My Tattoo Removal Experience
This post has been a long time coming. Loooong time coming since I started the process in March 2019 and it’s now February 2022. It’s been almost 3 full years of removing this tattoo, but I was hella dedicated in getting this poor choice removed. But before I jump into my own experience, I want to answer some questions that I know will be in most people’s minds.
How does tattoo removal work?
With tattoo removal, the laser sends energy into the skin, breaking apart the ink through heat so the white blood cells in the body can absorb it and eliminate the ink through the liver.
How bad does it hurt?
I was told that tattoo removal is, “worse than childbirth” or “felt like pouring acid on the skin” but my experience was much different. I would put numbing cream on 45 minutes before the treatment, then the treatment would take anywhere between 15-20 seconds, and it mostly felt like someone was hitting me with a rubber band over and over. Some spots were more spicy, like up near my breast, but some spots I couldn’t even feel. And when they would increase the frequency of the laser (I think it’s called frequency, but I could be totally wrong), it would sting a little more, but it was always bearable.
What is the recovery like?
There is no real aftercare involved with the tattoo removal I experienced. I made sure to not hop in a bath or any pool or hot tub a few days after and I kept it out of the sun, but that was it! The tattoo will be red, swollen, you may experience some small blisters that go away with time (I never did), and it will feel raw and itchy for a few days. But within 6 or 7 days, it’s back to feeling like your normal skin as the laser begins to work its magic underneath the skin for the next weeks or even months. I personally never experienced any scabbing throughout any of my sessions.
How long does it take to remove a tattoo?
That all depends on the tattoo, the color, how old it is, your own skin color, and the size of the tattoo. For me, it took 2.5 years, going every 6-8 weeks, and the tattoo is still slightly visible in some areas. I’ve heard of people removing their tattoo in far less time and I’ve heard of it taking way longer. This is something you’ll want to discuss at your own consultation.
Will tattoo removal leave behind a scar?
With the amazing laser technology these days, scarring is not left behind from the laser, but the tattoo itself may leave a scar. If the tattoo artist used a heavy hand, there could be some scarring left behind of the tattoo. But they also have resurfacing lasers for that! Lasers are rad.
How much does it cost?
I have heard a huge range of prices, from $50/treatment to $300/treatment. Since lasers are so incredibly expensive, many facilities will jack up their prices so they can pay off that loan sooner. At the place I went to, Rocky Mountain Laser College, I found their prices quite reasonable since it’s a teaching school and mine only cost $50/treatment (I was able to go on training days to get it at a better cost, but I’m not sure they still offer that), costing me close $1000 over 2.5 years, with treatment fees and the cost of numbing cream. Just for reference, my tattoo was only $150. Oh Juli, young Juli.
Would I recommend it?
Fuck yes! If laser technology would have been where it is now, years ago, I would have definitely done it earlier. It wasn’t that painful compared to getting the tattoo and I feel so much more comfortable in my skin now that it’s gone. One of the best choices I could have ever made!
Let’s get into my story and tattoo choice!
Let me take you back for a second, back 13 years ago, when I was 20 years old and spending my days in tattoo shops as my college boyfriend got many, many tattoos. Well, I was young, impressionable, trying to be cool, trying to find myself, and thinking I knew everything. So one day, while I watched my boyfriend get yet another tattoo, I thought to myself, “I should do that, I should get a tattoo.” But I’m not much of a flower or quotes or koi fish kind of girl, so I tried to think what meant the most to me. And at that time, it was CrossFit. You can tell where this is going, can’t you? Well CrossFit had fully changed my life. It changed how I thought about fitness, it changed how I showed up in the gym, it changed how I looked at my body, and it changed my whole trajectory in life. It was everything to me. I mean, I wouldn’t be where I am today without CrossFit. So, of course, I wanted a CrossFit tattoo, like all the Olympians who get the rings tattooed on them or the Iron Man competitors who get the square red M tattooed on them. Made total sense, right? In my 20 year old mind, ABSOLUTELY. I was just like an Olympian or Iron Man, but cooler…I was a CrossFitter! HA! So I started googling random shit and came across a woman doing a split jerk. Do I like that lift? No. Did it look cool in my mind at the moment? Yes. So off I went to get a tattoo that the tattoo artist knew I would forever regret. He first started with simply the outline of the woman doing the split jerk, but then I asked him to fill it in. He reluctantly said he would do a fading effect instead of fully filled in and holy shit was I thankful for that later on. He also used a light hand and that really made a huge difference once I made the decision to remove it. This guy knew I would remove it someday, I just know.
