Almost two years ago, whilst sitting through another 4-5hr tattoo session on my back and thighs, I passed the time on the tattoo studio couch by eating snacks, listening to music and texting my boyfriend as my tattooist got to work on my custom freehand bodyart.
I got my first tattoo at the age of 14yrs – back when it was very much illegal to tattoo under 18’s yet money was a bigger incentive to tattooists! How times have changed and how ridiculous I was to get a tattoo so young. With time I changed my mind about a couple of rushed decisions in ink and had them covered up. My first tribal tattoo on my lower back has since been transformed into wings and the playboy bunny that I had on my hip has been covered by a feather quill.
Tattoos obviously hurt, with some areas of the body being more sensitive than others; of around 50-60 tattoos that I have across my body I found my finger and groin to be the most painful areas as there is very little bodyfat or tissue to soften the pinch.
So many people have said to me “but won’t you regret having tattoos when you’re old?” and it’s something that I just laugh off now, as I have around 50% of my body covered in ink so it’s a bit late to think about regrets! In truth I have only regretted having two of my 60-something tattoos, both of which were poor choices when I was very young and I have since covered over with more meaningful pieces.
All of my tattoos are dear to me, have great meaning and are beautifully unique, personal and sentimental which I will never feel bad about. Whilst it takes a great deal of tolerance, patience and a high pain threshold to sit for hours at a time covering half of your body in tattoos, I found it more painful the second time around when it came to having a tattoo cover-up.
Covering a tattoo you no longer want with a new design inked over the top allows you to change your mind on words, images and pieces that you no longer like as there are some incredible artists out there who can make coverup tattoos literally undetectable. Likewise, freshening up an old, dull or plain tattoo with a new lease of life by adding extra detail or extending the design can make previous bodyart look amazing once again as times change and artists improve technique.
However, going over old ink with a coverup tattoo can also be challenging, as first of all the previous tattoo may be too big, bold and defined for you to put a small and cute piece over the top of it – sometimes your only option to hide old ink is to go darker and larger to diguise the image below.
The final results of a coverup can also be affected by the way that you heal as some people can experiencing scarring from tattoos – the process of cutting the skin with a needle to inject pigment is similar to falling and grazing your knee or accidentally cutting yourself – I have so many scars on my body from injuries over the year which are mostly white and raised!
The way that you take care of your tattoos during healing can make a huge difference to its final appearance. Tattoos weep and scab as they heel, again like grazing your knee, so it’s important not to pick the scabs and to let it heal properly and keep it out of the sun otherwise you can draw the ink out and make it patchy, raw and faded.
My first tattoo on my lower back healed slightly raised and uneven as I didn’t have a clue how to take care of it, innocently itched and picked at the scabs during healing as I didn’t cover it over to sleep and it felt sore and bothered me. I never creamed or protected it in the sun because I wasn’t given any aftercare advice and as such my skin will never be the same again. For this, my back coverup was so painful when the needle passed over the thickened scarring from my first ever tattoo, but I love my coverup and will never regret or change my decision – a mistake made in my youth has been corrected by something beautifully meaningful to me.
My second, and last ever coverup, on my hip to transform my playboy bunny into a feather quill pen (to signify my love of writing) was so much easier to sit through. As I didn’t have thickened scarring from healing badly this time, the needle passed through more easily; however with my eyes closed I could still tell when the coverup was taking place versus going over new skin to create my extended piece of bodyart. It pinched that little bit more and felt more sensitive.
Obviously different areas of the body will hurt more or less for tattoos, but if a tattoo in general felt like a 6-7 for a pain rating out of 10 then I would say my back coverup felt like a 9 and my hip coverup an 8.
Another method to get rid of old tattoos is laser tattoo removal which has been fast gaining popularity since it first became available several years ago. Knowing it was there I’ve never experienced it before because I love all of my bodyart and never thought that I would need to have a tattoo removed. Cue my reason for getting rid of my once loved ink…
I was around 4hrs into an evening session with my tattooist finishing up a piece that he’s been working on for weeks and had been joking with my boyfriend – who had never had a tattoo before – that he should come and join me and get a tattoo too. Each time my phone pinged with his witty responses I smiled and sent an equally playful text back to him and it certainly passed the time.
Our text conversation turned to my own plans for future bodyart as the needle buzzed away and my skin felt on fire as the fresh ink took hold. It’s such an addictive feeling to have a tattoo, the pain becomes a part of the process and is something oddly reassuring after the first several minutes.
Seeing as my surname is Kiss my boyfriend quipped back to a text asking if he could choose my next tattoo and protested that it was a crime to be called Miss Kiss without any kisses on me. It was in fact something I had thought of doing over the years, having a pair of lips tattooed onto me, but one that I’d never actually settled on.
My boyfriend mentioning it made me think of it again and I realised that I wasn’t against the idea, I just didn’t know where to put a pair of lips on my body so had never done it. All of my tattoos are black ink and only my playboy tattoo was coloured in a bubblegum pink which faded to a pale grey over a handful of years. I’d never considered having another coloured tattoo, but he thought that a pair of red lips on my thigh would be rather striking and I too liked the idea.
There and then, whilst having a tattoo, I booked in for my next tattoo – a red pair of lips on my groin – which was something I’d always thought about and now seemed all the more meaningful, not just because it’s my name but also because my boyfriend chose the colour and location.
I adore my red lips tattoo and it certainly stood out and looked great, but in a couple of years the red ink has faded whilst my black ink stays true, which makes it appear less like a lipstick kiss and more like a smudge and people often mistake my tattoo for an injury instead!
