A Dream Becomes a Nightmare but the End is in Sight - Hawaii, HI

I live in a place where hand tattooes are...

I live in a place where hand tattooes are culturally acceptable if not expected. I began the tattoo journey years ago with the help of a trusted artist. I always wanted to add to the tattoo, it was stunning and so unique. I went back to the trusted artist, we discussed for an extensive amount of time and so the continuation of the journey began. What a nightmare!! The freehand drawing did not execute the same as intended, the placement isn't right, the colour isn't right. As the trusted artist was bandaging up my hand all I could think was "well this will have to be lasered off".

I went for a consultation at a medical clinic here in the isolated community where I live. We are fortunate to have a very well trained plastic surgeon who open up clinics here. If you want your tummy tightened, he's your man. The consultation went well, locals recommended the clinic highly and the price although expensive was fair. The clinic takes excellent care of me. Lidocaine shots prevent any pain, which the clinic says interfers with healing.

So the journey has begun. I've had two single sessions done eight weeks apart. I kept the hand wrapped in gauze for the first week after each session. I slather on the Bacitrin ointment, then graduate to coconut oil and Vitamin E and then Moroccan/Argan oil. I massage the area, I keep it from the sun's harmful rays, I drink plenty of water and fresh fruits and vegetables. I also focus on the offending ink and say to it "now you must go". A positive attitude is very important with healing from any trauma.

I've also used camoflauge makeup, which does help but doesn't hide it, only minimizes it. I also use an Ace bandage and pretend I have arthritis, although no one asks.

One thing this forum has done: it has opened the doors of communication. I thought I was alone with my ink regret, but alas there are many out there. And I'm not the only one that allowed a trusted artist to freehand. I've been asked to share my story but was concerned that the artist would be offended. Afterall previous work was wonderful, but we all mistakes even professionals. I made a mistake, plain and simple. But the mistake is being fixed with the help of the laser.

More importantly, on those gloomy nights where I was freaking out over what I had done, how much this was costing, how this would all pan out...you were all there for me. You may not have known that you gave me comfort with your wonderful words, but I am truly grateful for your help.

I begin the R20 technique next week. I've had two single treatments, in December and in February. The R20 is multiple passes of the laser separated by a rest period: the technican will pass the laser over the offending ink and then we will wait 30 minutes and then do it again, then rest and then do it again. This new technique studied by doctors and written up in medical journals is promising. I'm grateful that the clinic suggested it and that they are offering a 2for1 special rate. The technican joked that "us hula dancers gotta stick together".

And we ink regret sisters and brothers also have to stick together.

Wednesday March 27th 10PM I had my third session...

Wednesday March 27th 10PM
I had my third session today, it was the R20 technique: multiple passes in one session with a rest period between. I told the doctor that the last time the lidocaine shots made my hand feel wierd for hours afterwards. He cut back on the dosage which really helped. My hand was un-numbing by 5PM and I was also able to surf the net (most important action of all) by 3PM. The session took two hours and he did three passes of the laser at level 5.0 each time. The ink reacted in its usual way with the white air bubbles coming to the surface. The second and third passes were uneventable thanks to the lidocaine injections. I don't feel anything and that is so wonderful. The area is slightly red but no blistering yet. I keep it completely covered until tomorrow (as instructed) and then will remove, slather the bacitrin ointment on and rebandage. This time I was instructed to keep it bandaged for at least a week. I wear a long purple rubber glove in the shower. So far I have spent $1200 and had five laser passes (two singles and this third with the triple passes). My next session is booked for end of May and then another at the end of July. I will probably take a break until December. I have taken photos and will be posting them very soon.

So it's now six days post session 3,4,5 (remember...

