Month: October 2013

Tattoo Removal Process – Day 1

I’ve had three tattoos on my body since I was 18 years old.  I turned 34 three weeks ago and I’m very clearly not the same person that I was 16 years ago.  I started on my 18th birthday with this little gem

Right Arm Tattoo

I figured “Hey, I’m a drummer. I’m a badass, let’s get a skull!”  The version of this that I picked out had “Rock & Roll” around it, too, but I asked for that to be removed.  The artist said he’d have not done the tattoo with the wording.  I wish, all these years later, that he’d have talked me out of putting this on my body at all.  It’s been on my upper right arm for over 16 years now.

Around a month later, my best friend at the time turned 18. So I did what any good friend does, I took him first to a strip club and then to a tattoo parlor — the same one I went to for my 18th birthday.  I got this gem:

Left Arm Tattoo

What’s the meaning of it? What does it symbolize?  Absolutely nothing. It symbolizes that I had $40 on me after I paid for John’s tattoo and this was the $40 tattoo I could afford.

Then it gets interesting from there.  I worked with the artist, who’s name I believe was Steven, to design a piece for my back. An epic piece of giant proportions and amazing color and design!  I loved it, so much!  I went in one day with the $1500 in hand ready to have it done, only to be told that there wasn’t enough time to get it all done that day.  18 year old me had no idea how long it’d take to do, so I left empty handed.

When I finally went back to do the piece, the artist felt bad and only charge me $100 for the entire session, which lasted close to 10 hours.  (I may be misremembering that total amount of time, but it was definitely over 8 hours because we got there at noon and left after dark.)

This beauty has been on my back since March (or April, I really can’t remember) of 1998

Back Piece

It’s tough to tell the scale of it from the crappy iPhone photo (I’m taking actual photos of the removal process with my camera and will post a gallery when that’s all done in about 18 months), but it’s from shoulder to shoulder and around 10″ tall.  It’s, according to the removal guy, Rob, the largest tattoo that he could do in a single sitting.

So there you have it, there’s the backstory on the tattoos and if you know me at all now, you know why I would want to have these removed.  They’re definitely not me.  The “Destination Unknown” still sort of describes me, but I have a pretty firm grasp on what I’m doing now and have a good idea of where I’ll end up in life.

I met with Rob, the owner and operator of Disappearing Inc (what an awesome name for this type of business, right?!) on September 28th, the day before my 34th birthday.  He answered all of my questions, gave me an estimate, showed me how the laser worked, and just chatted about the tattoos in general.  He was quite surprised to find out how old the two on my arms were, because they’re in such great shape.  Apparently being a shut in and hardly ever going out in the sun will keep your tattoos looking good longer, who knew!?

I scheduled my first appointment for October 19th (yesterday as of the day I’m writing this post) and went in for my first treatment.  I won’t lie, I was nervous — probably because I’d been stewing over how much it would hurt for three weeks after my consultation.  Despite what you read online about the process, pain is a subjective thing.  What hurts you may not hurt me and vise versa.

I sat down in the chair, took off my shirt and told Rob to do his work.  I will say that I didn’t go meet any other professionals in the area, I didn’t interview multiple companies or talk to a bunch of laser removal guys.  I met Rob and he was great, he knew his stuff and was an extremely nice guy. I didn’t need to look anywhere else.

Thankfully, that wasn’t just a ruse to get me to come in for a treatment during the consultation. Rob’s genuinely a really nice guy and having him talk to you during the entire process was quite helpful.  Having a conversation certainly helped keep your mind off the process.  For all three tattoos, it was around a 45 minute process, which is what he expected it to be.

During the process, he’d ask me if I was okay before moving on to the next tattoo.  He told me, before we ever started, that the back would hurt considerably more than the arms, which was what I was expecting.  I got the tattoos so long ago that I didn’t quite remember the exact amount of pain, but I knew the back was more substantial than the arms (and took a lot longer, too.)