I think my face is saying…what the fuck did I just do?! Oh and get this. I had a nightmare the night before my tattoo appointment about the tattoo. My sub conscious or spirit guides or whoever the fuck was looking out for me, was telling me to NOT DO IT. But I was 20 years old and I had already put down a $50 deposit…how was I supposed to go back on that? Awwwww to be 20 again.
Now I probably regretted the tattoo 3 or 4 years later. But at that time, all I heard was horror stories about the excruciating pain, the scarring, and the bloody blisters. I even had a friend around that time that was getting a wedding band tattoo removed and her blood blisters were out of this world. I just couldn’t bring myself to go through that pain, especially since it was on my ribcage, which was INCREDIBLY PAINFUL to get tattooed in the first place. So I kept putting it off and putting it off, until I worked up the courage and found an amazing laser school that had all the latest and greatest lasers since they are constantly teaching laser professionals in the area (which is why I chose them) – Rocky Mountain Laser College. And no, this post is not sponsored, I just adored them in every way. I went in for my first appointment in March 2019, pouring sweat through my palms while I wondered how awful the pain was going to be. A few of the students were in class that day so she asked if they could watch and I said yes. I held on tight to a student’s hand as I braced myself for pain that people said was far worse than getting the tattoo itself. Then within 15-20 seconds of what felt like someone was hitting me with a rubber band, it was over! It was hardly painful whatsoever. Annoying and uncomfortable, yes, but definitely no where close to when I got the tattoo. Laser technology has come so far that it was honestly a breeze. And I couldn’t believe the results I had after just one treatment! No bleeding, no worse-than-childbirth pain, and no real aftercare. The only thing I had to deal with was the skin feeling tender then slightly itchy for a few days, and some redness. Pretty easy! Below is what it looks like immediately after a treatment and within a day.
After that first treatment, I was sure I would have this tattoo gone within a year. Obviously, I was quite wrong. What felt like great progress in the beginning, began to slow with time. With tattoo removal, Rocky Mountain Laser College recommends appointments 6-8 weeks apart, depending on the tattoo, size, etc. For me, I would go in EVERY 6-8 weeks on the dot, to get my tattoo worked on. And with each treatment, they would see how the tattoo healed and how much pigment was processed out, then they would decide to up the laser frequency or try a different laser all together, especially if they had gotten a new, even better one in. For me, they used the Pico Laser for removal and sometimes CO2 Laser for resurfacing. Sometimes they would even first hit it with the Pico Laser then CO2 right afterwards. Sometimes sessions were more painful than the last, but always bearable. I would numb up 45 minutes before my appointment and that numbing cream helped a ton because I often wouldn’t feel it in some areas. Below are a couple pictures of what it would look like depending on the laser they used and if they did any resurfacing.
Within the 2.5 years, I had 18 treatments. By July of 2021, my laser technician thought it was time to take a big break for at least 6 months, before hitting it again. At that point, I felt the same way and I was getting to a place I felt comfortable with how hidden it was – it wasn’t completely gone, but it was pretty hard to see unless you knew what you were looking for. Plus, my sports bra or swimsuit covers the darkest spots left behind, so that bothers me even less. And since we were trying to get pregnant, I knew less appointments were in my future anyways. And then I got pregnant in October/November so getting any more sessions in is currently off the table until I push this little girl out. And by that point, I’ll probably want to work on the OTHER tattoo I have, that I got when I was 18. Young Juli was so tattoo trigger happy. Below are pictures from the day of my last treatment, before the session so you can see what was left of the tattoo, then immediately after the session.
Even though this tattoo took far longer than I thought it would, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m so glad I found Rocky Mountain Laser College, I’m so glad I stuck with my appointments every 6-8 weeks, and I’m so glad to see it pretty much gone. Would I recommend tattoo removal? Absolutely. But I highly recommend looking around, finding out the lasers that each facility uses, doing some research into those companies to see if they have any newer versions available at other locations, and finding out what each place costs. Prices will range drastically depending on the area you live, the size of your tattoo, and what the technician decides to charge, so don’t be scared to get multiple quotes. And something I can’t recommend ENOUGH is…if you’re planning to get a tattoo, maybe sit on it for a year or so before you get it. Obviously I’m projecting based off my poor tattoo choices I’ve made, but the longer you can wait to make a choice that is pretty much permanent, well it will save you A LOT of money later on. Hence why I’ve waited many, many years to have a child. Gotta think on that for a while. I hope this post was helpful and gets you a little less scared to get your own tattoo removed (if that’s what you want). I was so so scared for years based on other people’s experiences, but I found the tattoo itself was waaaaay more painful than the removal. Good luck out there! May your past choices not haunt you!
Oh, Hi! I’m Juli.