So it's now six days post session 3,4,5 (remember I'm having the R20 technique done multiple passes of the laser with breaks) and I will admit it's been a roller coaster ride of emotions and strength. The day after the session I felt completely and utterly weak, no energy at all. Just making a sandwich was an effort. I lay in front of the picture window looking at the trees and the sky, napping on and off with canine companionship. Then the "woe is me" crying session on Sunday night. I felt so useless and so negative "oh how long is this gonna take" and "look at how much money this is costing us". And then on Monday I realized that I'm just too hard on myself...well blackberry11 helped me to see this also. And then today the sixth day I realized that it's just a mistake and it's being fixed. It doesn't really matter how much it's costing, it's costing and that's all there is to it. I really wanted this tattoo, thought about for years and returned to the trusted artist. It's just the way it is. And so now on the sixth day after applying bacitracin and bandages all week long (as instructed) and watching blisters form and drain and perhaps, oh perhaps there is fading (but maybe it's too soon to tell) I am finally...well I'm not sure exactly how I'm feeling. I feeling hopeful. I'm taking my extra vitamins, my multi-vitamins and now some collagen drops for the skin. I drinking my vitamin water (airborne) and my acai (Amazon superfood) and looking at the tattoo and thinking "out you go". I'm thinking that the 3 P's are in order: stay POSITIVE, be PERSISTENT and above all be PATIENT.

I'm thinking of all of you, wishing all of you the best with your fading and I'm especially thankful to all of you who have sent me positive vibes.

Friday April 5th: I've been thinking so much...

Friday April 5th: I've been thinking so much about how to get this ink off of me...and NOW!! I am trying really hard to practice the three Ps: positiveness, persistence and patience. I'm evening considering flying to another island to investigate the new picosure technique (which will cost me time and money that I can't afford right now). I have had two single sessions and one R20 only a week ago. So I need to focus on my three Ps.

I am subscribed to "Insightful quotes" and daily receive emails of a quote. Today's definitely applies to me. And blackberry11 suggested I share it with all of us ink regret sufferers. Yes, I want the ink gone now! But small steps will reap results that are pleasing.

“Exercise to stimulate, not to annihilate. The world wasn't formed in a day, and neither were we. Set small goals and build upon them.”

? Lee Haney

April 15th 2013: This morning I sent a hefty check off to the IRS, which saddens me because

April 15th 2013: This morning I sent a hefty check off to the IRS, which saddens me because I could have used it towards laser tattoo removal.

I've been reading how many people experience sad, depressed feelings following their laser session. I thought I was the only one. Within a day or two of a laser session I begin to feel overwhelmed, sad, and depressed. The regret feelings are overwhelming. I begin to think that I'm ugly and overwhelmed that this removal process is going on far too long and that it might never end and that it might not work. How did I get here?! How did I let this happen?! Oh crap, it really sucks!
I know that it's probably more than my immune system being affected by the laser session. It's so easy to slather on the antibiotic ointment and keep the area bandaged and protected from bumps...but how do I keep my sense of self-esteem and self worth up?
I have focused as many other members have suggested to focus on building up my immune system: drink lots of water, avoid sugar if possible, eat healthy foods including fresh veggies, nuts and seeds, limit alcohol.
Now that I'm almost three weeks post the third session I do see fading, breaking of lines and the tattoo is beginning to look like a very old tattoo. I slather on the lotion, squeeze vitamin E capsules onto the skin and have booked a massage. The healing touch is suppose to do wonders and boost the immune system.
Good luck to everyone, we're in this together and now I know that that means more than just the visit to the clinic to have the laser beam aimed at the offending ink, it means sticking in there, keeping positive thoughts in our heads.

May 13th 2013: well it's been two months since the R20 treatment

update May 13th 2013: well it's been two months since the R20 treatment. I see breaking of lines and overall fading. I was at an event on Friday night and looked at my hand in a new light, literally and figuratively. The tattoo looks like an old tattoo and I began to think less harshly about it. No, I don't want to keep it. But I know it's going out the door, it's on its way out my friends and I couldn't more happier. I've started looking at coverups for it, there are a lot of ideas out there and I'll need to find a new artist that is more willing to listen to me but also offer their professional advice. That's what the last artist was lacking, the artist could have said "I don't think that'll look good" or "what do you mean by swirling lines and more feminine". So my next quest is to find such an artist knowing that there is hope, there is fading. My next R20 is in three weeks, but I might postpone until the end of July. There are sections of the skin still rough despite slathering on lotion and potions and vit e oil. The more healing the better, the goal is removal not to beat up my delicate skin. I know I'll be drawing on the virtue of patience (I am learning that every day). Wish me luck with the patience, it's hard!!

