t just disappear after a once-over with the laser. (I wish!) I’ve had six sessions, and I’d wager that I need about five more, despite the fact that my initial estimate was six to eight sessions. It takes a long time to complete because each time the tattoo is lasered, particles are broken down and digested by the body’s immune system. The regeneration period is up to eight weeks, and the next time you go, the laser breaks down new particles of pigment. And so on and so forth.
If you have your procedures done by a doctor, the bill for each visit can run you hundreds of dollars. Brace yourself: The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) estimates the average cost per session at $463. But see point number one for why it’s worth it.
All ink can be taken out
Contrary to the old belief that light, colored ink was hard to remove, Dr. Adams assured me that all hues will now disappear. (FYI: The previous explanation was that, similar to laser hair removal, the laser would solely be attracted toward dark colors, like black.) With PicoSure technology, he says you can even get out yellows and greens, which were previously the most stubborn.
Get ready for needles.
Mentally prepare for visits to consist of more than just a quick and easy laser moment. Mine have been taking about 45 minutes because we take before photos, clean the areas, inject them with lidocaine for freezing, laser them, ice them, and then bandage them. Oh, and sometimes a weird thing happens where I taste metal when the laser hits my skin. Dr. Adams says it’s a sensation that some people experience when the lidocaine is hit by the laser and [that it] is totally normal…but also, I might be superhuman.
You could just lighten ink enough to go over it
If you don’t want to take your tattoos all the way off, you can simply lighten them enough to get some good cover-ups done. I have a friend who had a bird piece lightened enough to have a tattoo artist ink a light bulb over the top. I thought it was smart because it meant her new tattoo didn’t have to be heavy-handed (which I’m sure you think is very 2000).
Or take it all off, but there might be white patches or scars
If, like me, you want your ink completely removed, you should know that the skin that is left might not be flawless. I’m hoping that reading this post will prevent you from having a tattoo removal turn into scarring à la numero uno. And while the risks are nowhere near as big when you are treated by a medical professional, your skin pigment can be lightened.
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