Tattoo (And Hopefully Depression) Removal Begins - Bangkok, Thailand

I just went for my first laser tattoo removal...

I just went for my first laser tattoo removal treatment, and thought I should start to share my experience as i'd read a couple of others' experiences on realself and was really heartened by all the encouraging comments going around (less so by the i-told-you-so trolls).

MY STORY
i don't feel so ready to go into detail about why i got a tattoo and what it was supposed to be and all, after so much feeling depressed over it and obsessing over it, some times i'm not even sure anymore, and i can't believe i've done all this to myself. so long story short, i got a tattoo done and the guy did a horrible job, what was supposed to be symmetrical wasn't, and in one spot he actually coloured out of line! so.. i decided to get it covered up, but had another bad experience where the artist started doing his own stuff without consulting me, and it started to look horrible so i decided not to continue with it. both times a had a recommendation from a friend, and had looked at the artist's book, and all looked good. so i don't know, guess i got myself into this with bad decisions and bad luck, and now i just have to deal with it.. and yeah, i've attached some pictures and i think they speak for themselves.. the tattoo is BIG, going from my upper thigh to above my pelvic bone..

it's been tough times, i'm a grad student, currently living alone in a fairly remote part of thailand for research and don't really have anyone to talk to. my parents don't know about it, and i hope they never have to know because i know they'll worry, and i already feel bad enough about what i've done to myself. thankfully, my boyfriend has been nothing but supportive of me even in our long distance relationship, and that has really helped to keep me going. i think the worst of my depression is over, and i've been trying to keep my self-esteem up by exercising lots (i figure if an ugly tattoo that's on its way out is the ugliest thing about my body it'll be much better than totally letting myself go). i'm still pretty conscious of it though, and i used to be a really shorts-wearing kind of girl, but have since bought lots of jeans and dresses to keep it covered.. i'm still far from happy, but i'm hoping that i'll feel better about things when i start to see results from treatment. i'm aware that the artist that did the cover up pumped in lots and lots of ink, and also that colours are hard to remove, so i'm prepared for it to never fade totally, but my end goal is to have it fade enough so that I can get something done over it, by a way more carefully selected artist this time.. it's all still so surreal, i can't believe i'm putting myself through all of this. always thought of myself as pretty steady, but i guess not! this whole thing has really made me question my self-worth and ability to make good decisions.. ahh.

before i get too upset again.. i went for my first laser removal treatment today and i'll talk about it below..

day 1 after first treatment

i just took of the bandages from my first treatment and here are pictures.. i can see a fair bit of blistering and some bleeding on the black areas where the ink was really thick. im worried though because the blue and greens don't look like they reacted with the laser at all ):

first treatment (sorry for the poor order!)

i realised, being a noob that i am, that i've talked about my first treatment session in the section where i'm supposed to review my practioner :/ so i'm retyping it here, and sorry that it comes after my update for post-treatment day 1.

my doctor used a combination of Nd Yag, Ruby, and Alexandrite lasers on my tattoo because there are so many different colours. for the first treatment she set the power of the laser to 0.9 for the 532mm NdYag, 3.6 for the 1064mm NdYag, 5.5 fo the Ruby, and 5 for the Alexandrite, with a spot size of 4 for all except the Alex which was set at 3. this was after a few test shots where she found that my skin burst and bled easily, so she had to lower the power as she said there would be a higher risk of scarring if a higher power was used. i think this is because the ink is so dense in some areas that a lot of laser is absorbed? anyone know anything about power and spot sizes?

she was very nice throughout the procedure and constantly checked in with me to see if i was feeling okay.. she had applied a numb cream before the treatment, and i cant imagine how painful it would have been without! lidocaine injections were available but i didn't want to use it because the doctor told me it might affect how well the treatment works. haha for some reason i dealt with the pain by pinching myself..as if pain in another place will distract from the pain from the laser. there was a fair bit of bleeding during the treatment, and before they wrapped it up i could see that blisters had begun to form over the tattoo.

i was given Fucidin to apply to prevent infection, and a scar cream to start using after the scabs have fallen off to prevent scarring.. right now it feels like i'm holding a bowl of hot soup on my leg, but with more stinging. i had to travel 4 hours by bus from the hospital to get back to where i live so that was terrible but i made it.. so nervous about whether its going to work..and when i'll start to see results.. i'm probably gonna have a minor breakdown if i don't see results after the first session so please encourage me!

