Adventures in Tattoo Removal

Almost twenty years ago, I thought it would be a fabulous idea to tattoo a multicolored butterfly on my back. As you can imagine, at eighteen years old, the decision process involved wasn’t very lengthy nor arduous. Nope, I recall walking into a Kansas City tattoo parlor, pointing to a random butterfly in one of those thick tattoo books, and declaring, “that one will do.” (The 37-year-old me would like to strangle the 18-year-old me, trust me. A BUTTERFLY? I’m not even particularly fond of butterflies.)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I think tattoos can be incredible works of art and extremely beautiful. I like tattoos. Just not the one on my back. So, in the spring of last year, I decided to get serious and have the sucker completely removed via laser tattoo removal. Here’s a video I shot in April 2011 documenting the story of my tattoo and my first laser treatment.


Now that I have finished 10 laser treatments (waiting 6 to 8 weeks in between), it’s time for an update and some photos.

First off, the tattoo is still there, folks. It’s much lighter, but still there. Certain colors can be really stubborn, and the blue-green shade in my tattoo is holding on for dear life. However, I’ve been assured that it will indeed be completely removed in the near future. (Let’s hope so!)

Here are some photos from the process. (Ahem, I wouldn’t recommend looking at this while eating.)

  • Pre-Treatment 1 of 6
    A photo of my tattoo pre-laser treatment. (Black ink had been removed from a previous laser treatment 10 years ago.)
  • Trés fashionable 2 of 6
    Trés fashionable
    I can see it now...laser-protection glasses as the newest trend in eyewear.
  • Post-treatment 3 of 6
    Tattoos are usually red and swollen for about a week after treatment.
  • Blistering 4 of 6
    Occasionally, a massive blister will appear post-treatment. When my toddler saw this, she yelled, "MMMMM, JELLYBEAN." (I will never eat a Very Cherry Jelly Belly again.)
  • 10 sessions completed 5 of 6
    10 sessions completed
    The blue ink just doesn't want to say goodbye.
  • Before/After Photo – 10 sessions 6 of 6
    Before/After Photo - 10 sessions
    A good deal of improvement, but still work to do.

So! What have I learned during this long journey?

1. Removing a tattoo takes a lot of time. Be prepared for the long haul.

2. Depending on the color of ink, the process can be painful. Black ink hurts the most to remove (but disappears the quickest), but colors aren’t too painful (however take the longest to fade). You can apply numbing cream and/or ice 30 minutes before treatment to help lessen the pain.

3. The tattoo takes about a week to heal after the treatment – sometimes they swell, sometimes they blister, and you need to keep it bandaged and take care of it to keep from infection.

4. Most importantly, make sure you are absolutely certain you want a tattoo before you get one. I know it’s hard, but try to imagine your life 20, 30, or 40 years from now. Will you still want the tattoo on your body? I am consistently amazed that something that took less than an hour to put on my body will ultimately take about 2 years of laser treatment to remove. Crazy.

5. If a loved one (your teen, perhaps?) is considering a tattoo, please feel free to use my jelly belly blister photo as evidence to sway their decision. Who knows, it might work.

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