Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New Laser, Next Treatment Number......15?!

After the last treatment and the skin resurfacing procedure, I promised to show pics of healing, and overall it heals rather well:

Following my last removal that I posted about back in February of 2014, I heard on television of a new laser, and I checked with the office that I usually go to and they didn't have it. I wasn't thinking, or rather believing, that it was as amazing and great as it was being put out to be, after all it is something to be sold, but I wanted to try something new and different. So this time around, I headed out of town to go to the only clinic in my state that has the laser. Like all respectable places, they also offer anesthesia free of charge and had reasonable rates, so I thought, what do I have to lose?

Between that procedure done in February of 2014 and one that I done in November 2014 with the new Pico Sure laser, I had seen a lot of pigmentation of my regular skin color return, so it was a bit easier to see what I wanted to remove, and what ultimately, I might not even care too much about in the end. What was interesting about going to a new place is that I was able to speak to them about the laser skin resurfacing. TIP #1 from that discussion for others about to embark on laser skin resurfacing following these types of procedures: I was correct that the resurfacing laser was cutting off chunks of my skin and the local anesthesia sits just under the skin, so most of the local anesthesia is removed by the process of resurfacing with a laser, hence, the pain and that most others getting resurfacing get the twilight-sleep type of anesthesia (whatever that is). Either way, I got over it, it healed, and I was happy about that.

TIP #2 would be: wait until the entire removal process is over and done with to get laser skin resurfacing. Tattoo removal always leaves lighter skin (in my case white chunks), because the laser struggles to discriminate skin pigment from ink pigment, so it takes it all. In fact, if you look at the images below, you will even see that through the course of this, the laser tattoo removal took off a big freckle! So, I am not sure there is a benefit to doing skin resurfacing any sooner than when you think you're finished. Perhaps, they thought I was nearly finished, but I wasn't and this new clinic respected that it will be up to me when I stop as well. 

So following treatment number 14, that was a two-pass process with the Q-switched YAG laser, followed by laser skin resurfacing around the entire tattoo, and about 10 months later, this is what it looked like last week of November 2014:

Before Pico Sure Laser and After 14 Treatments 
I was pretty happy with how much color had come and thus how much scarring had gone, but there was still too much ink. I had the Pico Sure laser treatment done, but just to the black/green ink. I did not go over the entire tattoo, as I wanted to see how that faded. That was at the end of November 2014, so it's been about 2 months since I had it done and the after pics are from today.


It's had with the variation in lighting to see exact changes, and I was out of the habit of taking my usual pics and had forgotten! But, I do think the Pico Sure removed a good amount of ink, more so than the other laser would have removed. The other difference I noticed (but didn't document) was that the healing was sooooo much better! You could tell that the laser hit under the skin and not atop it, so there was no blistering nor serious bruising, and it healed in half of the time (about a week versus two weeks). I'll post healing pics next time, as I plan to get another treatment done with this laser.

Today, 2 months After Pico Sure Laser and  15 Total Treatments

A couple more thoughts about the laser skin resurfacing, it really does work to bring pigment back to the area, and subsequently, there is now a 1 to 2 shade darker halo around the tattoo area than my skin color. My guess, and as you can see from the healing pics at the top, is that they went just outside the removal area with the resurfacing laser and this has resulted in excessive pigment surrounding the removal area. It could be my eyes playing tricks on me, but I think this is obvious in the pictures as well. So, I think the TIP #3 would be to ensure that when they do the resurfacing that you ask that they stay inside the removal area when resurfacing, and ensure that the increased pigment stays inside the lines and actually better minimizes the look of the removal area. I haven't run this hypothesis (if they stay in the lines of the removal area, than there will not be a darker halo around the area) by anyone in the field, but I will next time though, so stay tuned! I'll also be asking to do the laser resurfacing at some point in the future, and when that time comes, I'll ask that they blend it out, whereby now resurfacing up and around the halo. That is if summer tanning holds this halo, as I think it will. 

Let me know what you think? This has been a long process, but I think I will be done by the end of the year! Based on what I saw from just one resurfacing treatment, I'm pretty confident that with a couple of them back to back I will see all of hypopigmentation disappear.

Also, I have not answered questions in some time, so my plan is to have another treatment in the coming weeks and then do a post with a video to reply to all of your questions. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Back at it!

Hello Tattoo Removal Peeps!