day 2 after first treatment

most of the bleeding has stopped but the blisters that i have look like they've been filled with blood. its pretty gross! the itching is starting and i'm trying my best to ignore it. does anyone know what the deal with blisters is? i've heard some people say blisters are good cos it shows the laser reacted with the ink, some say blisters are a side effect that the doctors try to avoid. some parts of mine have blistered and some have not which makes me worry that the laser is not being effective on some colours of the tattoo :/

emotionally i'm starting to feel bummed again, the whole tattoo looking so gross after treatment just reminds me so much that i did something so horrible, and its made worse by not being able to go work out and shake off the negative feelings cos the tattoo is over my upper thigh and hip area and i think i shouldn't be moving it too much.

day 3 after first treatment

today the wound seems to hurt more when i move. i think it's because some of the blisters have burst and made crusty scabs and these tear when i move my leg. it's also more painful when i touch it to apply the ointment that the doc gave me, not sure why this is. tomorrow i will have to start work again, and i work outdoors where the sun here is blazing hot. i'm apprehensive about that but really have no choice.

today is Mother's Day, which brought on lots of feelings I wasn't prepared for. i sent my mum a happy mother's day text, but at the same time felt like a hypocrite because i know that she will be so disappointed in me for what i've done to myself, worried about the treatments, and upset that i am spending soooo much money on this ( i can't believe how much it's going to cost me in the end). i really miss my family, but at the same time i'm dreading going back home where i still live with my parents (as most people in my country do until marriage), because i don't know how i'm going to keep hiding this from them, but also can't deal with them finding out. i guess this is the part that emotionally is most difficult for me. it's hard to not care about what your family thinks, even if you can deal with most of the world judging..

treatment 1, day 4

i decided to get back to outdoor fieldwork today (i study monkeys. weird, i know!). i would love to wait longer before working again, but i just can't, or i won't have enough data for my dissertation. turned out i went out for nothing cos my head wasn't in the right place and i accidentally deleted all my data off my recorder ARGH.

anyway, i had placed a light gauze dressing over the wound site to protect it, but i think i still caused some blisters to pop as there was a fair bit of fluid on the dressing when i took it off :/ how bad is it to pop blisters? i must say i can't wait for these blisters to go away, they look and feel disgusting. and i'm not squeamish but touching them when i apply the ointment everyday feels ugh.

treatment 1, day 5

the wound felt better today, it was definitely less painful and raw when i was applying the lotion onto it, and the blisters seem flatter (partly due to me accidentally pressing on and popping some while working :/). so i'd say the worst days in terms of pain are days 2-4. i can feel the itching is about to start for real though! it's taking a lot to curb the itch to scratch!

i have a question about aftercare creams. my doctor gave me Fucidin which is an antibiotic ointment, but i read an article earlier today where a doctor recommended NOT to use antibiotics, and to just use petroleum jelly instead. what does everyones doctor prescribe?

not too much beef and eggs!

just remembered that my doctor told me that if you're really afraid of forming keloid scarring, avoid eating too much beef and eggs, because of their high protein content. forgot to ask why beef and eggs specifically out of all the high protein foods but yea, just sharing. i'm vegetarian so no beef anyway, but i do love eggs ): i guess in moderation would be okay

T1 first week

it's been a week since my first treatment (that went quick). the doctor told me that scabs should fall off between a week to 10 days, but i don't think mine will so soon.. i tend to be a slow healer so not totally surprised..
anyway, doing well, resumed some light exercise but nothing that will stretch and move my quads too much since the wound is on my thigh.
itchy itchy itchy!

opinions?

hmm.. i found another laser place in bangkok. this one carried the medlite c6 machine for the Yag, which i hear is a great laser. my current place uses a Won Cosjet which seems more obscure, but i go there because they also have a Candela Alexandrite laser which i need for my greens. Wondering if i should get treated at two different places?

~3weeks post T1

so i'm finally almost healed and can see the tattoo without any scabs covering what it's really like.

so far, i see a tiny bit of fading, definitely not as much as i'd like after seeing the amazing results some others have gotten. maybe the ink is just too dense..

i see some breakup in the black where it is just single line, but the solid black areas are as solid as ever.. also the colours don't seem to be going anywhere (the fading in the green is mostly from when my tattoo stuck to my clothes while healing and ink got pulled out).. this upsets me a fair bit but trying not to get too down..

my skin also seems bumpy over the solid black areas, and i'm really worried that this will be the start of horrible raised scarring.. going to try and get some silicone scar sheets over them, but can probably only get them next month when my boyfriend visits and helps me bring some over..

