Didnt Think Before You Got Inked

Didn't Think Before You Got Inked?

Regrets, I've Had a Few

In the same study, the reasons people gave for changing their mind about their tattoos are many and varied: 'I no longer value that symbol as much as I once did (24% women/28% men)' and 'poor line work' (20% women/19% men) are two of the most common, and 28% of women say they 'just got bored with it'.

Another of the most frequent regrets (22% of women and 18% of men) is that their tattoo relates to a former partner. Remember Johnny Depp and his 'Winona Forever' tatt?

Stuart Henshall, 33, from Sydney is one such person. He's in the process of having a 23cm x 8cm black Thai script tattoo removed that stretches the entire width of his lower back (the most common place people regret getting their tattoo).

"It’s a delightful mid-sized tramp stamp that I designed when I lived in Thailand as an English teacher when I was 18 back in the early 2000s," says Stuart. "I got it to mark the 10th anniversary of my mum’s death and thought it would be a fitting permanent tribute. It was a poor choice made by 18-year-old me that 33-year-old me is now regretting. And I’m pretty sure my mum hated tattoos so there’s that too."

Stuart's story is common. But the good news is, tattoo removal is extremely effective albeit a lengthy process. "Luckily mine is black ink which is easy to breakdown," says Stuart. "It will take about a year and a half to fully disappear."

Lower back tattoos are high on the regret list

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Different Types of Tattoo Removal

Peter Poulos, director of Disappear Ink Tattoo Removal Clinic in Kogarah, NSW, explains there are a number of ways to remove tattoos: surgical excision, salt rubs, chemical peels, chemical injections and dermabrasion. "These methods all involve a physical interaction with the skin to remove ink, which in the process damages the skin and leave scars."

Laser, it seems is the only way to go if you want permanent removal and no scars. "The use of lasers in tattoo removal is the only method, when correctly applied, that will not cause scarring in the vast majority of cases," says Poulos. "And it should only ever be undertaken by a trained clinician using a Class 4 medical grade Q-switched laser."

Laser is the only treatment that won't leave a scar

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How Long Does it Take To Remove a Tattoo?

According to Poulos, "a common misconception is that the size of the tattoo determines how fast it can be removed." He says, "A small tattoo can take longer than a forearm sleeve to remove."
The results depend on the following factors:
  1. The volume and depth of the ink in the tattoo.
  2. The colours of ink within the tattoo. Black ink is the easiest colour to remove.
  3. The location of the tattoo. Hands and feet are slow to fade because of the distance from the lymph nodes.
  4. The age of the person. Younger people have a faster metabolism.
  5. The overall health of the person. 
  6. The level of activity, exercise and movement. The more you move, the more you fade.
  7. The amount of water consumed. The more water, the faster the fading.

Finger tattoos can be really easy or really hard to remove

Disappear Ink

You never know which it'll be until you start

Disappear Ink

It Takes Time

"On average a complete scar-free removal takes between two to three years and requires between 8 to 12 treatments," says Poulos. "Laser Tattoo Removal is a fading process. The laser does half the work by shattering the ink into smaller particles. The other half of the job is allowing the body’s lymphatic system to work its magic to remove the shattered ink particles - and that is what takes time."
Interestingly, many clients don't want to completely remove their tattoo, they just want to get it covered up with a new one and three to five treatments is usually sufficient to allow an artist to ink a new piece of art over the old one.

Tattoo before treatment

Disappear Ink

After 3rd treatment

Disappear Ink

Voila! The new tattoo

Ocean Ink

What Does it Cost?

Stuart Henshall paid to get his Thai script tattoo and is now looking at a 00 bill to have it removed.

"I’m having between 10-12 sessions in total and am on session number four so there is a while to go," he says. "To allow time for my skin to heal properly and the body to remove the broken down ink there is 6-8 weeks down time between each session."

"I wish it was a quicker fix, but I knew it wouldn't be and thought about it for a while before I actually booked in. Looking at the bigger picture, 18 months is an OK period of time when it means I'll be more comfortable taking my top off at the beach and not be the 33 year old with the tacky tramp stamp, let alone a 70 year old."

The cost will vary depending on the clinic and places like Disappearink have created a payment policy that they believe best suits their business ethics and benefits their clients.

"When we commenced operating five years ago, we followed the industry-standard of charging by size," explains Poulos. 
"We found it very confusing and difficult, so we introduced a simple 0 price per treatment. We do have maximum size limits on the overall skin area we can treat per treatment session as healing and aftercare are extremely important but client safety and wellbeing are our priorities."
For Poulos this pricing system allows people to finish the process - which makes good business sense for him. "Our objective in offering a set price is to make it affordable for people to continue with the process to arrive at the result they wanted, whether that was a full removal or a fade for a cover-up. Ceasing treatments because it became too expensive is a terrible result because the client is out of pocket and has a partially faded tattoo which was not what they wanted in the first place."
When you're looking at 8-12 treatments for full removal the outlay is considerable, but definitely worth sticking with.

Black ink is easiest to remove

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Does it Hurt?

Short answer: yes. Just like the tattoo did in the first place. Only a bit worse.

Numbing cream which is applied about 30 minutes before the treatment is recommended and if Henshall's experience is anything to go by it's worth it: "I didn’t use it properly for my first session so it felt like I had burning needles rammed into my spine. That pain was a 12/10. Now I use the numbing cream properly it’s around an 7/10."

Poulos adds, "[Tattoo removal] involves a degree of discomfort." He tends to treat people at a Level 7 out of 10. "That is, we adjust the laser to a level that is effective for the removal but that the client can manage."
Everyone has a different pain threshold and most laser tattoo removal is done in conjunction with a cooling device that blows cold air on the area as the laser works its magic.
Plus, the pain is short-lived. "Immediately after the treatment, the discomfort drops to a 3 out of 10 and in 15-30 minutes after that, it feels around 1-2 out of 10."
"Numbing cream can help by taking 2-3 points off the discomfort scale and may clients do use it. Most however rely on our Zimmer cooling system." 

Getting a tattoo can be painful

Disappear Ink

(Getting it removed (7 treatments) later, might hurt even more

Disappear Ink

What about eyebrow tattoos?

No doubt about it, the face, ears and neck are some of the most delicate (and painful) areas to get a tattoo. And the removal is no different. Eyebrow tattoos are generally considered to be semi-permanent, due to two reasons:

1) The tattoo doesn't go as deep

2) The ink used on eyebrow tattoos degrades more quickly

Both of these reasons mean your eyebrow tattoo will fade within 2-3 years, which means you'll need a yearly touch up, or you can just let it go. However, if you're really unhappy with them and don't want to wait, laser removal is possible for the eyebrow area too.

Disappear Ink

After 3 treatments

Disappear Ink

The Girl Who No Longer Has The Dragon Tattoo

To summarise: tattoo removal is really effective when the correct laser is used and you have the budget to finish the job. When done well, you'll have smooth, clear skin with little to no sign of that barbed wire armband, bulldog or strategically placed rose with your ex-wife's name that only your massage therapist can see.

It'll be gone forever.

Once you make the choice, finding a clinic that will explain the procedure to you and be clear on cost will help. Remember: it's a lengthy and relatively painful procedure, but the results are clearly worth it.

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