Well, after taking almost two years off of the removal process, I'm back at it! I didn't intend to take so much time off, but with my graduate work and actual work, I didn't have the time nor money to continue at the pace I was going. No worries though, they picked me up right where I left off. They didn't charge extra, raise the price, nor require a new consultation, so I was super stoked at how easy it was. I had another treatment last Thursday (February 6th). It was the same as the last time as far as the laser for tattoo removal goes. The ruby laser and then they did two passes on it, which they zap it all once and then go over the same area and zap it again. The only difference was that this time they also incorporated a second laser for skin resurfacing, which is to promote collagen growth and improve the overall look of the skin. This was oddly painful! As I mentioned, they had already done two passes with the ruby laser, which targets the ink and when it hits your skin it's like a pop, but you don't feel like it's penetrating too deep. The laser skin resurfacing laser literally cuts holes in your skin, and that's exactly what it felt like. Mind you, they gave me injections of local anesthesia prior to the ruby laser, and then in between the laser switch, they rubbed numbing cream on the area. I am sure it helped on some level, but I could feel that thing burning holes into my skin in a row of about twenty holes each time they swept the laser across my arm. It felt like I was being sawed with a laser because I could feel it cutting the tissue, which is unlike the tattoo lasers, which feel like a pop on the surface or mildly penetrating. I would later go on to read that when they do the laser skin resurfacing for other areas such as the face they use general anesthesia to put people under, which makes sense, because I was highly anesthetized and I could still feel it pretty intensely :( By the way, they did two passes of it, so not only did I feel it once but I had to suffer it again. Though it may seem awful, I can see how it will be worth it, as my removal treatments have left my skin damaged. I'm not sure if it is due to poor aftercare on my part or what, but I had tiny holes in the skin that once applied with cover-up, such as makeup, would get filled in and take a couple days to get it out of there. See below:
Sorry for the low quality on these images, they were taken a year ago, and I think was just trying to capture it for my own viewing, as I didn't have the blog in mind. But I think you get the point!

So I'm grateful to be tackling this aspect of it, as it will make it easier down the road to cover anything up if I want a flawless look. The thing to note about this procedure is that only medical doctors (dermatologists and plastic surgeons) can perform this procedure, so you have to go to one of those clinics. Luckily I do, so they can do it at the same time, and it really didn't cost anything extra. Super bonus!!!

So let's look at where I was prior to this treatment (number........?? oops, I lost count!) the day of and the day before February 6th, 2014:

In my opinion, there was still A LOT of ink, but everyone would say the opposite when they looked at it. That's why I like these pics, because they really pick up on what I see up close.

So, that's where I am at currently. I'll post pics of the healing process with these two lasers, because it really looks different than anything before. Here's a preview:

Here you can really see how the resurfacing laser burned a bunch of holes in the skin. They didn't blister really at all, just a bunch of tiny scabs, which develop over the next few days to look a little more intense. It's definitely more red than previous times as well. 

***Update***     It's treatment number!!!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Scarring and the Deleted Comment....Oops!

Miss 2 sent me a comment, and I accidentally deleted it, as I now approve and reject comments from my email since I'm getting so much spam. 

I wanted to respond to the comment, because it is really in-line with my current thinking about this whole process and what's up and coming for me too. So I am posting the response here:

Hi Sarah, thanks for sharing your tattoo removal journey. I'm based in the UK and I'm black and I'm looking into getting a tattoo on my wrist removed. I'm really worried about the scarring because of my skin. Do you have any advice? Thanks 

Miss2, you are welcome, and thanks for reading!

I think you should count on some scarring, but I also think that you can count on most of the scarring fading in a year or two post your last treatment. I think it also depends on whether or not you hypo-pigment or hyper-pigment when you scar. Some people get dark scars (hyper-pigment), which might blend better given your skin tone. I hyper-pigment, so every scratch leaves a dark mark/scar that fades in a year or two (sometimes not entirely...I have marks that were scars in my childhood that remain today in the form of dark blobs). You may be the same or the opposite or both. I know some black people hyper-pigment after years of shaving or in the spots where thighs rub together, but when cut, darker people may hypo-pigment. It depends on the person. For me, I have actually been pleasantly surprised that the area around my tattoo has not been darker than it is. I am actually pigmenting/scarring less than I would if I were scratched. Yet on that same note, I have small parts within that area that are hypo-pigmented, and the PA thinks they may stay that way.

When I think about the two hypo-pigmented spots, which are about the size of a pencil eraser's head (relatively small), I can think back to times when I peeled my skin to soon or messed with that area when it was almost healed. So it makes me wonder if most of the scar-prevention can be controlled with healthy wound habits (not messing with it). I will admit though after that burned skin separates from the other layers it is really hard not to scratch and want to remove it. Basically, you have a moderate amount of control over your scarring, but you won't be able to prevent it all. I think most scarring takes the shape of textural changes, meaning your skin there will feel like a scar even if it doesn't look like one (I'm totally cool with that).