T1w5

5 weeks after my first treatment. im starting to get down and obsessive again because i'm just not seeing much change as the weeks go by. in this part of the tattoo there is minimal fading, only some in the lines and nothing in the solid areas. i havent posted pictures of the other coloured areas cos there have been absolutely no changes there. i dont know what it is as i've been eating well, exercising daily, taking vitamins and a beta-glucan immune supplement, but still such poor results. i'm starting to wonder if theres something wrong with my body, or if the tattoo was done on such a fleshy part of my body that its just not close enough to the blood supply, and if it is these problems then this thing will never go away. my skin is also still bumpy and i am almost certain this is scarring.

treatment 2

just did my second treatment earlier today. it was more painful than the first! my doctor stopped many times to ask if i would like a lidocaine injection, but i tried my best to avoid it because i'd read that it might increase scarring risk and interact with the ink making it harder to fade. anyway, made it through with much internal screaming.

this time we used an alexandrite laser on the green, instead of a ruby laser like in the first treatment. my doctor said she used a ruby laser at first because from her experience, most patients had better fading with the ruby than alex for green. mine hardly faded from the first session though, so i asked to try the alex and she said my green ink appeared to react well with it. we also used alex instead of ndyag for the purples this time. fingers crossed!

i bled alot during treatment, and the bandages they put on soaked through within an hour. i'm supposed to keep it on for 24 hours though :/ maybe tomorrow when i take them off i'll post a picture to show the amount of blood, but i promise it will be the grossest thing you will see for the day.

tomorrow i make the long 4 hour bus ride back to my fieldsite...

hope you haven't eaten too much

so here is my horrible bloody mess of a post-treatment tattoo! i can see that some of the blisters are gonna be bigger than after the first session. has anyone had a tattoo look so horrible after lasering? according to my doctor, the power used was already pretty low, but my skin bursts easily, and the black ink is really dense so it reacts strongly with the laser.

might be moving

so i'm thinking of deleting this review and account and starting a new one, because i feel like the amount of detail i've revealed about myself makes me not as anonymous as i would like to be, and people searching for stuff who know me would be able to figure out that this is me.

anyway, just wanted to give everyone a heads up for a few days in case i decide to go through with the move.

~3weeks post T2

so ive decided to keep posting in this review because realself won't let me delete it even if i start a new one anyway. doing things i can't erase is becoming a recurring theme here.

anyway, almost 3 weeks after treatment 2, and my fully objective self has some positive updates, although the emotional part of me is still frustrated at how slow this whole process is. sorry for the shitty pictures too, i'm finding it almost impossible to photograph because of the tattoo location and the lighting in the house.

so positive update 1: my skin was much less bumpy after the scabs came off than it was after the first treatment scabbed off. this is very comforting to me because i was getting really worried that my skin would just scar more and more. so maybe the first time was just the skin getting used to the laser, and it isnt going to get progressively worse. phew. i might have also cared for it differently this time because after the first treatment i tried to keep it dry and "let it breathe" but after reading about scar prevention i learnt that that is a bunch of bull and you should keep a wound moist and allow for moist healing so i pretty much kept it slathered with petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment the whole time until the scabs fell off. seems to be the way!

positive update 2: there's definitely been more fading since the first treatment, and i am starting to see some breakup in parts of the solid black, and some of the covered up tattoo starting to show through (this is probably not visible in the shitty pictures). i have little patches of brown ink in my tatt that got darker after the first treatment, but the brown areas are smaller now so its fading.

bad news: blue, green, and purple are still looking fairly unchanged after being treated with alexandrite. again, the fading in the dark green is not due to the laser, my clothes stuck to the tattoo after it was done and pulled out some ink.. i wish i had done that to the whole thing!

alright, cheers everyone, before i upset myself too much!

how much fading in weeks after?

haha i'm not sure if anyone still reads this as i didn't get any responses to my last update about my second treatment, but i have a question and i hope someone will come talk to me!

I always read, and people always say that you should wait longer between treatments to allow for more fading, but I find that fading is most noticeable to me when the scabs come off, as i can see a difference from what it was before. However, in the weeks following that I see no change whatsoever like there isn't any continued fading. What has everyone else's experience been?
Dr Tippaporn

doctor was nice, patiently answered all my questions, and constantly checked in with me to see if i was okay.

