Getting Uninked

tattoo1.jpgWhen I got my first tattoo at age 16, I pretty much knew I'd want it gone by the time I was 30. My rationale went like this: the year was 1995, and I figured technology was bound evolve to the point where, by the time I was that old, tattoo removal would be cheap, fast, and easy. Wrong! But I'll get to that.

The first tattoo was a star on my wrist. Not so original nowadays, but we didn't have Lindsay Lohan and Sienna Miller back then. And, sure, you have to be 18 to legally get a tattoo, but this was in the early days of Giuliani administration in New York, back when we were barely carded for anything (especially alcohol, I was elated to learn).

The second tattoo came about during my freshman year of college, and this one really marked some silly adolescent judgment on my part. I knew what I wanted it to say (and it's something so college, so 18, and so earnest that I can't even bring myself to tell friends what it means anymore, let alone HuffPost readers), but I didn't want it to be in English. Arabic, Farsi and Hindi looked too linear, Chinese felt too cliché. So, naturally, I settled on Japanese. I could have lived with the star for the rest of my life, but really, Asian character tattoos are a crime of fashion that should be punishable by law. The characters themselves are beautiful, but as a tattoo...especially on a non-Asian body...well, nothing says "I Tried To Rebel In The '90s" more.

So when I turned 29 in August, I decided it was time for me and the tattoos to part ways, and schlepped out to New Jersey to see Dr. Mitchell Chasin at the Reflections Center For Skin And Body, where I was told the cost of the removal for an average-sized tattoo like mine would be about $300 or $350 per treatment, and it would take at least four treatments (the number varies depending on the color and type of ink, skin type, and quality of the tattoo). So if the average number of treatments is four to ten, then it costs between $1200 and $3500. Note to 16-year-old self: you were wrong.

tattoo2.jpgDuring a detailed consultation where I saw many before and after photos of tattoos way uglier than mine, Dr. Chasin schooled me on the lasers used, and how they vary according to that tattoo's color. We settled on the Medlite C6 for my black ink.

Now I'm not particularly squeamish, but I did get a little sweaty and babbly when Dr. Chasin came at me with the novocaine needle. I wasn't too excited about the laser burning through my skin either, but thankfully I was too numb from novocaine to feel a thing, and the whole procedure lasted just a few minutes and made a strangely satisfying snap, crackle and pop sound.

The laser shatters the ink, and then my body's immune system takes about six weeks to absorb the particles, which is how long I had to wait for the next treatment. And, boy, did my wrist hurt after the novocaine wore off. Burning, stinging, sore, red, bumpy, and itchy are some of the adjectives I'd use, but Dr. Chasin assured me this was a normal reaction (and normal it was after a few weeks). So now that it's been six weeks, my tattoo looks a little faded, but not drastically different. Back to New Jersey I go for Round 2. I'll keep you updated.


Also published on The Huffington Post