R20 post two months, strategies of healing the skin

I had the R20 technique done (three passes each separate by a 30 minute break) on March 13, 2013. Now two months later I thought I'd update on my adventure into finding the right aftercare products. I had been using Kiss My Face A&E lotion thinking it was helping, it's a good product but just not serious enough to tackle the dry raised skin in parts of the blasted area. It's funny as the top of my wrist is the slowest to heal from the dry skin. Then I dried Palmer's Cocobutter stick thinking if it helped with stretch marks it should help with dry skin, but again just not the impact that I desired. The next product was an internal product called Biosil, it's a drop form of silicon and choline (can be found on Amazon), five drops into juice to help with skin, hair and nails. The stuff tastes nasty, my friends, and so five drops on a tablespoon with acai and then a shot glass of pure acai does the trick. Swallow and try not to breathe as that will only make it taste worse. Then I thought how about vitamin e oil topically onto the skin...that did something but simply not enough so I put on the big gloves and tried BioOil (not to be confused with Biosil). Again from Amazon, it was reported to be very helpful, full of vitamins and essential oils to calm the skin. It's very slippery like baby oil but massaged into the skin seems to be doing the trick. One thing that I've noticed about review updates is that there is very little mention of the aftercare procedure or problems and the aftercare is the most important part of the treatment. Anyways I think I've found the solution of a combination of oral drops of BioSil, slather on the BioOil and then follow up with Curel Intensive Healing. The BioOil is a little fragrant, smells very artificial of roses (which I hate) but the product works for me. In the meantime I will be postponing the next R20 session from next week until the end of July. I'd like to save the $600 fee but more importantly allow the extra time for my skin to heal. This will mean a four month separation between R20 sessions. I'm okay with that although part of me really, REALLY wants this offending ink off! Like right now! But I'm learning to be patient. I'm sporting some lovely new mala beads and looking the other way.

Graduate School distraction

aloha all...thank you all for the lovely messages and checking in with me. I have been so busy with graduate school these past two months. I delayed a treatment at the end of May because the skin was still rough but healing from the March R20 session. I also wanted to save a bit of money. Graduate school ain't cheap, folks! :) But it's been quite the distraction. I've been so busy researching, writing papers, that I haven't had much time to think about the offending ink...oh there it is I see it now. Today is my last day of summer classes, I have three weeks off and so on Wednesday next week I have my next session. I'm spreading the sessions apart, R20 takes a beating on my skin. But I see fading, and I'm very pleased with that. Yes, this will take some time, so patience is a definite plus, and having the support of all of you. That also helps. You are all so wonderful. Here's to fading for all of us. Out you go offensive ink. I submit my final paper today and then I'm off to the beach. Living in Hawai'i, one must remember the good things. Good luck to all of us. aloha...k

Second R20 session

Yesterday was my second R20 session on the offending ink. The normal procedure happened, I arrived, was injected with lidocaine (ouch I hate that) and then blasted three times with each session separated by a half hour wait. The technician looked at the skin and thought it was taking a beating, so he turned the dial down to level 3 (last time was level 5). We talked about the silicone scar sheets that I've purchased, I'll start wearing them in a week or so. The next session will be in December when I'm on holiday from graduate school. We also talked about the depression feelings I sometimes get after a laser session. I understand that it's a roller coaster ride, elation when I am having the treatment, I'm so excited about fading and then depression sets in. The technician said it's perfectly normal, it happens with any procedure. Then I asked him about removing the other ink on my hand, I'd really like my hand clean. He was hesitant, brown ink can react differently and even turn black. Maybe in December I'll see about a test spot on the brown, just a small area to see if it reacts negatively. For now, I'm all bandaged up, not one blister in sight, no pain, nothing. I'm happy about that. The technician commented that it's definitely fading, the once black ink is grey in areas and gone in some others. I'm happy about that also. I need to get photos up, but my camera isn't cooperating, sometimes technology is not my friend. But I sure do like the laser. :-)

Helpful website brings me peace of mind

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443995604578002543545271044.html This website gives some wonderful insight to what to expect, I knew that I would need at least ten sessions. I'm also grateful that fresh ink, as opposed to old, is easily removed. The average cost seems to be $200, which is exactly what I'm paying. It always makes me feel better to know that I'm doing the right thing, removing it now. I so wish I had a magic wand that I could wave over my ink to remove it, I'd then pass the wand onto all of you. But life isn't like that...and of course I hate that it isn't...just another test of patience. aloha...k

another helpful website that brings peace of mind...but where is that magic wand?!