As far as your skin tone, when I first went for my consultation, I saw photos of black people with black ink tattoos (not sure how much color you have in the wrist tattoo), and it was pointed out to me that darker skin requires less treatments due to the remaining ink blending in with the darker skin. At a certain point with dark ink and dark skin, you can't tell that a little remains. Skin color varies greatly, so I'm also not sure you would get that same benefit. If I had darker skin, I don't think I would still be getting treatments. It's the tiny bits of black/green that remain that are haunting me!!!

At the point I started my treatments, I did not care if I had a giant scar, because I just wanted the thing gone. As I go along now, I really don't want to have a scar, but I have also settled into the notion that a scar of an old tattoo is much more tolerable than an old ugly tattoo. You may feel the same one day or not. People in my family used to love to repeat the phrase that 'a scar is a real man's tattoo', so I guess I am now just working on getting a real man's tattoo ;)

But seriously, my real advice would be to ask the clinic for pictures of people with similar skin color and ask what your options will be if there is a scar that you do not like at the end. My clinic is a dermatologist's office, so helping with skin issues is what they do. I have met others at the clinic who were getting lasered to help with improving the appearance of a scar, so how that works I am not sure, but you should ask. Lastly, I mentioned in a previous post that I will be getting a new laser next time. That laser is not to remove the tattoo but will be to improve the look of tattoo removal area. I do not know the exact specifics of it yet, but it will be moving or encouraging skin pigmentation in the right direction. I'll get more information as I move into the next phase, and hopefully that will help others whom, like yourself, don't want to live with scars either. As always, my best advice is: make sure that the person doing the treatments has a license to practice medicine (e.g. more educated than an RN) and is operating within a medical office and under the supervision of an M.D. that is qualified to do skin surgery (*remember: shit could go wrong and that laser could blow-up on your body)!

I'll keep you posted on my new laser and the potentials with that, and let me know what you decide and how it progresses!

Thanks again for taking the time to read this and write to me,

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Reel Laser Tattoo Removal

Hey everyone! Got an email from a couple of filmmakers trying to get enough funding for a documentary about tattoo removal (brilliant idea) that they're currently making. The official description is:

“D'inked” is a documentary about people who have tattoos, people who give tattoos and the people and technology that make tattoos disappear.

They sent me a link to the trailer, and it looks entertaining and very professional! I thought that many of you would have an interest in seeing a movie of this nature, (...cause you're reading my blog!). They need help, so if you like it, support it! Here's the link to the trailer and the place to make a donation if you want to see it on the big screen (the minimum donation is only $1 US):

D'inked Trailer and Support Page 
Good Luck Guys!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tips for the Day of and the Days Following Laser Tattoo Removal

While I was at my last treatment, there was a slight back-up of people getting laser tattoo removals. I think this also had something to do with the new second pass method that was being implemented. This meant that I got to overhear others also waiting in the "lounge" (see photo of trepidacious me). One thing I overheard was a woman talking about going to work after the treatment. It was her first treatment. I also happened to see her walking around, so I noticed that she was very dressed up. I thought that was weird, because of how messy removals can be, so I thought I should offer up a couple of tips in case of any of you will be going in for the first time.

My first tip would be to wear clothing that you do not mind getting lidocain, skin ash, blood, or polysporin on, as this tends to happen. Even if you can mange to keep it off at the doctor's office, you might still have to pass over the area or dirty bandages when removing the clothing. I am getting my tattoo removal on my left upper arm, so I typically wear a tank top and zip-up sweater if it is cold. No matter what I wear, I still face the problem of melting polysporin as the day wears on, and this always results in a stream of liquidious goo running down my arm. So if your tattoo to be removed is on your back, you'd also want to be careful what pants you wear that day. I can say that, while much of the antibiotic ointment/cream has gotten on my clothes over these many years getting lasered, that cream has never stained anything, but definitely leave the nice outfits for another day.

My second tip would be to take the day off if you can. The person in the lounge had scheduled herself to go back to work that afternoon. Second degree burns may seem like something you can do on your lunch break, but mind you, they do take a lot out of you even if you do get anesthesia.  The only thing I ever plan after getting a treatment is a nice nap! This usually helps me feel back to normal for the day. My ideal time to get a treatment is first thing in the morning, so that I can make it back home in time for a nap and wake just before lunch. If not, I usually try to cut of out work late in the day, so that I can go home and rest.

Following this tip, my third recommendation for first-timers is to take the next couple of days off, completely. I wouldn't plan anything, because the days following the removal is when the real pain sets in, the blisters form, the bruises darken, the swelling increases, and you feel the fatigue from your immune system trying to heal the wound. It makes for a pretty lousy few days. My suggestion, if possible, schedule your removals for Fridays or whatever the day before your days off may be. This is why I like taking one day off from work (Friday) then having the treatment done first thing in the morning, and having the weekend to get nasty without any commitments.