5 out of 5 stars Overall rating
5 out of 5 stars Doctor's bedside manner
5 out of 5 stars Answered my questions
5 out of 5 stars After care follow-up
5 out of 5 stars Time spent with me
5 out of 5 stars Phone or email responsiveness
5 out of 5 stars Staff professionalism & courtesy
5 out of 5 stars Payment process
3 out of 5 stars Wait times
Was this review helpful? 2 others found this helpful

Comments (68)

Sort by

oh Saskamiri, I did not see you August 5th posting, but we were preparing for the hurricane to hit. And I think sometimes my email folder gets overloaded with updates and some go into the spam folder. I am really liking your positive 1: healing after a laser session can be tricky, especially since I recall you bumping your leg while doing field work. I really like the silicone scar sheets, they can help long after healing. I'm still using them to flatten scars. As for positive #2, pulling of the scabs revealing more fading: I am not so sure about that, perhaps the scabs pulled out more ink, but have you been left with scarring afterwards. I've been told that the aftercare is the most crucial aspect of it all, the skin is healing and recovering from the trauma. Now for you question in your recent posting: I see continual fading all the time and I have not had a session in 11 months!! Why? Because now sessions involve flying to another island and I just have not been able to do that and go through the healing process. But I think the longer my body, my immune system can gobble up the lasered ink, the better. Everyone is different. I know from my own experience, that patience is really important and keeping a positive attitude. I know it's hard, but this whole process is a big learning experience. I think you have a wonderful attitude, you make little jokes, and you are at the beginning of the removal journey. I understand that you'd rather be at the end of the journey, we all would. I am sending you good thoughts full of patience and good thoughts for healing. aloha...k
  • Reply
hey k nice to hear from you again (: just to clarify on pulling out scabs and fading, haha i didn't pull off any scabs after laser! i was referring to after i got the tattoo inked, my clothes stuck to the green part so it pulled out some of the green ink before the tattoo even healed. it didn't leave any scarring so i wish i had pulled out more ink at that early stage! good to hear that you're still seeing fading over 11 months, that's pretty cool. i think i'm still at a stage where there is a lot of ink, and so the laser only manages to hit a bit of it each time and i'm gonna need more sessions before it can start to fade on its own a bit more? don't knoww.
  • Reply
I also have some fading on another tattoo where I knocked the scab that had formed. I'm sure as you continue with more sessions you will see more fading. Laser removal is quite a lengthy process, patience helps whenever we can find it. Good luck, sending good thoughts your way. aloha...k
  • Reply
I definitely notice the most change after the scabs come off also. I think this is mainly because I haven't seen what the tattoo looks like in over a week, and since a treatment. I always take a picture right when the scabs come off, and then right before my next treatment. If you can get similar lighting it really helps you to see how far you have come since healing.
  • Reply
haha i'm so bad at photos, partly its the placement of the tattoo and the lighting in my house but ugh. i find that looking at the tattoo under sunlight allows me to see the most fading..not that i sun the tattoo but i do field research on an island and there isn't a toilet and some times you just have to go in the bush and ok TOO MUCH INFORMATION i know.
  • Reply
haha not at all. And I feel you on the pictures especially over there I imagine it's hard to get good lighting etc. I actually tanned my tattoo a lot this summer... I think It faded it but there is definitely hypo pigmentation so I don't recommend that!
  • Reply
Mine noticeably fades the whole way through, what are you talking about....JK! :P It's not the scab thing for me but eventually it becomes visually difficult to notice fading, and the next whatever weeks become more annoying as I wait. But ink is fairly opaque, so even though it may not be noticeable at a constant visual rate, it IS happening. I always think of it like staring down into a full cup of ink, you could take away half and still not see the bottom, you could even take away 90% of the ink and maybe still not see the bottom, but you have removed a ton of ink at that point and seeing the bottom is really close. I don't know if that makes sense or helps, but I hope it does. Wishing you well!
  • Reply
i know its faded a little, because in the cover up part i can start to see the colours below the black, haha but still it seems like it only changes immediately post treatment then doesn't fade anymore!
  • Reply
Hi :) I know exactly what you are talking about. I felt the same way...it seemed like once the scabs came off the fading was immediate and it didn't change much after....however small changes do happen and you notice them months later. When I stopped treatment and didn't look at my tattoo much while I prepared for my cover up, when I did check it out there were chuncks of ink missing that I know where there before...so it does continue to fade - but it's like watching hair grow...very slowly. 
