What happens when you mix a busy thirty something mother of 3 , a good dollop of not particularly positive life altering news , a premature case of midlife crisis with a large dash of borderline ADD impatience?? ……..A TATTOO, and a hideous one at that.
HATE AT FIRST SIGHT
In 2013 at 37 years of age, I made the worst impulsive decision of my life. I had not that long before been told that I had MS. This sparked a rather premature case of “I feel like I’m 18 still” which saw me:
re-piercing my nose,
dying my hair a horrible shade of aubergine (was supposed to be a dark red brown think Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, Lana del Rey……unfortunately this was not the look I ended up with)
Getting a tattoo (my second).
Now I need to make something clear, my intentions were genuine. I like tattoos, and already had one that I got the minute I was 18 and I WANTED to get a another. Something that was meaningful to me. Something feminine & dainty. Something beautiful. I decided on an oak leaf and acorn design around my ankle, with 3 acorns that signified my 3 boys and the oak leaves symbolising myself…..how lovely I thought, how clever.
All was good. I had talked to the owner of the local Tattoo parlour (that shall remain nameless) He had sketched a mock up of my design which looked OK…..I felt excited! On the big day I was told that the new guy was going to do it, and not to worry because he was brilliant. I remember him telling me that a dainty band wouldnt look good and that I should trust him that a slightly bigger design would look better, so that’s what I did. I laid back and relaxed (sort of, tattoos around the ankle are painful) whilst he did his magic. I was also told that I had the perfect skin to tattoo and the new ink he was using will look “really vibrant” ….great!
3 or so hours later I clapped eyes on the chunky monstrosity wrapped around my ankle. It was a good tattoo, by an accomplished tattooist, nice colours and shading, but my gawd the outline was SO thick and black, no daintiness in sight…….I hated it immediately and just wanted to cry. How could I have let this happen!! I blamed myself for this error. I was vulnerable at that time and didn’t have the strength to vocalised exactly what I wanted in a Tattoo, and what I did NOT. I now feel that the Tattooist should have done what I had asked and if it was done today I would definitely have challenged his ideas or ditched it altogether!
I spent the next 5 years covering it up with clothes and make-up. Unable to wear pretty dresses or shorts most of the time. On one particular holiday to Greece I used enough Mac concealer to paint the Sistine Chapel twice over on that tat. The following photos are the only ones I can find of that time where you can see my tattoo, as it was usually hidden away like a dirty secret. This was a particularly hot summer in Amsterdam, and I obviously had given in and shown it off in public! As well as a rather filthy Latitude festival.
DREAMS REALLY DO COME TRUE!
A couple of years ago I got my hopes up as I bought a cheap bundle of tattoo removal sessions on Groupon. The couple who ran the sessions from their house were professional and really lovely but unfortunately I saw no difference at all . Last year however my luck was about to change. I’d heard about a clinic near to Norwich that had really good results with Tattoo removal and got in touch…..
Cue the absolutely fabulous DOCTORS LASER CLINIC!!
From the moment I walked through the doors of this beautifully modern, classy and super spotless clinic, I knew that I was going to receive the best shot at getting rid of my embarrassing mistake. I don’t think I have ever come across a more inviting, friendly and caring team of people, from Jenny in Reception to the super knowledgeable owners (all 3 of which were or still are practising doctors …Hence the DOCTORS laser clinic bit!)
Me, after a blasting……and no they aren’t my shades! Although I did manage to make it to my car once with these bad boys on (thankfully I handed them back at the last moment as they are rather more expensive than a pair of Gucci’s!)
My first visit was really straight forward. The wonderful Helen was to be my miracle worker (and I can tell you a miracle was needed as we will find out). I was asked questions about my tattoo to establish how many sessions it was going to take to remove it by using the Kirby-Desai Scale, and initial pictures were taken.
My initial pic…..yep she’s a biggie 🙁
What is the Kirby-Desai Scale?
“The Kirby-Desai Scale assigns numerical values to six parameters: skin type, location, color, amount of ink, scarring or tissue change, and layering. Parameter scores are then added to yield a combined score that will show the estimated number of treatments needed for successful tattoo removal.” Wikipedia
The six factors and their point systems are as follows:
PATIENT SKIN TYPE 1-6
LOCATION OF TATTOO 1-5
COLOUR(S) OF INK 1-4
AMOUNT OF INK 1-4
SCARRING /TISSUE CHANGE 0-5
LAYERING/COVER UPS 0-2
Helen added up my scores and worked out near enough how long until my day of freedom.
The results were positive. Yes it was going to take quite a few sessions 12+ (average is 6-10 sessions) but it looked like it was possible to rid my ankle of most of my tattoo…..woo hoo! Its impossible however to give an exact amount of sessions as everybody’s skin is different and will react to the laser differently……Remember the tattooist saying I had the perfect skin to tattoo? Well that has played a big part in just how stubborn my tattoo has been to remove!