The gist of what I realized from the first-timer is that it is hard to anticipate the fact that the burn on your arm will melt the ointment, your bandages will be bloody (though I'm not really a bleeder...I've seem some removals that look like massacres), and you're going to be tired. This process is not nothing, so be prepared. This way you won't find yourself in an awkward or uncomfortable situation. Or maybe your job sucks all together, so having to deal with a laser tattoo removal burn might help distract you from the usual torture! And if you dislike your coworkers, you always have the option of showing off your new burn at lunch time!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Considering I am now 13 treatments into the laser tattoo removal process, I feel pretty confident about what is to be expected, so I do not think anything new happened this last treatment, per se. Perhaps it was the summer weather, but I decided to leave my bandages off for a bit during those few to four days immediately post the last treatment. Well to my surprise, the blisters, that were moderate in size as compared to those of past treatments, just oozed yellow juice to such a volume that it was hard not to bandage it right back up, but the bandages were bothering me. Now, I am not new to the oozing, but I guess with the bandages on I usually do not realize just how much of it there is during the healing process.

Upon seeing my burn, someone remarked that yellow ooze typically means something is infected, I immediately knew that was not true, because yellow ooze has been a staple of this process since I first began. Yet, it got me thinking about how certain people, whom are just getting their first treatment, might wonder similarly, is it a bad sign? No, definitely not. But then, what is it?

Well I looked it up and the blister ooze is actually called 'serum', and it is released from broken cells when they get damaged, such as when the dermis layer of skin is damaged in a second degree burn, which is the consequence of laser tattoo removal. It is yellow due to the albumin protein, same as eggs (GROSS!!). Hopefully this information will satisfy those that think it might be infected. (

I learned two things from this. The first was that these burns we receive are second degree burns. This was news as I had thought them to be first degree, therefore lesser degree burns. Ouch! Second, I learned that if the dermis layer is not damaged then blisters will not form (I think...), which might mean, going back to an old post, that when I did not blister the laser didn't go deep enough to hit the dermis layer or just didn't damage it. It makes me think that not blistering is a sign the laser didn't work, as I had suspected.

Either way, I wanted to post a gross pic, so that you can compare your ooze to mine in case you were wondering if it is normal. I'm not a doctor, but this is normal for me.

[It does look like egg yolk....yuck!]

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Second Pass Method?

Hello everyone! Been a few months...

Well, I called the dermatologist's office the other day to make an appointment, and unlike usual, they said, "we have an appointment tomorrow". So instead of waiting weeks and posting my next treatment date, I just went in and had number 13 done yesterday.

As usual, the assistant takes photos before injecting me with anesthesia, but this time she said she would need to check with the PA if we would even do a treatment due to how little ink is remaining, which is not what I wanted to hear, because I want ALL of the ink gone as best as possible. I still thought at that point we could do more. I'm sure you'll agree, so here are some pics of where the tattoo was at the day before treatment number 13 and morning of this latest treatment as well. At this point, lighting is everything when it comes to accurately documenting the amount of ink left. Bright lights tend to reflect the white of the scar tissue still remaining, but low lights, such as that in shady areas or indoors, will not have as much light to reflect back onto the observing eye, so you get a better view of the tattoo. I took several pics in different lighting, so you can see what I mean.

The photos below are after 12 treatments of laser tattoo removal in full sunlight, and it been almost 4 months since my last treatment. 

Laser Tattoo Removal After 12 Treatments May 2012

Laser Tattoo Removal After 12 Treatments
Laser Tattoo Removal After 12 Treatments

This is when I most enjoy my arm and the tattoo removal. That is when I am outside under the bright light of the desert sun. Viewing the remaining pigments is more difficult, so I feel more comfortable wearing tank tops and exposing the faded tattoo than I do when I am indoors. I guess outside (as some have remarked) it looks more like a scar of some sorts, though I know they are just being nice :). 

Left Side - Laser Tattoo Removal

Right Side - Laser Tattoo Removal

This is also outdoors, but it is under the lower light of a shaded porch, so the darker inks are more visible. One thing I love best about this process so far, including not just the laser tattoo removal but the tanning project to even out my skin tone as well, is the way the far left side of the tattoo has blended with the rest of my skin pigment. In months and years prior, this side looked the most scarred, but it has turned out to be a well blended and healed area with minimal black ink remaining. I don't think I am recommending tanning (that's dangerous), but I am not saying to avoid the sun all together, especially when you get to the point where you want to see what the tattoo will look like if this were the end of the removal process. It may also signify that the process is not over, as has been my experience.

This was taken indoors and shows how the tattoo would look today if you were standing next to me. The tattoo is clearly (at least to me) still there and obviously was what it was. Not quite done!

