I was 23 years old. Pearl Jam was all over the radio, and I was in Austin. So, I did what every other 20 something did back in 1995. I got a tattoo.
I felt quite empowered! I’d read up on some artist there who worked at the Red Dragon Tattoo Parlor on Guadalupe Street in Texas Monthly magazine (which, looking back, made it seem like the artist was more legit.) Of course, when me and my two roommates arrived for a long weekend of partying in Austin, the artist was in Thailand or the Philippines or something and I ended up with some dude with a tattooed head (a rarity back then) who told me to take off my shirt so he could ink my back. My girlfriend, Yvette, refused to get her tattoo without someone else in the room with her but I think that’s just because she had to drop her drawers…
It’s 2015 now. My five-point crown, which was once a beautiful turquoise blue and steel grey, is smudgy and blah. Which had me weighing whether I want to get it re-colored or removed. It just so happens I’m married to a doctor who lasers off tattoos for a living.
Spa915 is our family-owned business where my husband, Dave Williams, has a solid clientele of people looking to laser off the names of past lovers, misspelled tattoos (yeah, that really happens!) and gang insignia from his patients. I’ve heard tidbits about their lives: there was the soon-to-be divorced couple that tattooed each other’s names on their backs. Each came to see Dave about a week after getting married (and inked). Apparently, neither were meant to be. Yikes. Then there was the woman who had a football team insignia on her arm. The homemade tattoo had been done when she was a teenager. That patient is now in her 30s, and she wants it removed for work purposes. (Who likes a team that much anyway?!) And then there was the guy who, like me, had some old tattoos he no longer wanted. He asked for a clean canvas so he could re-ink the area with his new ideas.
The process to remove a tattoo is not nearly as painful or as long as getting the tattoo in the first place. The patient has a consultation with Dr. Dave or his staff so they can evaluate a few things. What color of ink was used and the size of the tattoo help determine how many sessions will be needed and what the cost per session will be.
Once it’s show time, the patient is taken into a treatment room. It’s pretty spa-ish: aromatic, plush white towels and soft music. The skin is well cleaned and patted dry. The technician puts on some protective eyewear (and you get some cool shades, too) then begins to wave a laser in the shape of a fat pen over the tattoo. The laser pulsates and it sounds like a metronome, keeping beat with the sparks of light that glide over the tattoo. It’s at this point where you might feel a small shock, kind of like when you cross the carpet in your socks and turn on a light. The zap of the laser feels like that just over and over again. Very rarely does anyone ever ask for a break in treatment due to the uncomfortable nature of it. I mean, if you can handle a needle piercing your skin repeatedly, you can handle this!
When the session is over, your skin looks a little … well, weird. The ink was just blasted apart by the laser and those bits will be absorbed into your blood stream over the next few weeks. There’s no need to worry that your once precious tattoo will re-form into anything new. An ointment is put on the area and a bandage is applied. That’s it, you’re done! Until you come back for another session…
So what happens when the tattoo is gone? Will you have a scar in the shape of the Dallas Cowboys’ star? A Calvin and Hobbs? A five-point crown? No. I wasn’t convinced that a tattoo could be completely erased but I’ve now seen the proof! Most people finish treatment with skin that looks untouched! There’s no scarring, no skin color changes, and, more importantly, no tattoo.
And so now, I’m back to deciding whether laser removal is the right choice for me. My tattoo is on my right shoulder so I can cover it up whenever I want. Back in the day, most of my tattooed friends did the same thing. But times have changed. Tattoos have been elevated to being very public displays. For many people with tattoos visible ink isn’t an issue. For others, what was once young and hip is now something they feel they need to dial back. If that’s your case, I would strongly recommend laser removal. It’s safe. It’s effective. And it’s the only way you can erase your ink.
Got to run, Pearl Jam is on the radio!
by Elizabeth Williams
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