Tattoo Removal: Blasphemy or Necessity?

Just the Tip(s) by J. Michael Taylor

Ink Info from Black Amethyst Tattoo Gallery

Tattoo Removal: Blasphemy or Necessity?

You really loved that Fonzie/nudie energy drink logo/freehand/fill-in-the-blank tattoo. Getting it done would be one of your favorite memories, if you could remember it.

Sixteen-year-olds can’t vote, aren’t supposed to drink, have under-formed brains and senses of self, and should never choose, much less get, a tattoo. But you did.

Your dad who you hated died. Your ex (spit spit) isn’t the subject of your nightly dreams and terrors anymore. You are reconsidering how smart it was to use “f*ck” and “face” as eyebrow alternatives. People change.

You feel that your Juggalos aren’t what they Jugga-used to be. So now what…?

Tattoo transformations come in two basic flavors: change it up or zap it away.  Cover it up or take it off.  Redo or renew.

If you choose to remove, lasers are the way to go.

  1. What’s so good about laser removal?

Old school removal techniques are as bad as they sound, and not nearly as effective as lasers.  Excision, the cutting away of a tattoo, leads to scarring. Ouch and no. Dermabrasion, the scraping/buffing the tattooed skin away, is literally irritating and takes a very long time to be moderately effective. Not worth it.  And salabration, using salt-soaked gauze to wear down the skin and fade the tattoo over time, takes Ain’t no one got time for that. Since lasers selectively treat the pigment in the tattoo, the risk of complications like infection and scarring is minimized.

  1. How does laser tattoo removal work?

Lasers remove tattoos by breaking up the pigment (the colors suspended in the ink) with a high-intensity light beam. Science-fiction ray gun light. Since black ink absorbs all laser wavelengths, it’s the easiest to treat. For your other colors, specific laser wavelengths are used.

  1. Are there side effects?

Sure, there can be. The good news is that the side effects are generally no big deal. There is a slight risk of infection, as with any skin-altering procedure. There may some scarring, but that’s unusual. And in some instances the laser may remove all the pigment from the treated area – not just your tatt, in other words, your skin color, too.

  1. What’s laser removal like?

Once you are situated with your protective space goggle eyewear (seriously, laser light is super intense and you there are much more fun ways to go blind, if you get my drift), your skin is tested to what energy level is appropriate for the work at hand.  Then a handpiece is placed against the area being treated, and the pulses begin. Smaller tattoos take fewer pulses, larger ones take more. You’ll need multiple sessions, no matter the size being treated.  You’ll notice that your tattoo gets lighter with each visit. At the end of each session, you’ll use an ice pack to soothe the area, and a topical antibiotic cream to fight infection and speed healing. You’ll get a patch or bandage, and specific instructions for treating the area between sessions. It may remind you of healing a tattoo.

  1. Will it hurt?

Um, yeah. How much depends on the same things that determine the pain factor of getting a tattoo: the location being worked on and your particular pain threshold. Topical anesthesia and/or painkilling injections are available as needed. Most people describe the feeling as rubber bands snapping on skin, or the feeling of hot grease splattering out of a pan. Pain is subjective, so just know going in that it’s not gonna feel like unicorn breath from a bed of rainbows. But you’ll be fine, promise.

  1. Are you, a professional tattoo artist, really telling me it’s ok to have laser tattoo removal?

Damn right I am. If you need a tattoo gone, for whatever reason – it’s ugly, you’re divorced, you’ve moved past what made that particular tattoo appealing to you, you want a clean slate for your next ink – modern medicine and advanced technology are here to help. Do your homework, choose a pro, and go ahead and clear that canvas if you need to. Do overs are uber cool. Once you’re properly healed, hit me up for your next tattoo, one that you’ll wear forever. Deal?

  1. Michael Taylorowns and tattoos atBlack Amethyst Tattoo Gallery, an art-first shop in St. Petersburg, FL.  He is a tattoo artist, painter and art show curator/producer. In his spare time, which he doesn’t have, he plays guitar, works out and collects skulls.