http://www.dermcast.tv/re-think-ink-variables-affecting-successful-q-switched-laser-tattoo-removal

The pictures say it all

I knew there was fading but now it's official. These pictures say it all. The first one is right after the ink was applied, no lasering done yet, only regret. The second photo was taken a few days ago, 4 weeks after the 2nd R20 (8 passes of the laser beam in total). Waiting between sessions really does help, being patient, not obsessing (which is hard) and keeping positive. It will work, it is working.

here we go again

I keep trying to update but it's not working. I went for the third R20 session on Wednesday. He has a new filter and he increased the intensity. The normal white film where the ink and laser react was now silver. Hey, I like silver jewelry. But he couldn't do the third pass, the hand was already swelling up and turning a red/purple colour. Hey, I like purple also. So off I went with just two passes under my belt, not as expensive this time, all wrapped up and out the door. Then the pain set in. Ouch, so I popped a few aleve and was good to go. Then the next day the depressed feelings came on, they are fierce, I do no like them. They are not my friend. But I know they will dissipate. And now it's Saturday morning, I'm feeling hopeful and positive again. It is hard to stay patient, it is hard to stay positive. A little bit of chocolate, my vice, always helps. I decided to treat myself to some new beaded bracelets, very iridescent beads with ohm charm on it. Once I'm all healed up I'll wear them and remember to be positive, patient and preserve with life. But now I'm just grateful to have this opportunity. aloha...k

January 2013: so what is up with my tattoo removal

Well there is absolutely nothing new to report with my laser experience. I am still determined to take a break as graduate school takes up so much of my time. And then I had to have root canal and the money for a laser session went to the dentist instead. But I'll end up with a crown! I am considering a laser session at the end of May, but we'll see how it goes $$$$ wise. The fading continues, sometimes I am amazed at what a little time and positive energy does. The ink doesn't bother me that much any more. Now, don't get me wrong, I still want it gone, but being patient has definitely paid off. I have had a few remarks on its fading and it's not as black and there are patches of skin poking through...hurray. I've had a few emails wondering where I have gone. I'm just staying positive, keeping patient and pushing on.

Regret or shock?

I'm in the throws of graduate school (they kick your butt in order to earn that advanced degree, but so worth it). I have not had a session, and probably won't until May. The day after a session, I usually feel slightly depressed. Then I bounce back. And I can't deal with all that while writing papers, studying, preparing for exams....and all those wonderful things. I'll take a photo soon, I promise.
But it occurred to me that many here are full of regret, ink regret it's called. But many are in shock and this shock leads to depression. And then with laser, the depression begins to lift and then it's anxiety.
For many we've been living with ink that we really liked, but now have grown to not like it so much. The honeymoon is over. Those individuals react differently to those that have waited a long time and got fresh ink, which has only brought them sadness and shock. Those individuals, including myself, felt violated. Growing tired of something is far different from shock that replaces eager anticipation. But it's all ink regret, just a different variety.
I'm fortunate that I'm at peace with my ink regret. I have full trust in my laser technician, the process and the outcome. But I know that patience and a positive attitude have definitely helped.
And I know that I've been absent. I've been focusing on my professional training to be the world's best counselor and that all takes times....and money...so ink removal sessions are put on hold. And I'm okay with that. The fading continues, I see pink skin popping up through the grey faded ink. And I'm happy.
I hope that all of you out there find happiness. We all deserve to be happy.
aloha...k

Light grey tattoo

Still saving the pennies up for the next laser go-round. Thought it was time for some pictures.