Laser Tattoo Removal After 12 Treatments May 2012

The dermatologists office is with me on removing this thing entirely, but I knew that when the PA came in to analyze the progress, she might come recommending something other than lasers (dermabrasion...maybe). I was sitting there waiting and thinking, "am I ready for this and is this the direction I want to go?". 

When the PA came in to the room, her thought was that the ink was deep and that the lasers we had been using were exhausted to their capacity as far as this tattoo is concerned. She thought that the doctor might want cut my tattoo open and then do a laser tattoo removal treatment while that bit of flesh was open.....what?! OMG! Ouch! She said that we had talked previously of this method, but I did not remember that. How invasive and scary is that? Now thinking back on it, what I remember was us talking about doing 3 to 4 treatments of dermabrasion on it, not open-skin-laser-removal method, ouch! Talk about a deep burn. This is good information for those considering all of their options and wanting to see where these paths could lead, as this may be an option if going to a medical clinic. Not sure anyone would want to try this, but it is apparently an option for some.

The doctor came into the room and thoroughly looked it over. His professional opinion was that the newer (research supported - as I was told) and less invasive method of "multiple passes" or "second pass" and "third passes" might be beneficial. In the second pass method, that I did receive, the specialist does one laser (Q-plus or "Ruby Laser") that breaks up the pigments and then have me wait in a lounge area for 15 minutes.
This is me waiting and patiently amusing myself. 

 After waiting for a period of time, my wait ended up being a 30 minutes, I am brought back and a second laser (trivantage) that works by further breaking up the pigments that have already broken-up during the wait. Normally, I get both lasers (...I think), but usually there is just no wait period.My thought also was that they target different inks, but the second laser may be a more catch all type.

In the end, it ended up seeming to hurt more that first day, but so far, that was the only difference. I could be wrong about the increased pain. After all, it has been nearly 4 months since my last treatment.

So I am curious, does anyone else get second pass treatments? Is this new to you too? What do you think given your understanding of the technology?

Also, for the next time, I will be getting "third pass treatments", but the third laser will be entirely new to my skin!! I've never received a treatment by the future number 3.For a sneak peak, the third laser is more cosmetic, and it is not intended to remove any of the tattoo.

I'll keep you posted on all that. I also think this blog is long over due for side-by-sides, and I have paintshop again, so I'll finally be able to get that done. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

*** Movie Break for Treatment #12 ***

I was finally able to take someone in with me in order to make a movie for you guys! Here it is....sorry it's not professional or perfectly image stable. I thought it would be fun though! The laser lights made a lot of streaks and bursts on the camera. The PA said some were going to be from the aiming beam. I also had to reduce the video quality in order to upload it.....

Later, I will post with answers to some of the questions that I received since July!

Pre-Treatment Number 12

Hey everyone sorry for the delay in posting....

I did end up going on vacation and tanning the tattooed area. It was quite the interesting display of colors. At first it looked spotted, because some areas were really resistant to the sun. Later it looked super sunburned.  That's this picture (July 2011). I was really hopeful to see what would happen after the burn wore off....

....but in the end, much of the ink ended up darkening too! These pics were taken just before I had my treatment yesterday (2-3-12)

But Still Too Much Ink For Me!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Burns and Blocks

After a couple days, those mystery red marks are drying up and getting ready to peel, so it turns out they were burn marks which I guess means the laser was in fact hot! I never did develop one blister though.

I think the ink is officially unreachable :(

I am going on vacation soon, and I have decided to leave the tape and bandages off this time. If an annoying amount of ink shows through at the end of a good tan, one that is two years overdue, I will go back for more treatments, but I feel at this point I have come to a road block and need to do something different, which may be to accept the ink that remains in the deepest depths of my skin.

I know I should feel excited, but I always imagined not stopping treatments until I couldn't see a drop of the black ink. I also wonder will the skin stay hypo-pigmented as it is now?  Or in the sun, will it hyper-pigment, such as brown clouds?  Will there always be an outline to remind me of what was once there? 

I guess I will find out soon...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

No Blisters?

After this last laser treatment, just four days ago, things are not looking as usual. I have absolutely no blisters on the tattoo area! Just some weird red marks which I assume are bruises. It is as though the laser hit me, but did not penetrate with any heat. Immediately after and even still a little now, I had the typically swelling. You can even see in this picture that the black ink areas are slightly raised. I am just not sure if that was from the needles of anesthesia or what?

My concern is that after the first few pops of the laser a wire was pulled out from the hand tool. When the PA and technician checked on it, they said it was not related to the laser I was getting, as they said it was for the Ruby laser. I guess the laser machine has three options, and they were using the other two on me. What if it didn't penetrate? It just hit the skin.

My other concern would be if the ink is too deep, so the laser can't hit it to leave a blister. I remember when I first had treatments there were lots of blisters, because it was hitting a lot of ink. As time went on, there were less blisters. Now, no blisters?!?

