Laser Tattoo Removal Part One - Consultation and Patch Test
Welcome to the first in my series on blog posts about my experience with laser tattoo removal in order to lighten my black and grey half sleeve for retouching in full colour!
Within this first post I'm going to talking about my consultation and patch test, how it felt during the session and afterwards, and the kinda weird smell... let's get started!
So I'd been thinking about lightening up my current half sleeve in order to redo it in full colour for a while now, not because I dislike the tattoo, it's a cute tattoo, which is nicely done and I still love the imagery, it's just I've felt for a few now that my overall style has changed and compared to my others, (including the lovely pink poodle and hairspray tattoo on my other arm) it just feels so dark to me. I'm also getting married next summer so I thought now is the time to recreate my arm into something I adore. Some brides think about earrings and bracelets to complete their bridal look, but I'm all about those tattoo accessories! (and yes, I am planning on getting another new one on my other arm as a Bridal treat, sod the new shoes, I want new tattoos!)
The tattoo itself is around 10 years old now, and has lost quite a bit of it's definition and sparkle. When I first started getting tattooed I wanted to look just like Brody Dalle (ICON) and Kat Von D, I thought I wanted to be all black and grey, keep it classic, but now, as times, styles, influences and taste change, I love the multicoloured, bright and glorious colours all of my lil body so the time has come to change things up and get the arm lightened with laser tattoo removal to be all freshened up with the same pieces, the roses, filigree and cherub, but just redone in glorious technicolour!
(Full before and after pics of my tattoo coming up so keep reading..)
When you first look into laser tattoo removal, google just presents you with the horror stories, so I was pretty nervous to start the process. I'd also been told by many, many people that it was basically, and I quote "like hell on earth!". Great. I approached my local Sk:n Clinics branch has they had great reviews, and I'd been recommended personally by a friend who had had the same treatment with lovely results. I booked in for my consultation to discuss the work I wanted treating, what they could do and how long it would take. I met with Daiva who was an absolute TREAT! She totally put my mind at rest, explained the whole process, what I should expect from actual treatment, the after effects, and the 'journey' in full. As my tattoo was around 10 years, in only black and grey and done by a professional she assured me the process could be fairly straight forward. (Colour tattoos take longer to remove/lighten evenly as the different pigment respond in different levels and can take many more sessions to remove. Poorly done tattoos may have scarred the skin or bleed, which can lead to different results if going for a full removal.)
So after a nice long chat, Daiva told me she believed I would need 4-6 sessions to adequately lighten my half sleeve for retouching (I'm hoping it's the least!). She then explained the pain which can be caused during the actual laser treatment, aftercare, side effects ie blistering, swelling etc. Beforehand I'd been fully briefed by several people that it sucked, hard, so I was pretty freaked out and super anxious but I felt ready for the patch test so we went ahead!
Soooo, we decided to start on the large shaded rose on my shoulder, it's an area around 3 inches square so would give a pretty good idea of the results initially, and how my skin dealt with the treatment. Daiva drew around the area with a white pencil as a guide for her, then she handed me some snazzy protective shades and I internally freaked the f**k out as I got settled on the bed with a squeezey stress ball and anxious giggles.
Right, so, I'm not going to lie to you, it DID suck, it hurt but in a different way to being tattooed. The best way I can explain the feeling is to imagine someone is snapping an elastic band against your skin, but that person is really f**king angry at you and they are pulling the elastic band back to the moon before letting in fly at you. Now I'm not saying that to freak you out, I just think you should know! Tattoos hurt, removing tattoos hurt, it's a fact haha, but I that 3x3 inch area took about a minute, no longer than 2 to actually do. Now Daiva was sneaky (in a very VERY good way). She prepared me, gave me a couple of test shots, checked if I was okay, gave me some lovely encouraging words and carried on. She then did a bit more, I asked her how long it would all take and she said about 5 minutes, I was like, 'okay, breath, okay, breath, we can do this', then she carried on for about another 30 seconds then said 'okay, we're done! Now that's the kinda fibbing I can get on board with! So the relief was wonderful, I was shocked at just how quick it was. So yeah the pain was intense, but it was over so quick that it was completely bearable!
Once the actual laser treatment is done, that's it for pain to be honest, the area doesn't hurt afterwards, it's not tender to the touch, it doesn't feel too raw like a tattoo does, so you have that initial pain then don't really feel any other pain following the treatment, not even when cleaning or adding creams.
Here's some visuals so you can see the full patch test process!
One thing that I had been warned about, but had no idea of the actual weirdness of it... After abit there is a very distinctive smell from the treatment, it's almost metallic, like the ink is actually being heated up, which I mean, it is, but it didn't really occur to me that you'd smell it! So, just on a side note, yeah, there's an inky, metallic, kinda fleshy but not in a gross way, just in a 'hey, that smells like my tattoo ink is getting lasered' kinda way if you get what I mean. So yeah, just thought I'd add that factoid in there!
After the treatment, the area was cooled down with a nice spray of Avene Cooling Spray which felt heavenly, Daiva then placed a protective wrap over the area and tapped in place to keep the area clean and safe. She also advised I use Aloe Vera Gel on the area regularly, and gave me a Sk:n Clinics CPU cream for extra care to apply in the evening. I was advised the leave the protective wrap on until the next morning, then start using the Aloe and cream.
I had some swelling, and the area felt pretty toasty! I had a couple of ibroprofen when I got home but felt pretty fine to be honest. Here's what the area looked like the next morning, and what it looked like after a couple of weeks...
Coming up is the side by side, as similar a shot as I could get! We're just looking at the rose area only, not the filigree here. Notice the lighter shaded areas are much softer, looking right at the central petals you can see the difference in lightness. I certainly notice a difference in real life, it's not major, but there's definably lightness and the greyer areas original in the tattoo are basically gone now it's been another 3 weeks since then.
Once the area has been treated, you won't notice immediate results straight away as the ink pigment that the laser has actually broken down then gets absorbed into the blood stream and broken down into waste by your kidneys, so you see results gradually as your body heals in the few weeks following the laser tattoo removal session. So there is results in the coming weeks which I'll be sharing more in my next posts!
I think the patch test felt so easy, quick and deal-able that I defiantly got my Johnny big boots on and was like "I don't know what all the crazy fuss is about, it wasn't THAT bad..." Yeah, I thought I was tough, turns out, when you get a large area done in one sitting, like your entire outer upper arm, it ain't so easy, but more on that in the next blog post, so keep stopping by to find out more about my first full laser tattoo removal experience!
Thanks for reading and stay lovely!
I'd like to thank Sk:n Clinics for being so wonderful with this treatment, it was simple and easy, and Daiva at the Roundhay branch in Leeds is an actual SAINT and a credit to your team. I had a ton of anxiety going into this with the pain, after effects and end results and whether it would all be worth it but she entirely put my mind at rest. The consultation answered all of my questions and worries, helped my understand exactly what I was about the put my body through (which I think is a really important thing to know!) and just helped start this journey on the right foot, so huge thanks to Sk:n Clinics for having me!
This laser tattoo removal treatment is being provided to me by Sk:n Clinics, this is not a paid post and all opinions are my complete and utter honest opinions to help share my experience and hopefully help others if they're considering laser tattoo removal too!