11 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Getting A Tattoo


Are you considering laser tattoo removal because you’re the proud owner of some regrettable ink? Hello and welcome to the club. I have four tattoos from my late teens and early twenties that I could probably do without (five if you count the one on my back as two). So I set out to say my goodbyes.

If you’ve heard anything about laser tattoo removal, it’s most likely been that it’s excruciatingly unpleasant, possibly even more so than obtaining the tattoo in the first place. But, while there’s lots of advice on what to think about before getting a tattoo, there’s also a lot of silence about the downside of ink: What if you learn to dislike that little shooting star or strange Latin phrase?

While going through the process, I picked up a few pointers that I wish I’d known before starting. So, as a courtesy to you all, I’ve compiled a list of everything I’ve learned. Here’s everything you need to know about tattoo removal, from the fees to the possible negative effects.

1. Consult a physician or a tattoo removal expert.

I’d previously had one tattoo removed at a spa (I was living in a small-town Canadian town with no plastic surgery or dermatology offices), when an aesthetician used an old heat laser that burned and scarred my skin. This time, I had my treatments done at the New York Dermatology Group by John F. Adams, M.D., where everything is done under medical supervision. I recommend asking friends, influencers, or even stopping people who are removing things—which, yes, I have done—to discover your own removal specialist.

2. It’ll take months, if not a year or more, to complete.

Tattoos don’t magically vanish after a quick laser treatment. (How I wish!) According to Bethany Cirlin, tattoo removal professional and owner of Clean Canvas More Art, “a complete tattoo removal takes a minimum of 2 1/2 years on average.” “Laser treatments should be spaced three months apart so that you get the most benefit from each one.” This gives your body the opportunity to break down as much of the tattoo as possible while also allowing it to recover completely before your next session.”

I’ve had six sessions as of this writing, and I’m guessing I’ll need roughly five more, despite my initial estimate of six to eight sessions. Because particles are broken down and digested by the body’s immune system each time the tattoo is lasered, it takes a long time to complete. The regeneration stage can last up to eight weeks, after which the laser breaks down new pigment particles. etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.,

3. It is costly.

If you have your procedures done by a doctor, you should expect to pay hundreds of dollars per visit. Prepare to pay $463 per session, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. However, see point one for why it’s worthwhile. The cost of tattoo removal varies depending on the size, color, and age of your tattoo.

4. All of the ink can be removed.

Adams informed me that all hues will now vanish—no matter your skin tone—contrary to popular notion that light, colorful ink was difficult to remove. (FYI: The original theory was that the laser would only be drawn to dark colors, such as black, comparable to laser hair removal.) He claims that with PicoSure technology, even the most tenacious yellows and greens can be removed.

5. Apply sunscreen to your face and body before your workouts.

“As soon as you realize you’re dissatisfied with a tattoo on your body, start wearing a zinc oxide sunscreen on it,” Cirlin advises. “The most common reason for people not being able to have lasered is that their tattoo has been exposed to the sun.” You can assist protect your tattoo by using zinc oxide whenever you’re outside, which will allow you to get lasered regardless of the season.”

6. Make sure you block out time on your calendar.

Some laser sessions are quick and painless, but not all of them are. We take before images, clean the spots, inject them with lidocaine for freezing, laser them, ice them, and finally bandage them. Oh, and when the laser touches my skin, I get a strange side effect where I taste metal. When the lidocaine is hit by the laser, some people perceive a sensation, according to Adams, and it’s completely natural.

7. During the session, there may be some discomfort.

But first, consider Cirlin’s warning: “Pain is highly customized, and if you tell someone something is going to hurt, they go into it expecting it to hurt.” However, at my practice, we provide a topical numbing lotion to help with the procedure’s discomfort.” However, even if you use a numbing cream, your experience may not be completely pain-free. “”We also employ a chiller, which is a piece of equipment that uses cool air to keep our clients comfortable,” she adds. If you’re concerned about pain, it’s recommended asking for a consultation with your practitioner ahead of time.

8. You may have some minor discomfort following your tattoo removal process.

I recommend setting aside a week’s worth of suffering in your budget. For me, the blisters blister and require a salve and bandage for a few days until they depuff, scab, peel, and regenerate. However, there is some good news: the more treatments you take, the less aftercare you’ll need (as the ink reacts less to the laser).

9. Plan ahead of time for your tattoo aftercare.

Aquaphor, bandages, and even garments that don’t lay on your tattoo will be required. Yes, I bought clothing without material in the area where my neck/back tattoo is. I started by cutting out the tags, but when tagless cotton tees didn’t help, I decided keyhole backs were a decent investment. If you have tattoos on your ribs or feet (and like to wear bras and shoes), your sessions should be scheduled accordingly.

10. Getting a cover-up tattoo instead of a full tattoo removal might be a good idea.

Semi-removal—that is, removing only a portion of a tattoo—is a less well-known type of tattoo removal. If you don’t want to completely remove your tattoos, merely lighten them enough to get good cover-up work done. My friend got a bird tattoo brightened up enough for a tattoo artist to ink a lamp on top of it. I felt it was clever because it meant her new tattoo didn’t have to be as large as her previous one.

11. Be aware that the procedure may result in scars.

If you, like me, want your tattoos totally removed, be aware that the flesh that remains may not be flawless. When you’re treated by a removal specialist or a medical professional, the hazards aren’t nearly as high, but your skin pigment can be lightened. Which is all the more reason to go to a skilled doctor or expert, as stated in the first point on our list.


Katherine Clark