(That is except for the blister the paper tape made on the outer rim of the lasered area. I wonder why I developed such an allergy to that stuff?)

What does it mean? Is this the end or a malfunction of the machine? I think I need to call the Dermatologists office on Monday!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Treatment 11.....Done!

Just had treatment number 11 and a nap!  Treatments always make me tired (after the lidocaine wears off of course), so if you are getting one done, be prepared to take some time to take a nap. Good for healing process, I say!

The treatment went really easy (easier than ever) except for a minor malfunction with the laser....(scary). It was the same laser as last time (Q-Switch). The PA doing the laser tattoo removal was not the same girl I usually see, and she was having trouble seeing which areas still had ink....go figure! She thought this may be my last treatment or at least she hoped so (me too!). I asked the technician that was assisting the PA if there was a maximum number of treatments people can get, and she said, "no".

At this point, I am wondering what everyone reading this blog is thinking after seeing my most recent updates. Do you think I will need more treatments after this one heals? The PA said she was "very aggressive" this time.

Do you think I should get some sun on my tattoo area once healed and see how it looks? The risk, if I do this, is that the laser picks up on any pigment, so more sun - equals more skin pigment the laser will mistakenly hit instead of ink pigment. I don't want to take two or five steps back on a gamble.

I am inclined to believe that my recent tanning episode made such a dramatic contrast between the tattoo area and the rest of my arm that it looks as though, thus confused the PA, there is less pigment (ink) than is really there. Or have I confused myself by treating my tattoo area as an albino to be shielded at all times, thus depriving it of normal exposure? But this question reminds me of a blog post titled "Brown Clouds"...or something to that effect, whereby sun exposure caused hyper-pigmentation of the treated area.

I guess I am just timid to test the waters and expose my tattoo to the sun. It's a risk if I do not like the amount of ink left behind, but if I don't find out, I may just waste hundreds more dollars. Damned if I do - damned if I don't?

Morning Before Number 11

!!This afternoon I am getting my eleventh treatment done!!

I feel it's a good thing at this point, because I am that much closer to be rid of this tatty-tat. I realized in my last post that the photos make the tattoo look pretty non-existent, however that is not the case. When you draw back the camera, so to say, you can clearly see the tattoo. I'd like to mention that I showed the tattoo to someone recently, whom had never seen it before, and they said they could not tell what it was originally. Nice! That is definitely a good thing! Do I actually believe them? Probably not.

Here are the best photos I was able to take to show an accurate picture of what I see when I look in the mirror (as of 6-24-11):

In this first one, it shows how the light can bounces off of the different texture (scar tissue) that is now the area of the tattoo to make it appear a little lighter. 

In this photo, the glare somehow takes the light off of the tattoo just enough to show how much pigment is still there.

These are day and night photos, essentially. The tattoo is harder to see in the daylight with the light bouncing off it, but in lesser light, it stands out more. This may be due to the crazy tan that you can see around the tattoo in the first picture.

I have been pretty good at shielding my tattoo from the sun these past couple years, but I have been terrible at localizing the "covering medium" to just the tattoo. When I have been out in the sun, say at the beach or pool, I usually wrap my upper arm in an Ace Bandage, which creates a horribly highlighting tan effect. This summer I resolved to tackle that issue by putting duck tape over my tattoo! I purchased some flesh colored duck tape online.

This worked great! I was able to cut out a template of my tattoo and make cover-ups rather easily. After I spent one afternoon in the park sunning, some people didn't even notice I was wearing the tape...even though the shinny nature of it alone would seem to me to give it away...? However I can only recommend this for dry activities, the duck tape is not sticky enough to last through the pool. My sweaty arm from a few hours at the park was almost too much for it. 

For my upcoming swimming adventures, I switched to something called Gorilla Tape*. It is black but much, much, stickier. 

*Caution: This tape smells really weird, and I am not sure it is safe for the skin!

After a couple times at the pool, I was able to minimize the exaggerated farmer's tan I had created.

That's where I am at today!

Now off to the dermatologist's office .........

Thursday, June 23, 2011

* Side-by-Side Update *

My next treatment is just a few weeks away. It will be number 11!

Here is where I am at:

[Note: The first picture is prior to any treatments. The second picture is after 6 treatments, which was just over a year ago, and the last picture was taken June 21, 2011, which is after 10 treatments and almost two years since the process first began.]

Friday, March 11, 2011

Far Too Long....

It has been too long since my last post in June. I admit that I have been extremely discouraged during the time from then to now - about the future of my tattoo removal. I had my 8th treatment on July 15th, 2010 - just a month or so after my last post. I had put ten weeks between that treatment and the one before, and the loss of ink was minor and barely noticeable from the time before.

