Do you look back at one of your tattoos with regret and disappointment? Do you wish that you could turn back time and never walk through the door of that tattoo studio? While I’m not about to reveal the secret of time travel, I do want to talk about another option today. Let’s dig into the basics of tattoo removal and bust some of the more common myths.
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We’ve all heard the warning at least once when considering getting new ink – “Make sure you’re sure, a tattoo is forever!”. The truth is, however, that this isn’t always true! As the popularity of tattoos in our society has continued to skyrocket, the demand for tattoo removal has continued to grow and develop. There is no magic eraser that will instantly wipe your skin clear.
Tattoo ink resides within the top layers of your skin, meaning that practitioners have had to find an option to remove that ink without causing any unnecessary damage to the surrounding tissue.
While the process certainly isn’t easy, the very idea of saying goodbye to that unwanted tattoo may sound like the gift you have been searching for! Your tattoo may make you feel embarrassed or self-conscious, limiting your clothing options and impacting your life. On the other hand, you may simply feel that it no longer connects with your current lifestyle. Whatever your reason, remember that it is your decision to make, not anyone else’s!
The discussion of tattoos and tattoo removal is often littered with misinformation, bias and, most frighteningly, the unknown. That is why it is so important to share articles like this one. In order to make the right decision, you need to have all the facts. Let’s take a moment to break down 6 of the most common myths related to tattoo removal and shed some light on the truth…
Table of Contents
Myth #1 – It Will Be Completed in a Couple Appointments
If you’re looking for a quick fix solution to that unwanted tattoo, don’t get your hopes up! Tattoo removal isn’t as quick as a once over with the laser and then moving on with your life. Depending on the tattoo, it could take months or even longer than a year!
This myth is largely rooted in a misunderstanding of the actual process. When discussing the idea of tattoo removal, most people described it as if the ink is simply removed in the same way it was put there, but it’s not that easy. There is no way to ‘pull out’ the ink. It’s not a simple eraser.
Tattoo removal involves using a laser to break down the particles in your skin. Your body’s immune system will then react, targeting and clearing out these molecules which it recognizes as a foreign body. The process can take up to 8 weeks between sessions and there is no guarantee as to how the pigments will respond.
The number of treatments required will depend on how deep the tattoo was, how the different coloured pigments respond to the laser, etc. Green and blue inks often take longer to break down and remove while white, yellow and purple are often impossible to completely remove from the body. There is no way to accurately predict how long a removal will take. During this time, you will be left with a fading tattoo in the ‘in-between’ stages of removal.
Myth # 2 – Tattoo Removal Will Be Less Painful Than Getting a Tattoo
I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but if you’re getting yourself psyched up for tattoo removal, you should know what you’re signing up for. This isn’t to say that your experience is going to be one of extreme pain and discomfort. Much like getting a tattoo, the level of pain described by those who have a tattoo removed can differ significantly from person to person.
When you first arrive at your session the practitioner will take steps to numb the area and minimize your pain. For a smaller area, they may choose a topical numbing cream, however, for larger tattoos and longer sessions you may receive a lidocaine injection. The opportunity for pain doesn’t end there…
Following your appointment, there will likely be pain associated with the healing process. Once again, the experience can vary from person to person. That being said, you should be prepared for the potential of tenderness, swelling, blisters, scabbing, peeling and bleeding. Take time to consider what clothing you regularly wear and how it may rub against your tattoo now as you may have to make some changes moving forward. For example, if you are removing a tattoo on your shoulder, you may need to switch to a halter style or strapless bra.
Myth #3 – All Practitioners Are Created Equal
Given that tattoo removal doesn’t involve any actual surgical incisions, you don’t need to seek out a dermatologist to do your removal, right? You should know that, like many other things in life, you get what you pay for! There are many spas and clinics that offer tattoo removal procedures but proceed with care!
There are many potential risks involved with tattoo removal and the possible complications that may arise. Dermatologists are educated on how to recognize and overcome these complications as well as identify those situations in which treatment is not recommended. This will decrease the chance of scarring and infection.
Their expertise will also help to minimize the pain and discomfort that you may feel throughout the procedure. If you are looking to lidocaine injections to lessen your pain, this will only be done by a licenced professional. Pain management is far more limited in a spa setting.
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery recommends doing your research before selecting a practitioner including whether or not the practitioner has board certification, their level of experience, references and rapport, the accreditation of the facility in which your procedure will be completed and the availability of follow-up care. In short, don’t make this decision lightly!
Myth #4 – If You Experienced No Reaction When Getting a Tattoo, You Won’t React to Having It Removed
There are several potential reactions that can be experienced throughout the tattoo removal process. While some of these can be predicted during a consultation with a licensed professional, others may come as a surprise. This is a key reason why it is so important to be selective about who you allow to carry out your procedure. In the event of an adverse reaction, the way they react can have a significant impact on the final outcome.
The use of a laser may result in scarring or permanent skin discoloration, however, not all reactions are cosmetic in nature. The process of breaking up the pigments in the ink and triggering your body’s immune system to react may cause a systemic reaction in the body in more extreme cases. This can put a patient at risk for anaphylaxis which is a life-threatening condition.
Myth #5 – Tattoo Removal Will Cost the Same as Getting a Tattoo
I’m not going to argue that tattoo removal is a bad decision, everyone has their own story and their own reasons. However, if you are going to go this route, it’s going to come with a price tag. If you were to take the time to Google tattoo removal in your area, you will find a wide variety of pricing. As we previously discussed, this will vary largely based on whether you’re going to see a dermatologist or a practitioner in a spa setting.
Here in Southern Ontario, I found pricing ranging from $150 to $500 per treatment. Consider, for a moment, that the average tattoo removal will need approximately 6 to 8 sessions, with larger or more complicated tattoo taking 10 sessions or more. The costs can add up and fast!
Myth #6 – Your Tattoo Must Be Removed Completely in Every Situation
So, you’re stuck with a tattoo that you don’t want to look at every day. For many people, this comes down to a black and white decision – you either keep it and try to keep it covered up, or you pay to have it removed. However, there’s a grey area that may intrigue you.
Rather than completing all the sessions to have your tattoo completely removed, you could consider a tattoo coverup. Some tattoos can simply be covered up exactly as they are right now. The artist will use tricks and strategies that fool the eye and create a new image in place of the old one. These tricks including blending colour and shading as well as using depth of colour and detail. However, not every tattoo can be covered up in this manner.
Some tattoos are darker by nature. Look at a traditional style tattoo with its bold black lines versus a watercolour tattoo. If you aren’t sure whether you are suited for a traditional coverup, book a consultation with a tattoo artist. There are many talented artists that specialize in this area. As with any tattoo, take your time to research the artists in your area to find a reputable artist with a portfolio that lines up with the work you are hoping to have done.
If your tattoo is too dark for a standard coverup, you may be able to lighten your tattoo first with a few tattoo removal sessions to allow for a coverup to be completed. Your artist can direct you as to how much you will need to fade your tattoo to achieve your desired end result.
Have you ever considered tattoo removal? If so, what reasons did you have for deciding whether or not to proceed?