Thinking about tattoo removal? Read this first…
It’s reported that 1 in 5 of us in the UK now have a tattoo, with a whopping 45% of those done between the ages of 18 to 25 (so, unsurprisingly, a third of people regret having a tattoo).
I happened to get mine done at 17, in the days before health & safety forms, and lied about my age. My mum went crazy when she realised it wasn’t a pretty transfer. At 17, I thought the perfect tattoo for me was a strawberry (which the tattoo artist let me draw myself) on my hip…. And 17 year-old-me loved it.
Now at 37, I’d almost forgot it was there, it was part of my body just like a mole or a freckle except it now looked a little bit rubbish! Some might say, really rubbish! The bright red had become a dark burgundy, the yellow seeds were non-existent and the green was now sludge green. I must say though, I still quite liked my strawberry as it always reminded me of my fun-loving, slightly embarrassing 17 year-old-self.
But alas, the day came that I decided to remove my tattoo and it turns out, red, yellow and green are some of the hardest colours to remove! So, my research became lengthy and I unearthed some horror stories along the way.
Here are some points to take into account before even considering tattoo removal:
- The number of sessions needed to remove your tattoo cannot be predicted beforehand. Tattoo removal is not a cheap process, do not start it unless you are certain you can afford to finish it (some clinics do offer an easy payment option though).
- Total removal is not guaranteed. Some people are left with a ‘ghost image’ of their tattoo, slight scarring or pigmentation damage (where the skin is much lighter where the tattoo once was).
- The location of the tattoo matters! As a general rule the closer to the heart the tattoo is, the better the removal success rate (the blood circulation aids removal) and therefore tattoos on the ankles and feet do not always have a great result.
- Whether your tattoo was done professionally and how long ago it was done will affect the result. Believe it or not, home-made tattoos are much harder to remove!
- Darker skin (or skin that is close in colour to the tattoo) has a higher risk of scarring as the laser is attracted to pigment.
- Be aware of the period of time it may take- you will need to wait a number of weeks between each appointment, so it can take up to a year to fully remove!
- It hurts way more than actually having the tattoo done in the first place!
- The colours in your tattoo are the most important thing to consider when choosing which clinic to have your treatment at. It is not possible to treat all ink colours with just one laser machine. The clinic you choose must have the correct machine for your ink colour (and white ink is incredibly tricky to treat, if at all).
For my tattoo, that last point was crucial. It would be impossible to treat my tattoo with just one laser machine. Lucky for me, Pulse Light Clinic have all the machines imaginable, including ones for skin rejuvenation which is sometimes needed after removal to reboot the skin. They are a clinic dedicated to all things laser, and they fully understand their machines, their patient needs and the science behind such a complicated treatment.
First, I had to have a patch test with 2 types of laser machine; the Picoway for the red ink (also great for dark ink and dark skin) then the Picosure for the green and yellow ink (it also treats blue ink), I then had to wait 8 weeks to see how my skin responded before I could have the full treatment. These machines use short, fast sound waves to shatter and scatter the ink, the machine can be adjusted to different wave lengths depending on which colours are being treated, the shattered ink then finds its way into the circulatory system and leaves the body as waste product.
Did I mention it’s painful?! For my little tattoo, each treatment takes less than 10 minutes but for a larger tattoo I would definitely recommend using numbing cream 45 minutes before your treatment! On the plus side- each treatment is less painful than the one before (the laser is attracted to the ink, as the ink becomes less so does the pain!).
For the first 48 hours after the treatment, you keep the area covered, then you can remove the dressing and apply Vaseline to the area 2-3 times a day for 5 days. After the 5 days, you must apply and massage oil into the area- this is so important! By massaging the area, you are encouraging the shattered ink to disperse even further, and it is essential to keep the skin nourished and healthy throughout the process. I was told to use Bio Oil but I preferred to use a mix of Jojoba and Rosehip oil as they are both healing, nourishing and regenerating for the skin.
The team at Pulse Light Clinic have made this process almost enjoyable(!) it is such a fascinating process, and the popularity of the clinic shows you are in trusted hands. As for my tattoo, the pictures speak for themselves- my dark, sludgy strawberry is a distant memory! My skin is ever so slightly paler where the tattoo was but my lovely therapist, Erica, assures me this will even out over time. I have no scarring or pigmentation, just a blank hip for the first time in 20 years!
Embarking on tattoo removal takes dedication, it’s time consuming, painful and the tattoo will probably look worse before it looks better but my goodness, it’s worth it! It is SO clever and for someone with a tattoo they hate, it can be life-changing, and way better than a tattoo cover up (I adore E4’s Tattoo Fixers but why are the cover ups always so huge??!!). The only problem with such a successful treatment is that a tattoo doesn’t seem quite as big a commitment anymore and I might possibly (definitely) be thinking about getting a new one….
Pulse Light Clinic 1st Floor Peak House 150-152 Fenchurch Street, London, EC3M 6BB Tel: 020 7523 5158
Prices based on tattoo size, from; £75 (2cm tattoo) – £560 (50cm tattoo) per single treatment. Packages and pay monthly plans available.