I went in for treatment number 9 in October 14, 2010. This is what I looked like just before my treatment.

Between treatment number 8 and 9, I went off the immunesuppresent drugs I was taking for an autoimmune disorder. I knew your immune system helps by removing the ink particles once the laser breaks them up (that's the point), so I thought I would see more results than before now having a stronger immune system...finally! I also waited three months this time. At the time I went in for the treatment, the usual pictures were taken and they called out the count of my number of treatments ('this is #9). The PA let me know that they would not do more than 10 treatments with that laser. I was told my next option would be dermabrasion. After that statement, all the doctors (including the lead-doctor) came into the room to see the progress and make guesses about what to do and where I was headed. As it turned out, they had just received a new laser that day, which they had not set up, and the head doctor thought I would be a good candidate to try it out, and he approved the treatment for which I had come in for. I did it. A week later the doctor's office called to say, they had the laser up and ready, and they wanted to schedule an appointment. 'I just had a treatment a week ago', I replied to the request. I was happy though, because I didn't want to be a guinea pig! All I knew of the new laser was that it went deeper, and my mind thought....bigger blisters and more pain! It was near that phone call that my skin peeled, and I found the loss of ink was nearly unnoticeable....oh, the disappointment. I also had the worst "pink" skin, which actually turned to a noticeable scar.

(It didn't stay this bad)

I think I peeled my skin off too soon....maybe this is what is causing scarring. Maybe I should have let it peel naturally and dealt with the itch? (BTW: the itch around peel time goes away if you do not let it get too dry....add more polysporin) 

So in a matter of months, I thought I had figured out solutions to the problem, which were time and then my immune system, and I had taken care of both. As had become the pattern, I felt the disappointment post-treatment, and now I struggled with the idea of having just one more treatment before I had to get my skin shaven off to finally take care of it.

As I sit and write today, March 10, 2011, I realize part of what made me want to chronicle this process was how excited I was to watch this tattoo, which I hated, disappear. As the removal turned dismal, my eagerness was nonexistent, not only because of the dispare, but I was not sure how far I would really go. Would I want to go through the months of healing from dermabrasion or should I cover up this failed attempt at removal with another tattoo? What would I get, and how many attempts should I do before I cover it up? Wouldn't I hate it as much as the first cover-up?

I had my tenth treatment at 4pm on March 7, 2011. I used the new laser. It turns out, as I never asked, it is the Q-plus Laser. I still have not Googled it. I wonder what I would find?

.....Anyway, when I went in for this treatment, the assistant was boasting how she, herself also having removal, noticed a 'significant difference' with this laser as opposed to the previous one with which I was getting my previous treatments. I asked how many treatments she was on, and she replied, '3'. I, too, had significant changes on treatment number 3, so I was not instantly convinced.

The process went as usual except now I had to wear purple glasses instead of brown. I had much less shots of the anesthesia, but I felt nothing. The anesthesia seemed to wear off faster, because soon after, I felt the "sunburn" feeling. The burning lasted the entire day, and I could feel it bruising...badly. I have noticed the longer I put between treatments - the worse the bruising. When I was getting treatments done a month in between, I almost didn't bruise at all. I guess that's a testament to adaptation, and in my case, the loss of it when you put so much time between treatments.

For the past two days, all has seemed normal. I only bandage once a day, because I hate fighting with tape and having it rip of my skin and cause new blisters. I have realized I do not need to tape it's ok to have the arm bulge of bandage. I don't like telling people about my tattoo - in person, because the next thing they want to do is see it, so I guess I really have tried to hide it.   

Well, an hour ago, when I removed the bandage to take a shower, I appear to be seeing more white-skin and seemingly less ink. I caution myself, because this stage can be deceiving, as it is so red, bruised and blistered. All of that can fade into disappointment as the black ink begins to shine through again, but I feel hopeful again.

This is what I see... (sorry for the shine)

I asked the doctor's office for the pictures from my last few treatments, and I will post them when I get them.

I wonder if disappointment will find me once again, or will I really see significant change?

- Sarah

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

~ Patience ~

After considering it for awhile and getting good advice from all the readers, I decided I need to put at least 8 weeks between each treatment. I really need to maximize everything from money to healing time to ink removal.

Especially now, when I am seeing more and more textural changes, I need to give my skin the utmost amount of time to heal. I would normally be going in for a treatment next week, but I still have small areas of fresh 'scar' tissue. Where if you rub or scratch it, the skin sheaths-off rather easily and bleeds. I do not think this should constitute completely healed skin which is ready for another treatment. I also think this kind of occurrence is happening later and later post-treatments probably due to a weakening of the skin over time from all the burns so far.