Nothing new, just sending out best wishes

I went to O'ahu for a conference, which was fantastic. Thousands of counselors from all across the USA meeting and giving talks. I learned a lot about sand tray therapy and incorporating it into therapy for all ages. It was awesome. I thought I'd pop into the doctor who does the picosure as he was across the street from the convention centre (didn't know that before) but alas he was on vacation as it is school break. This means I'll have to head over another time...oh drat, that means another trip to Ala Moana Shopping Centre with 290 stores...[insert sarcastic smirk here]. But I'm staying positive and since I had such a lovely time, I am happy. Those that saw the ink all complimented and those who heard the story of its removal were supportive. Things will work out in the end, it simply does. And for those who are reading this and thinking "what has she been smoking?" "how can she be so positive?" there really is no other way to be. If I'm miserable, then my whole body aches and time stands still, but the ink is still there. If I'm positive and confident of its removal, the time flies by and I'm smiling. Good luck to everyone, spring is here and it's the dawn of re-birth, we all deserve to be happy. Let technology do its thing with the removal. aloha...k

R20 study

I also wanted to post about the R20 technique as I saw a doctor advise against it. You'll see from the clinical journal article that the technique is safe. I would recommend a personal, in-person consultation with a professional experienced in ink removal rather than posting a picture online and asking a doctor. Monitors do not always tell the story. I have not had any bad reactions from R20 and have had three of them. I have very sensitive skin and easily scar, but the laser is different. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22036610

we're here for support, not to offer professional advice

I was surprised to see another reviewer offer professional advice to a reviewer regarding the laser level. The reviewer suggested that the intensity should be higher. I looked into this reviewer's postings and saw that this individual suggesting a high intensity level had asked a doctor about residual redness following a higher intensity level session. I am a little surprised at the number of reviewers/contributors who offer advice that sounds professional when it really is only based on their experience. Reviewers should not be offering professional advice on a public forum. It would be best that posters/reviewers/members limit their postings to only their experience and supporting others through the removal process.
John Stover MD, Bayardo Aviles MHA