I toyed with the idea of what to do about it. My previous pink tattoo faded and I had it covered up with a black design over the top; but whilst my red lips are fading, they’ve still got a good few years in them yet until they’re pale enough to hide easily as red is more vibrant stronger than pink ink.
If I cover them with the same tattoo over the top in black ink then I may risk the tattoo looking constantly raw by having a redish blush to it where the ink is shaded across the lip which could easily appear brown and doesn’t quite have the same appeal as a juicy red lipstick kiss.
My other option is to have my red lips tattoo removed via laser in one or more sessions – as every tattoo and ink is individual so some may need more treatment than others – leaving my bare skin exposed and never replacing it. Or I could partially remove my tattoo with a session or two to fade the colour out and make it easier to coverup with black ink. I won’t know what my results will be like until I try!
I booked into Pulse Light Clinic to have a tattoo removal consultation and patch test which involved examining my tattoo and then having a small taster of the laser to see how my tattoo reacts to treatment. The laser targets the pigment of the ink in the skin and destroys it by blasting it into smaller pieces which gradually break down and pass away, thus removing the tattoo.
I didn’t have any pain relief for my tattoo removal patch test and it felt like a hot stinging sensation which left my skin immediately bright white and raised up almost like a burn. The technician advised that I apply a numbing cream before having my first treatment as it will be pretty painful, but she thinks that I can achieve some good results and my red ink will clear easier than black.
With my patch test a success I’ve booked in for my first ever tattoo removal appointment in a few weeks time and I have to confess I feel a little nervous about what it’s going to feel like! Eek!
My First Tattoo Removal Appointment
Today I came to my appointment prepared with some Emla numbing cream and loose leggings so that my skin doesn’t rub post-treatment. Half an hour before my appointment I applied a pea size amount of Emla cream to my tattoo and covered it with plastic so that it wouldn’t rub off on my clothes.
Sipping a chilled glass of water in the bright and modern Pulse Light Clinic waiting room, I have to confess I was nervous about my tattoo removal hurting! I’ve read so many posts online about how hot, painful and sore it is, but even with the prospect of it hurting me I knew it was something I still wanted to do. Worst case scenerio it hurts, I scream and a minute or two later it’s over with – surely we can withstand anything for just 60 seconds, right?
Greeted by my cheerful laser technician in the waiting room, I followed her into the laser room where I was invited to lay down on a medical bed, much like being at the dentist. With my tattoo being at the top of my leg in the crease of my groin it’s a bit of an odd area to get to! I was able to pull my leggings down whilst keeping my underwear on and turning my leg to the side to open up the crease where my tattoo is so that treatment could begin.
The technician began my cleansing and then drying my skin to prepare the tattoo for treatment. I had a towel placed over my lap for modesty and was given a pair of protective dark glasses to wear to shield my eyes from the laser. I simply had to do was lay back and keep still.
Pulse Light Clinic are one of only two clinics in the Europe who use PicoSure & PicoWay lasers which are suitable for all skin types on black ink and can treat most ink colours on light skin types. To have a tattoo removed it must be a minimum of three months old for which I’ve had mine for just over two years.
There are a range of different methods available to remove tattoos including dermabrasion which involves scrubbing away the top layers of the skin, TCA which is an acid used to remove layers of skin, excision involves cutting the tattoo away and lasersing uses energy to break down the ink particles which the body naturally carries away. I chose to have my tattoo removed by laser as other methods may lead to scarring, pigmentation and uneven results.
Laser tattoo removal has been around for a while now but the new PicoWay lasers are a breakthrough as Picosecond technology has a deeper wavelength which speeds up the removal process and has a far lower chance of side effects than other methods. There is also the RevLite which uses longer laser wavelengths and can be used alongside Pico machines to avoid severe side effects for darker skin types as well as treating shading more effectively.
PicoWay laser tattoo removal is said to provide less painful treatments, be effective on black ink, require fewer treatments in as little as four sessions and have less side effects than other tattoo removal methods.
As lasers produce heat a cold stream of air is blown onto the skin throughout which helps to numb the skin as well as reduce the temperature and make the procedure more comfortable. Armed with the cold air and numbing cream I literally didn’t feel a thing and was ecstatic that my treatment was over in less than two minutes – all of that worrying for nothing!
The laser fires a series of flashing, pinging pulses onto the skin, similar to laser hair removal, which are precisely directed at the ink of the tattoo. Different colours of ink react differently to the laser and as such each treatment is unique and results will vary. I found it fascinating that my red ink tattoo actually got darker following my treatment, which is perfectly normal and shows that the treatment has been successful, whilst other colours may raise up and turn white before fading.
Seeing as my skin was completely numb throughout I didn’t feel a thing so I can’t rate the pain on a scale of 1-10 nor compare it to the discomfort of having a new tattoo or coverup. Other than seeing flashes of light and feeling the cold air blowing on my leg I wouldn’t have been able to tell what was being done and I’m thrilled with how quick and easy it all was.
My tattoo was then cleansed, creamed and covered with a surgical dressing which must remain in place for two days to keep the area clean and dry, following that I can apply Vaseline or Bepanthen cream for the next two weeks so that it doesn’t dry out, and Bio Oil from three weeks onwards.
In six weeks time my full results will show and I can then book in for a second, third or fourth treatment if necessary. So now it’s very much a waiting game to see how my ink fades but I have to say that I love how bright and vibrant my reddened tattoo looks post-treatment and if it could stay that colour then I’d totally keep it! Directly after treatment the surface of my skin felt a little warm to touch, but wasn’t painful or sore as the cream kept it numb. It’s a very quick and discreet process that could easily slip into a lunch break and nobody would know that you’ve had it done!
Remember to check back soon for more progress pictures of how I’m getting on…!