ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Disappearing Ink

Updated on December 3, 2015
Evan Rachel Wood
Evan Rachel Wood | Source

Removing a tattoo could cost more time, money and discomfort than you’d think. Here’s a best-success guide.

It seemed like such a cute idea at the time. You and your three best college buddies swore eternal friendship and each got identical tree frogs tattooed on your ankles.

Fifteen years later, you’re not really in touch with those women anymore. You can’t remember what it was that you loved so much about frogs. And you’re wearing long pants to work in the sweltering heat so you can hide your tattoo (gotta look professional). You’d really like to get rid of it. Before you do, here’s what you need to know.

You’re Not Alone

Ten percent of American adults have or have had tattoos, according to American Demographics magazine. Nearly half are women. But don’t think “Mom” or a skull and crossbones. Picture the kind of small-of-the-back sexy arabesque or mandala sunburst made chic by the likes of Sarah Michelle Gellar and Drew Barrymore.

Perhaps the only trend growing as fast as getting tattoos put on is getting them taken off. According to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), about 48,000 laser-removal procedures were performed by dermatologic surgeons in 2001. Witness Angelina Jolie, who stepped out recently (and sleevelessly) with the once-prominent “Billy Bob” (her ex-husband) erases from her upper arm. Another tattoo customer with buyer’s remorse is Carre Otis. As a supermodel who came onto the scene in the late ‘80s, she covered herself with 11 illustrations, including the name of her future (and now former) husband, actor Mickey Rourke. Now, as a plus-size model who speaks about body image, eating disorders and substance abuse, she has changed her opinion about tattoos (and has lasered off one of hers so far). For a while, you will feel like, ‘It’s a part of me and it represents a part of my life,’ But you get to a point where you don’t want a physical reminder. You put names on there, but life is impermanent, as are relationships.

Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie | Source

You Need a Doctor

Walking into a self-proclaimed removal expert’s office can be hazardous. If you choose to get rid of your “really awful” tattooed floral ankle bracelet. The aesthetician you picked out of the phone book may suggest using harmless-sounding glycolic acid to remove the design. Not only was the process painful, but it is unsterile. The solution will be spilled and then applied to your skin (which is first abraded with a pumice stone). Within days, you will develop a raging infection. You will be rushed to an urgent-care clinic, where you could lose your leg or even die.

Experts say the preferred removal method is the laser, and they recommend using a board-certified dermatologist or a physician with about five years of laser experience. Look for a member of the ASDS or the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery.

One Laser Does Not Fit All

Not all tattoos are the same, and neither are the removal methods or the results. The best option today, according to experts, is a Q-switched laser. There are three different ones. Each targets only certain colors of ink. For people with many-colored tattoos, this can really be a problem. More colors mean more lasers and, possibly, more office visits. Your best bet is to go with a doctor who uses at least two different lasers in his practice.

Removal Costs More Than The Tattoo – A Lot More!

Tattoo artists charge anywhere from $45 to $150 an hour. Prices for removal at a doctor’s office range from $250 to $500 per visit. Depending on your design, removal may require 6 to 12 office visits (with one to two months between treatments to allow the skin to heal). And it’s a cosmetic procedure, so insurance won’t cover it.


It Hurts

Discomfort is routine even with anesthesia. The pain ranged from the snapping of an elastic band to an intense burning feeling. The laser on my skin smelled like wood burning. So I’d sit there feeling like a Yule log with a rebellious past.

You May End Up With a Scar

There could be pinpoint bleeding. Not taking care of the area can lead to infection and scarring. Cover it with a dressing overnight; the ensuing “crusting” (which lasts up to a week) must also be protected from the sun.

Removal May Not Ever Work Completely

Lasers aren’t perfect; inks can react unexpectedly and darker skin can lose pigment. You can get a tattoo totally off, but it’s not guaranteed. Often you’re left with a dim shadow of the tattoo or a light patch where it was.

The bottom line: It’s much easier to get a tattoo than remove it. She notes that 42 percent of tattoo-removal patients blamed peer pressure for their tattoo and spent just a few minutes deciding to get one. A good policy? Think long and hard before you ink.

With removal so risky, why bother erasing tattoos? For many women, it’s about self-esteem. For others, it is a professional necessity. Some employer had a strict no-body-art policy.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Actually I did this very thing. I was fortunate that I chose black ink, a relatively easier color to remove (black absorbs all light!).


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)