Fly away, little butterfly: My adventure with tattoo removal

Sixteen years ago I paid $35 to get a tattoo of a small butterfly placed on my shoulder at a shady (at best) tattoo parlor in Abilene, Texas.

Yesterday I paid quite a bit more to start the process of having that tattoo removed at a upscale plastic surgeon’s office.

Allow me to explain:

First, I went to college in the mid-90’s. By that point, the grunge scene (which, honesetly, was never really a scene in rural town America where I grew up) was fading and everyone wanted to have a Friends-inspired haircut.

And a belly button ring.

And potentially a tattoo.

I was eighteen years old, living five hundred miles away from home. I suppose I felt the need to express my newfound independence and such expression really needed to come through a form of body art.

So I contemplated the belly button piercing.

And I contemplated the tattoo.

Then I opted for the tattoo, which just so happens to be a PERMANANT fixture to one’s body.

The reason I did not choose the belly button ring was because the Lord has never blessed me with the perfectly flat tummy, even in my 18 year old days when I could eat cookies and soda for breakfast, fried chicken nuggets for lunch and munch on a taquito at 11:00 pm at night and not gain an ounce. My tummy has always had a curve to it, so I figured the responsible (Read: adult) thing to do would be to forgo the belly button ring (which could have been easily removed when I tired of it) and get a PERMANANT tattoo.

Dear 18 year old self: FYI: This logic is faulty.

Fast-forward a few years and the tattoo seemed a bit ridiculous. For one, the look does not really work on me. I am not the type of person who can really pull off a butterfly tattoo on the shoulder. Secondly, I had the tattoo placed on my shoulder. Again the placement of said tattoo was another area where my 18 year old logic was faulty.

When I got the tattoo, I went with two of the gals from my dorm who were also going to PERMANANTLY ink their bodies as a way of expressing their independence. They both had their tattoos placed above their hip bone, a place where the tattoo could be hidden most of the time.

Not me.

I “reasoned” that if I ever had children one day a hip-boned placed tattoo would stretch into some unknown form.

What did I do to prevent having a misshapen tattoo during my child-birthing years?

I had my tattoo placed on my shoulder, that could be seen anytime I wear a swimsuit or a summery outfit with skinny straps. A tattoo that would show on my wedding day. A tattto that would make me have to wear stuffy cardagian sweaters on 100 degree days with certain church dresses to keep the old ladies from passing out in the pew.

Dear 18 year old self: You were not the brightest college student on the block, huh?

For years I have been wanting to have the tattoo removed. The problem with this desire is that tattoo removal was not widely available and it was terribly expensive. I kept telling the husband that surely there were enough people like myself who attended college in the 1990’s and who regreted their decision to ink their bodies. Surely our generation would make a demand for tattoo removal services.

Such a prediction proved to be true.

Tattoo removal has soared in popularity and in availability over the past few years. Yet it still remained terribly expensive (about $400 for a session, with most people needing an average of ten sessions).

Enter: The Groupon.

Over the summer, a groupon popped up in my email inbox for tattoo removal, making the procedure quite affordable. I immediately purchased three sessions and waited for summer to end before beginning my treatments.

Yesterday was Treatment #1.

As I mentioned, the procedure was performed at an upscale plastic surgeon’s office. The coffee bar and selection of magazines were enough to make me want to hang out in the waiting room for the afternoon. The delicately worded advertisements for the “soccer mom makeover” (complete with free botox) made me contemplate an overhaul after the tattoo removal procedure was complete. I attempted to rationalize purchasing the $250 eye cream located by the receptionists desk, especially after she said she used it and did not have a line on her face. After sitting in this Dr.’s office for a mere ten minutes, I understood why people get a bit addicted to the plastic surgery. When confined in the pretty little walls of a surgeon’s office, surrounded with all the ways one can make themself just a bit more better, it is tempting to indulge.

I resisted the eye cream (and the soccer mom makeover…for now) and headed back for the procedure.

Which took all of six seconds.

Yes, six seconds.

The tattoo removal process involves a strong laser directed at the tattoo. The laser breaks up the ink particles, sending them into the body. The body them reasorbs the particles. It takes several treatments for the laser to break up all the particles, especially if the tattoo has color (mine does) and is new (mine is not). Because the skin needs time to heal, the patient can only have one treatment every four weeks.

Back to those six little seconds…

They were painful.

Very painful.

It felt as if someone lit my skin on fire (which basically the laser did) and was poking me with a thousand tiny needles all at the same time. I could have had a numbing shot for an extra 25 bucks, but decided to be brave and save that $25 to put towards a new pair of boots for the winter. My rationalization was that I have birthed two children, being in active, pushing-stage childbirth for over four hours, and I could handle a few seconds of pain.

Dear 34 year old self: You are not that smart some days either.

Almost 24 hours after the procedure I have a big red sore (in the shape of a butterfly) on my shoulder. It hurts. It looks really gross. Supposedly it will blister in a few days and hurt even more. Yeah, me. But, I am now one step closer to being tattoo-free.

Here is the before shot of my tattoo:

 

I will wait to post an “after” shot once the sore/blister is healed. I put a lot of things out in the blogosphere, but I do draw the line at blisters.

You are welcome.

Anyone else out there with tattoo regret? Have you had one removed?

Please, share your story with me. Misery loves company, dear reader!

 

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3 thoughts on “Fly away, little butterfly: My adventure with tattoo removal”

  1. You know I’m waiting to see the results of yours and to birth this baby and for another Groupon coupon to come out so that I can have mine removed. I, too, was a less than intelligent college student.

  2. I do not have tattoo regret…except for the fact that I never got one! That’s right, I want a tattoo so bad, but my husband hates them! So I’m tatoo free. However, I’ve got mine all picked out just in case Brad ever relents.

    One must have hope, right?

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