Internet search, local recommendation

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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
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Just to let you know... Your post has been so helpful in grasping my emotional outbreaks for my tattoo regret. The way you handle yourself is inspiring. I've got a super heavy black piece on my arm and I know for a fact it will never be completely gone but it's worth going for a few years to hopefully get a coverup. Thanks for your story and your efforts in helping the community here. I'm new and I begin laser in june so you'll probably be hearing from me a bit. :)
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aloha willhughes, I am so glad that you are finding inspiration from this website. There are many wonderful, supportive people here. I hope you post your experience, it can offer a learning opportunity for others, support others, and possibly help yourself. I know that the laser removal is a lengthy process. It's easier to get the tattoo, then to remove it, but slow, steady seems to be the best way to go. Getting professional consultations also helped me. Good luck with your removal, keep us posted, as we are all rooting for you. aloha...k
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Hey K, so good to get an update from you and hear how you are doing. I'm so happy to see your updated pics and how light your ink has gotten! You must be so pleased. For sure give us an update when you talk to the doctor about PicoSure as this is one of the newest technologies for tattoo removal. As always, you are chin up and inspirational.
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Love your update!!! So inspirational! 
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This gives me a lot of hope! I too have a dense black ink tattoo and unfortunately, it is brand new. However it is small and I have a consultation with a doctor whom uses Picosure. Your black fading is amazing!!
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aloha rhinnhh, I am not doing the picosure, it's not available on the island where I live. I have the R20 (3 sessions in one day, separated by a rest of 20 minutes, hence the name R20). The doctor uses a alex trivantage (supposedly the Cadillac of lasers for removal), the last session was at 5.5 intensity. I space my sessions apart, the last was six months ago. A friend told me she spaced them a year apart and removal was done in 2 sessions. And of course, the lighting helps, this latest photo shows amazing fading because of the lighting. But I'll take that. And then of course I focus on other things in life. I didn't in the beginning though, I had sleepless nights, crying fits and depressed thoughts. But then I realized all of this was gonna take time and money and patience...and I'm in this for the long haul. Good luck with your removal, it's definitely worth it. aloha...k
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You have had amazing fading! I too experience that post removal depression. Its terrible. Good luck with your schooling. I'm sure you will make an amazing counselor. I'm glad to see you're wearing pretty braclets to distract you from the ink. Keep us posted, and keep smiling!
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aloha Regretful99, The fading is dramatic here because of the sunlight. There are days it's faded in the light and others it is not. It's all on how I look at it. And that's when I realized that life is wonderful if you look at it the right way. Don't get me wrong, I hate the ink and it's going. I have a consultation with a picosure doctor later this month who has a guarantee policy, so that'll be worth it. I know you've tried picosure. I've tried make-up but it looks fake and being on the hand doesn't stay. In the latest photos, I have a sunless tanner on and was baking with flour and realized "hey look at this hand in this light". Plus the bracelets are a great option. We always have options, we don't always see them though. Thanks for your wonderful words of encouragement, it's because of you, barbiedoll90 and blackberry11 that keeps me going. aloha...k
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Amazing fading, that's very exciting!! At first I thought maybe you had covered it with your make-up it's so light! I bet now when you use your make-up you don't see it hardly all!
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It's the lighting, sometimes it is very faded and others not so much. I have tried cover up makeup but it just settles in the fine lines we don't always know is on our hands. I had airbrush makeup done once and it looked fabulous for an hour and then not so good.
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it's pretty light, and a good thing that you like tattoos. are you going to get it fixed up at some point?
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Yes, it's the lighting, sometimes when the sun hits it the ink seems to disappear. I'm going to keep on having it lasered, have an appointment scheduled for the end of May. Then I'm thinking of waiting for a year or so and then deciding. I might just have henna/mendhi done for a while to see what I want. Fixing it up may be the only option, as complete removal may not occur.
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K- thanks for the update. As always, very poetic and thoughtful. Keep on studying and striving towards your goals. Happy to hear the ink continues to fading.
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A big Mahalo to you Alicia for your wonderful words. Yes, I continue to strive for my goals of an ink free hand (or at least with something much more feminine and pretty) so as I turn the pages of my ever-growing list of textbooks, I can smile at the beautiful distraction.
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Glad to hear you're doing well. Would it be possible to see a photo of it now? Totally agree with the moisturising thing; mine looks so much darker. I've decided to leave the creams and oils for a whole to see how much better it looks!
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Yes, I'll get some photos posted soon. I'm just so technically advanced as the rest of the world. camera batteries keep dying...I need to remember to turn it off when I'm done.
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So glad you took time to update us, happy that you are seeing continual fading :) Have you been snapping any photos you can share? 
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Just stopping in to say hello, I know you are taking a break from your removal, and wanted to tell you that your support on the site is so valuable and I hope to see you in the community even though your not having removal in the near future. Happy New Year!!
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hi, kahelelani. is your tattoo still fading even though you haven't had a treatment in over 3 months?
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some days it's faded more than others...I think it depends on how I look at it and when creams I use. Moisturized skin looks more darker. I am staying positive and patient and won't do another zap session until next year, maybe next Christmas. I want to wait and let nature fade away. I've had ten treatments and don't regret any of it. aloha...k
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How's the fading going? Any new photos so share. Hope all is wonderful :)
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The fading continues.  The last treatment was a little over a month ago.  I only had two treatments as the white bubbling wouldn't go away for a third pass.  My review seems to have disappeared, so I'm not sure if I updated.  I am going to wait until the summer to continue with laser treatments.  Graduate school takes too much of my time and money.  I also want to save up and travel to the picosure laser, it was featured on the news here and is amazing.  For now, I'm staying patient and will relish when the sun hits it and I see pink skin underneath the black ink.
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What I've heard is picosure is only useful if you have color, You'll get the same results as your current laser and the picosure with just Black, don't beleive the media. Hope all is well. Namaste!
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Glad to hear you are seeing improvements and your depression is limited to shortly after the treatments. I also read the links you sent - I have my treatments 4 weeks apart but the WSJ suggests nothing less than 8 weeks .. However I am pleased with my results so far. My practitioner asked me if I'd sunbathed at all this year (yes we had some sunshine over the summer in the UK!), she said the sun's rays can help with the fading but of course one has to take care not to burn! Wishing you luck in your journey, patience and good spirits will see you through.x
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It's hard to stay patient, but I apply cover up makeup when I need to.  It really helps with the boost of confidence.  I'm not sure about sunbathing, the sun here at the equator is far more powerful than the sun in the UK, I've been told to avoid it.  I slap my scar sheets on and it helps.  Yes, the depression is only for a day or two after the laser session, it must be related to the immune system and the excitement.  Good luck with your fading.  aloha...k
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