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39 thoughts on “My Tattoo Removal Experience”
Thanks for FINALLY sharing with us the infamous tattoo! I’m a longtime follower and I’ll admit I’ve been quite curious over the years. I’ll bet you’re so relieved to have so much of it gone, you really can’t tell anything was ever there unless you’re searching for it, just like you said. Amazing progress!
Echoing Victoria – I’ve been soooo curious to see the tattoo! Thanks for finally sharing. It took a long time but I’m sure it was worth the wait because WOW, the results speak for themselves!!
BTW I’m 43 and IN MY MIND I have two full sleeve tattoos…but I haven’t been able to fully commit to anything, so I’m still tattoo-less LOL! but I literally have like 3,000 tattoos pinned on Pinterest! Great advice about waiting a year….that has saved me from countless tattoos I wanted to get (at the time) but definitely would have regretted later 🙂 I made it into the tattoo chair at 18, had the stencil on and everything, then freaked the fuck out and ran away before he started, thank God!
The suspense has been killing me on the tattoo removal!! WOW that one was a doozy! Thank you for sharing your experience. I had a tattoo that I had gotten from an ex and I recently covered it with a Tinkerbell. I had a hard time choosing between removal and cover up but I love me some Tinkerbell.
The person that did the removal did an AMAZING job and I would 100% go to them if I needed something removed.
Thank you so much for sharing your experience, here and on instagram. I started my tattoo removal journey last July, largely encouraged by the fact that you were sharing so much of your journey. I also had a subconscious warning not to get my tattoo and didn’t get a great vibe from this artist, but I reasoned that I’d really researched the guy and he seemed so reputable and artistic and I have other tattoos that I don’t regret at all. Turns out, I should have gone with my gut and hated the tattoo immediately. Progress on the removal has definitely been slower than I expected, especially because the technicians I’ve seen told me it would take about a year for full removal (which I knew to take with a grain of salt but I don’t think we’re going to even come close to that) and my tattoo has colors in it that just look so ugly in the interim, but what can you do? If this takes years I’m just gonna stick with it 🙂
I am having an old tattoo (20 yrs) removed that I never really wanted. I originally wanted a small simple sun tattoo no more than an inch on my Center back. The tattoo artist changed the design to a larger Sun about 6-7 inches and lowered it down my back. I hated it ever since. I am now in the process of removing it. I cannot wait till it is completely gone. The pain of the laser removal is not fun. It is hot and snappy. But it is over quickly in just a few minutes. It is costing me $1700 to remove. Ugh! Hindsight is a virtue.
that’s so fucked up the tattoo artist did BIGGER. hindsight truly is a virtue
Yikes Juli, I always thought you were exaggerating but seeing it now I’m actually in shock! That tattoo was just hideous. Good job on the removal! It looks great now.
Thanks for sharing your experience! The results are amazing.
I have seven, yes seven, that I regret and have been slowly chipping away at them. I have 3 gone and 2 in progress. The 2 that I haven’t started yet will be very painful (feet!) and 1 very difficult to remove because of the colors.
I will say, the tattoo removal lasers have come a long way. I started my journey probably 15 years ago and oMg did it hurt. I would get in the car and just cry after. The aftercare was horrible and it hurt for days, if not weeks. I’ve been to multiple places over the years (relocate often for work) and I can say that the current lasers are relatively painless and no aftercare required. Yes, it hurts in the moment, but it is over so quick and the pain virtually disappears the minute they stop.
I’d encourage anyone who is considering tattoo removal to go for it and not the pain scare them away. It’s so worth it! I feel so free having half of mine gone.
Thank you for sharing! I feel your “pain!” Because of you I went down the tattoo removal journey. I got the infamous tramp stamp when I was 20. I’ve had 7 treatments and looking at 5-6 more! Crossing my fingers I’ll be down after that.
I’ll be honest, for me, it’s pretty painful. Apparently the location (basically on bone and low back) there is just no cushion. I have blistered pretty bad but only after session 3&4. I ice a lot before and I tell myself it’s literally 10-15 seconds. I describe it more like putting your finger on a hot stove and it holding it there. It definitely itches quite a
Bit for a week after, but also wouldn’t change my decision to have it removed. I would only go back to the 20 year old self and tell her what a dumb idea it was.
Thank your for sharing! I think you encouraged a lot of us to do it.
7? noooooo!! but that’s awesome you already have 3 gone! and that’s what i’ve heard, it seems like lasers have come so so far. it’s amazing how easy it is now and how much better it’s going to be for the next generation as they continue to improve.
Looks great! I am in the process of getting my 4 tattoo’s removed and it’s taking FOREVER! Can I ask what cream you use before your session?
it’s just a numbing cream they sell at the laser college!