I then had a test patch lasered. I didn’t know what to expect as its nothing like getting a tattoo where they use a needle to get the ink into your skin, a laser however breaks up the ink by smashing it into tiny pieces and is absorbed into the body where the immune system gets rid of it. I was also told that after a laser tattoo removal session the ink will continue to fade for weeks and months afterwards….how cool is that.
My initial patch test…..ouchy! and a week afterwards.
“Once administered to the tattoo area, the Harmony XL Pro laser successfully breaks down the ink’s pigment into tiny fragments. Over time, these fragments are disposed of by the body’s immune system, resulting in lighter skin and a significantly reduced tattoo appearance. Due to the varying wavelengths of light the Harmony XL Pro is able to produce, tattoos of multiple colours are able to be removed in addition to typical black ink. “
The Doctors Laser Clinic
The amazing HARMONY XL PRO
NO PAIN NO GAIN
I’m not going to lie……It hurt, it hurt bad. The only way to describe it is like being splattered by hot oil whilst being pinged continuously by an elastic band (I had to google how to describe this feeling as its hard to put into words) But a bit similar to childbirth (not the pain!) you can go with it as you know its all towards something you want….a positive end result. Some people find it OK. I’m not sure whether it was the pigment or where my tattoo is situated but I did resort to squeezing the stress ball and numbing my ankle until it was like a frozen lump. What a wimp……Thank goodness for Helen’s happy demeanour and great sense of humour, I honestly couldn’t have done it without her….she radiates positivity!
I have to add at this point that some people report that they feel minimal pain, or certainly less than myself. So please don’t let my pain ranting put you off if you are thinking of having it done yourself.
Every session after this was a really pleasant (chatting to Helen) and a rather painful (laser blasting) experience. But you know what, because of the nature of my first MS relapse being complete numbness in both my lower legs (which thankfully totally resolved itself after 2 or so weeks) I realised that I would welcome the pain, almost thankful that I could experience it in a weird kind of way…….so I have embraced each session. The lovely surroundings and cuppa before hand helps too!
Around the 4th or 5th session…..proving VERY difficult to get rid of. Some old black tattoos would have been gone by now!
Around my 6th session and because of the stubborn nature of my tattoo (It’s positioned as far away from your heart as you can get, which is not great apparently, but especially the colour) Helen decided to use the KTP laser to try and blast some of the pigment out……O.M.G that is one powerful laser!!! Being an honest person, my ankle was pulsating with the most intense pain for around 3 hours afterwards, I even had to pull over on my drive home as the pain was that bad!! A few days afterwards I had the largest blisters I have ever seen appear on my tattoo….(will spare you the image as its gross, and I have somehow managed to lose it too) It looked like a beanbag full of water strapped to my ankle…..but it was so worth it.
The results were insane. The KTP method although very painful (that may be down to the area being treated, my bony ankle) had definitely faded ALL of my tattoo, even the colour.
Here are some images of a typical laser session.
The all important numbing of my ankle before being lasered
Helen working her magic!
Healing cream plus a massive plaster and I’m good to go home
Each session typically takes no longer than 45 mins and that includes a consultation. It is best to leave at least 6 to 8 weeks in between sessions.
This summer we went on a dream holiday to Mexico and I never once felt embarrassed by it or even thought about it, and not one dab of Mac concealer was used (apart from under my eyes from all that Mojito consumption of course!)
Obviously the barman was rather generous with the tequila this day…..Finally, one of many photos with my tat on full view, and I felt great about it!
Recently I had my 9th session and although the tattoo is still there it is very faded…..3 more sessions until hopefully it is gone. I think another KTP blasting is needed though unfortunately.
What it looks like now
Before & After 9 sessions. Nearly there!!
If like me you have been impulsive and ridiculous and acquired a inking that you regret, then I cannot recommend Helen enough. She isn’t just a pro at removing tattoos, she also specialises in other laser and aesthetic treatments. I always look forward to my laser tattoo removal sessions and will keep going until its gone forever.
THANK YOU HELEN AND THE TEAM AT THE DOCTORS LASER CLINIC! XXX
“The team were thrilled when Helen joined us in April 2017. Our long relationship with her goes back to childhood! After achieving her level 4 and 5 BTEC in Lasers and Light Based Aesthetic Therapies in Nottingham she is the fourth of our team to gain recognition as a Qualified Laser Technician and one of only a handful in all Norfolk! Combined with her irrepressible humour, empathy, professional attitude and amazing patient skills she is always gets lovely feedback and great results. ”
The Doctors Laser Clinic.