I scheduled my next appointment for July 15th, 2010. This is almost 10 weeks after my May 6th treatment, and I am exited to see where my skin and the ink itself will be at that time. I will probably take some pics of the tattoo next week, so we can see where I would of been had I gone in for a treatment. We can then compare this to where I will actually be say July 14th. I wonder if we'll see any ink disappear on its own between now and then. That would be exciting! That would also be the point of patience between treatments.

Lastly, some good news to report, I can now see a lot more white skin (which is probably hypo-pigmented) where all that pink skin was, so it is looking really good and like the removal is making much better progress. I knew it at the time, but my latest reminder to you and myself is to wait until the tattoo is really healed after a treatment (usually at least 4 weeks) before you start making any judgments about progress or the future. Also, I think we all know what is best for us. For example, I need to slow down, some of us may need to stop treatments, and some of us need to begin treatments. Whatever you feel you need to do is probably the right thing to do, so just trust yourself and trust that things will work-out, when and how they should!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

!Getting Nervous and Trying Not to Think of the Future!

I know I shouldn't be looking at the tattoo this early after a treatment and trying to imagine when this all will end, but I can't help it. I mean if I think about this logistically and how very little is getting taken out from time to time now. I really can see my self needing like 10 treatments more! My only other thought is that I need to slow down and put at least a couple months between each treatment as I was initially advised. I guess I fell into the impatient trap as I have been doing treatments every 5 weeks...should I fall back to every eight weeks?. I just don't want to wait. With summer here, I am also risking tanning the scar which makes it look darker, so I think, "should I just wait until fall to resume treatments?". Decisions, decisions, decisions....and I am now over two-thousand dollars into this experience, so saving money is a huge incentive too.

When I went for my last treatment, Allison, whom usually does the treatments, was out on maternity leave, so I got a new girl. She is really new...meaning she had just been trained for laser tattoo removals. What an experience that was! The assistant, who is usually there, gave me the anesthesia injections, and she doubled me up. I think she gave me about 100-120 injections, and usually I can only feel the epinephrine just slightly, but this time my heart was racing!  Well, the new girl doing the treatments was so slow zapping me, because she wanted to do it just right...understandable. But I was getting really anxious from sitting there so long and thinking, "oh my god, the anesthesia wears off really quickly...hurry, hurry!". Anyway, it went fine, and like I said before, I never felt the after burn which could of been due to the assistant giving me so many injections! But one interesting thing this new girl said was that after the treatments are done the tattoo will continue to fade, so I am now thinking does this mean I have to leave ink in there? Will there come a day where they are like, "let's take a break and see what happens"? Scary! I don't know how not to be nervous right now, but I was told this is when it really gets hard...and I feel it!

Any suggestions? Should I take a break, slow-up, or keep going?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bye, Bye Burn...

On this last treatment, the heat for the "black" laser was turned up to 9 which is one level under the max. I was freaked out for the potential healing implications, but it went well! I actually peeled today almost wholly. I usually take many days to peel entirely, and I don't even begin to peel until after seven days. I am only at day 6 today.  I am not sure how this happened, but this was the best bout of healing so far!

One of the best parts of this past week was that I didn't even feel the burn...not once. I am not sure if it has to do with the amount of heat harming my nerves so much I didn't even feel it or if I am adapting to the burn to where it doesn't even enter my consciousness anymore. Not sure? I just feel like it all flew by.

The only downside was the amount of bruising. Right away when I took off my bandages, the tattoo itself was purple (never seen that before), and it hurt to the touch instantaneously. I have often wondered what causes the bruise...the force of the pops...the heat of the laser? I am still not sure, but there was an increase in heat and an increase in the bruising atop the I took some pictures of the purpleishness, but often when taking pictures of my tattoo, I will look back and realize the pics I took really were not good (too much glare..etc).

Some pics I really want to share are those right after a peel, because the tattoo looks pretty scarred and really pink. I thought it might help those persons just taking off the burnt skin for the first time feel a little better, because it gets a lot better. In a about four to five weeks, it will look a lot less tinted. (This is also why I cannot take progress pics until just before my next treatment.)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Here I go again.....

Well, I can't believe I have already done this to myself seven times, but I am sitting icky with blisters again. Looking at the pics from each time to the next is getting less and less thrilling, but here is the side-by-side after #5 and after #6. Tell me if you notice a difference?

The one thing I see is a bit of browning (in the center) from getting too much sun, but apparently here in Arizona even avoiding direct sun exposure and wearing sunscreen under my clothes, doesn't appear to be enough to keep away a tan. Bummer!

I wanted some drama, so I made a pic showing my progress so far from beginning to now. This is the left side:

I mean I lost a lot of ink, but how persistent is this! My only recourse for happy thoughts is that maybe with a few or five more treatments and a tan - I think it will blend?

This is comforting, but the image on the right is a little darker than it should be!