So the all important questions that I know you’re dying to ask:

What does it feel like?

If you read anything about tattoo removal, you’ll probably read that it feels like someone snapping you with a rubber band.  A fair description, but not what I experienced.  To me, it felt more like being shocked by a 9 volt battery.  Which sounds pretty terrible, but it’s actually not.  The laser only hits you for a fraction of a second at a time and depending on what process you’re doing, it’ll either hit you once per second, twice per second of five times per second. (We did two per second on my arms and 5 per second on my back.)

The back was quite uncomfortable. Not because it hurts, but because your body’s natural reaction is to move away from something zapping you.  I had to, at times, tell my body to sit still and a few times thought “he’s gotta almost be done.”  At one point Rob said “we’re about halfway done” which was a nice surprise.  He gave me updates again when we had a third left and just about as we finished.

I wouldn’t say it’s painful, but it’s uncomfortable.  It’s not the best experience I’ve ever had in my lifetime, for sure, but I don’t imagine it’s much worse than getting the actual tattoo, either.

Once we were done, Rob hit me with the cooling hose (which is used to numb the area before the process starts) for a bit, to help soothe the skin.  My entire back and both uppers arms were swollen for most of last night.

How do you feel the day after?

Rob warned me that it’d feel like I had a sunburn, which is exactly what it feels like.  I was uncomfortable sitting on the couch most of last night, constantly squirming and trying to find a place that was less painful to press against my back.  Sleeping wasn’t great last night, either.

This morning I feel pretty okay.  Okay enough to put a shirt on today, anyway.  It’s still a little sore on my back, but less so on my arms.  It’s a dull sunburn pain right now and I’m sure if I put some aloe on or took some Advil, I’d feel considerably better. (Note to self: do that when you’re done rambling.)

Rob warned me that it’d be a couple of days before I felt back to good.

Do you notice a difference?

Rob warned me that I wouldn’t.  He said that many people that come in for their first treatment don’t come back because they don’t see a difference with the first treatment.  He said it’s quite uncommon to see a difference after a single treatment — but I do.

Little bits of color here and there are fading, some of the black lines are already fading and disappearing.

The really cool thing is that as the day went on yesterday, the tattoos seems to keep evolving.  It wasn’t an immediate “oh hey! that line is gone!” sort of thing.  Every time I looked in the mirror, I noticed a little bit of blurring on a different line and some more fading.

That’s not to say that you’d notice the difference if you just casually looked at it (that’ll take many treatments), but if I start hard enough, I can see where the ink is fading already. Which is promising.

What does it cost?

That was on my biggest question going in — and one that you’ll be hard pressed to find an answer to online.  Rob offers completely free (and extremely no pressure) consultations to look at your tattoos.  A lot of factors go into the pricing, such as your skin tone, the size of the tattoo, the depth of the ink, etc.  Having a professional look at it is the best way to find out the cost and how many sessions it’ll take.

For my three tattoos, which is around a total of 100 square inches (I think that’s the total we came up with), each session would be $450.  Which, yes, is a lot of money, I agree.

Rob, being as awesome as he is, gives you a discount if you prepay for sessions. If you pay for 5, you get 15% off. If you pay for 10, you get 25% off.  So, being me, I paid for the 10 sessions up front and saved $1125.  Worth it.

What’s next?

My next appointment is December 14th, where we’ll do the exact same thing again for the same 45 minutes.  After the second or third treatment, I should see more and more progress on the colors coming out of the skin.  I’m happy with the process after the first and can’t wait to see what happens after the next handful of treatments.

I’m taking some good photos after each process so I can document what it actually looks like each time (rather than just before and after shots) and will post a gallery when I’m all done with the entire thing.

If you’re considering going through this process and have any questions that you’re too scared to ask a professional or want an honest answer, feel free to ask in the comments.  I’m new to the process but am glad to answer anything I can.