I'm Getting A Tattoo Removed and It's Painful and Expensive

I've already spent $1,300 to get my ankle tattoo removed and I'm not even finished. And the pain. Don't get me started on the pain.
Publish date:
June 24, 2014
pain, tattoo, tattoo removal

I was just 18 when I decided to get a tattoo. Jerry had just died (Garcia, in case that wasn’t obvious) and so I thought a Dancing Bear might be appropriate. Thank god, I changed my mind at the last minute and instead opted for something I used to draw in my notebooks: a daisy chain with a sun in the middle.

That’s right: I got a doodle tattooed on my ankle. “Daisies because that’s my name,” I would explain when people asked. “And the sun because daisy means ‘the day’s eye.’” I know. I know. So lame. I would make excuses, but I think my age and the fact that I spent that entire summer smoking The Pot is probably excuse enough.

I liked the tattoo for a few years, became indifferent to it a few years later, eventually decided it was a little too Stephanie Seymour in the "November Rain” video, and finally felt like it just really wasn't "me."

You’d think an ankle tattoo wouldn’t be very noticeable, so why would I even care, but every time I had to wear a cocktail dress, I cringed. And though no one ever judged it negatively (except my mother (of course) and one boyfriend’s mother who asked how I got my ankle bracelet to stay so perfectly and was clearly NOT impressed when I explained that it stayed that way because it was permanent), I felt like it was time for the tattoo to go.

Turns out, I’m not the only person to change her mind about her “permanent” body art. One in seven people express misgivings about their tattoos according to a Bloomberg article. A Harris Poll claims that one in five U.S. adults has a tattoo while a study in the U.K. says 37% of “people with inked skin regretted it after about 14 years.” Also, worth noting is that the Harris Poll found two out of five found people with tattoos to be less attractive or sexy (although the only person I found to be less attractive and sexy because of a tattoo was me).

All of this tattoo regret, however, been great for those getting in on what's now a booming business: tattoo removal. In fact, In in 2013, ASDS dermatologists performed nearly 96,000 laser/light/energy-based tattoo removal procedures, up from 63,000 in 2012. Considering how popular tattoos were in the ’90s and 2000s, that number only stands to grow.

Here’s the thing though: tattoo removal is expensive and painful. I think I paid $100 or $150 to get my tattoo. I’ve already spent about $1,300 getting it removed (and that’s only because I had the money to pay for nine sessions upfront and therefore got a 30% discount). My sessions cost less now ($100, which is the minimum) but I am still looking at at least three more.

Oh, and did I mention I’ve been doing this since 2010? (I’m super lazy though and let tons of time go in between sessions, although that's actually what they recommend. Last time I went, he said I should wait at least six months before returning.)

The pain factor is the one that makes me wonder how anyone with a large tattoo would ever consider getting it removed. I have had numerous doctors and RNs tell me that my threshold for pain is almost scary. Examples: I fractured my spine and didn’t realize I needed to go to a doctor for seven weeks, and I lasered my entire bikini area (and legs and underarms) without ever using numbing cream…and kind of enjoyed the way it felt.

Tattoo removal though? IT HURTS. Sure, it hurts less as the sessions go on, but there’s a reason they give you stress balls to hold. When demonstrating how the laser works when it hits your skin (creating a small welt), a tattoo removal specialist says, "That’s called frosting, which is a reaction of the laser smashing into your skin. It’s excruciating. Some people just say, ‘I can’t do anymore.'"

I never quit, but I definitely dropped a few F-bombs in the earlier sessions. The pain, though, is a hard one to describe. I guess it feels like needles stabbing into your skin while being branded like a cow while rubber bands are viciously snapped onto the wound again and again and again. Oh, and that’s with numbing cream.

The real bummer though is that it’s not necessarily even possible for all tattoos to be removed. (Which they tell you ahead of time, but which I refused to believe. Which is why I now have turquoise smudges around my ankle and faint white lines where the pigment has been zapped away.) If you are looking into it, be sure to get a second opinion because some colors just don't come out all the way and some people don't have the best skin type for it. (They claim the pigment can return. We shall see...)

Still…I’m glad I am doing it because it makes me feel better and that's what matters. Of course, I wish I’d never gotten the tattoo in the first place (Unpopular opinion: 18 is too young to make life-long decisions about your body), but I also wish I’d never pierced my belly button. (Fun fact kiddos: There will be a scar there. FOREVER.)

But we do stupid stuff when we’re young and for those of us who grow up to regret it, at least tattoo removal is now an option. And, from the way business is booming, a popular one at that.

Have you ever regretted any of your body art? Would you get a tattoo removed if you decided a decade later you didn’t like it?