Thank you so much for sharing! It is definitely encouraging me to get a tattoo removed on my ankle that my 18 year old self thought was a great idea. My Mom was so upset, she made me cover it with bandaids every time I saw her. I think it is time for that tattoo to go! They did an amazing job!
if you hate it, i highly recommend it!
Ahhh! The tattoo is finally revealed! In my mind it was a an infinity circle (no idea why) so this was quite the surprise! But I’m genuinely impressed with how good it looks now! Thanks for sharing your experience!
Thank you so much for sharing! I just recently decided to start a tattoo removal because of your story! Did the tattoo removal recommend any lotions or after care treatment between appointments?
nope, you literally put nothing on it! it just feels a little tender, but not like you need something on top of it
The mystery is finally over for those of us that have been following for awhile. The results are amazing and if one didn’t know, it just looks kind of like a birth mark. None would be the wiser. Thanks for sharing. I’m very thankful to not have a tattoo regret. I’m too much of an over thinker.
I’ve been waiting for this post! Even though I’m not a tattoo person, I was always curious what it was that you couldn’t show us. I NEVER expected a girl doing a clean and jerk. I had to chuckle a bit, but as a lover of CrossFit, I get it. I think the slowly faded is a nice reminder of what you were. It’s a little piece of you and CrossFit remaining. But you really can’t see it 🙂.
that’s such a great point!!
hi Juli! I know you have your messages turned off on IG (understandably) so I thought I would come here and tell you how much I appreciate you sharing about American Express. I just recently received the Platinum card and am eagerly learning everything I can…I have no idea why I didn’t consider Amex previously! Just wanted to tell you you at least have one person really appreciating those posts 🙂
aw yayyyyyy!! it’s truly the best card IMO! so many fun bonuses!
Thanks for sharing the infamous tattoo and the removal process! Looks so great now! I don’t have any tattoos but thanks for sharing the process.
thanks for reading the post, lisa!
This looks amazing!! I’m also in the tattoo removal process; and my technician uses the Pico laser! I would love to know what cream you use for numbing!!??
Love following you!! You are amazing!!
i have zero idea, it’s a numbing cream they sell at the laser location
Thank you for sharing this!!! I’m one appointment in so far to removing an entire half sleeve 😓… a black and grey piece I should have gotten removed immediately. Instead I tried to cover it up with a new color piece! (I can throw up typing this!!!!! Lol).. my first appointment I did no numbing and found the same as you. I either felt nothing or I really really felt it (on the black heavy spots). I’m opting for the numbing cream for my next appointment. Did you find that numbing really helped? Mine unfortunately are not 15-20 seconds but rather 20-30mins long 🥵… so worth it though. Even seeing baby baby progress gives so much hope. I couldn’t agree more that If you’re thinking about it, just fucking do it!!!! If thinking about it removed it, mine would have been gone a year ago. So worth it. You get a second chance and how many of those do we really get in life?!?
dayummmm that is quite a commitment, proud of you katie! i think the numbing cream helped A TON, some spots i couldn’t even feel it, like more towards my stomach. it’s definitely worth trying! and totally agree about the second chance – you don’t get that very often. can’t wait for yours to be done and you to feel free of those choices!
Can you sit in the sun and tan evenly? Or should you avoid it all together
you don’t want to get your tattoo in the sun while you’re removing it. but it hasn’t tanned any differently since getting it fully removed
Can’t explain it, but for YEARS now I have assumed it was a poorly-drawn sea turtle. Like, that’s what my mind filled in the blank with, and I’m here for how wrong I was.
hahahahaha now that’s hilarious!
Thanks for sharing. I’ll stick with my 1 week inbox tattoos. Emphermal also has a tattoo process where they only last 12-14 months. Great for non-commiters like me.
never heard of that!
I have a few I’d like to remove. But I was told about 10 years ago by a dermatologist that it wasn’t worth it. It most definitely seems worth it now. I’ve been dying to know exactly what you had. Thank you for sharing!
so interesting, i wonder why she said that. it definitely feels worth it to me, even though it was time consuming
Key is space your appointments out more and if you can, go to an actual dermatologist clinic for treatments. I am in the process myself and going to a dermatologist suggested minimum 3-6mo (or more!) between appointments to give the body time to absorb and sweep away the pigment. When you get treatments so close together you are just lasering the same broken up pigment sitting beneath the surface over and over and not making much progress– hence, why you needed so many treatments.
In 4-5 treatments mine is half done because I’ve spaced out the timing to give my body a chance to heal and get rid of the ink before going back. Something to consider for those with more patience. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your story! I went to the laser school you recommended and I couldn’t be happier!