  • Reply
maybe i'll get to see it with more treatments. feel like the ink is just too dense right now!
  • Reply
Hey! Hope you are doing well! I am in removal process not for a long time and from what I experienced fading is a very slow process. I do believe that removing is a long process and it is very slow. I believe that waiting longer is better for healing and you can see more fading, but maybe it is hard to see by human eye. It is not the process to risk or jeopardize. If you want to have good removal, to see the tattoo gone and your skin healthy, do not try to speed up the process. Thats how I see it.
  • Reply
yea, i do wait long between sessions (was 10 weeks between my first and second), just because i know my skin is going to scar. i just wish that with the long wait i would be able to see more fading. it would make things more bearable!
  • Reply
Hey! Fading will all come down to the individual. Some people will have a particularly active immune system, and the scavenger cells within their body may well clear the fragmented ink a lot quicker than someone who perhaps has a less active / healthy immune system. So its difficult to say. Certainly I recall my ink looking faint once the scabs began to seperate, but then it would almost look back to how it was before once the skin had healed. I think in most cases the rate of fading is so gradual, especially as you progress further in to treatment, that it may appear that nothing is happening in the weeks following a treatment, but it is. On the flipside of that, I guess the same could be said for very dense tattoos, even in the early stages of removal (when a lot of people see the most dramatic changes) in that there could be so much ink packed under the skin, that the laser literally has to break it down by layers, hence it may give the appearance that little is happening, but in actual fact it is.. Hope that makes sense!
  • Reply
Wilks is saying the same thing my doctor told me. My doctor told me that only now, after 4 tx, I will see good fading as before laser was breaking the ink layer bt layer. My tattoo was a line work, very dense and fresh. So fading was happening all along, I have less ink now, but it is a long process and also, immune system is the key and it is different. Wilks, you definitely know the subject ))
  • Reply
i guess my ink must have been really dense as it was a cover up, and looking back on the first picture, it was BLACK. i definitely think it has gotten lighter, just not enough that i feel at peace that the process will work well enough that i can at least get a really nice and final cover up (i feel that complete removal i hopeless with the colours so not even gonna wish for that). sigh. i just wait pretty long between sessions because my skin is already showing some scarring from both the tattoo process and the laser, i just wish that more visible fading would accompany the long waits!
  • Reply
I understand your wish to be anonymous. When we make mistakes we don't want the world to know, we want to hide our "foolishness". I thought like that and then Megan (a community manager) encouraged me to post a review. and I am thankful I did, I've met some amazing people (like yourself). You need to do what you feel is right for you, to help you with your healing. Whatever you decide, keep us posted. I for one will wonder how you're doing. aloha...k
  • Reply
aloha saskamiri, well it does look yucky, but blisters can be that way. I'm sure you'll do well, you always seem to bounce back. I like how JfromPA says you're the Rambo of tattoo removal, that about sums it up. Good luck, and I'm sure you'll have amazing fading. aloha...k
  • Reply
Safe travels back and I hope you get some encouraging results with this second treatment. All bloodied up and out in the jungle with the monkeys, you're like the realself Rambo of tattoo removal. :)
  • Reply
girl Rambo, of course.
  • Reply
it's all cool man haha
  • Reply
Thanks for the pic, that stuff doesn't bother us here. Your body is going to be trying to move a serious amount of ink so make sure you drink a lot of water... a lot. All the best.
  • Reply
Hey! Congrats on your second treatment. From what I've read, the Alexandrite laser operates at the perfect wavelength for greens and purples, so hopefully you should see some fading this time round, especially if you were told it appeared to interact well. I bled a bit for my first couple of treatments. Not everyone does, but apparently pinpoint bleeding does happen for a few people. Keep us posted.
  • Reply
haha mine seems less like pinpoint bleeding and more like a large bleeding patch!
  • Reply
I know how you feel saskamiri! It's been more than 3 weeks since my 1st treatment and haven't seen any significant changes to my tattoo which is bringing me back to this anxious and obsessive state. I'm having my 2nd session in July 18 and hope this one will yield better results. May I know what laser you're being treated with?
  • Reply
hi Janwa, i'm being treated with the NdYag laser for the blacks and reds, and an alexandrite laser for the greens, blues, and purples. These colours are a nightmare!
  • Reply