47 Years Old and Trying to Remove my Mainly Upper Arm Sleeve in Blackwork - San Francisco, CA

I got my first tattoo on my upper left arm in May,...

I got my first tattoo on my upper left arm in May, 2010. After the initial excitement wore off, I began to see that the quality wasn't all that great. Still, I thought it was okay and was content enough not to want to get rid of it. However, after a few months, it began bugging me and I started disliking it more and more and decided to do something about it.

I was torn between getting a cover up in blackwork and getting it lasered off. In the end, I decided to get sleeve in blackwork because the artist is a real pro whose work I admire very much. And still do. Except that I now know that tattoos are not for me. I will only admire them in pictures ;-))

After getting my upper arm covered up in blackwork, (I didn't take any pics at the time) the artist then started on my lower arm before my heart screamed at me to STOP the process completely. Don't get me wrong. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the quality of the artist's work. It was top notch. And it did actually look good. But I finally realized that it just wasn't me and I was trying to become someone I am not. Needless to say, I beat myself up pretty mercilessly for getting a sleeve in blackwork before realizing that!!!

So within a month after that epiphany, I decided the entire tattoo had to go!!! That seemed crazy at the time. Even the tattoo removal specialist I had been seeing to get another tattoo removed was shocked at the amount of ink there was on my sleeve. He said he had never had a client with blackwork wanting it removed. ?

?Anyway, he said that even though it was such a huge area and it would take a long time, black was the easiest color to remove. He also told me that the red of the original tattoo under it wouldn't be difficult to remove and would hurt less than the black. So, I began the laser removal process in September, 2011. I just had my 11th treatment on May 9th this year. Just to give you an idea of how black the tattoo was before I began my first treatment, it was as dark as the shirt I'm wearing!!! At first, he had to had to split up the treatments into separate upper and lower arm sessions because to laser the whole arm in one session would cause too much trauma and swelling, given how much ink there was. He charged me $150 for each session and I alternated between the two halves of the arm for four sessions each. After that, there was considerably less ink and he was able to laser the whole arm in one sitting. He also took pity on me since I had been a patient since 2010 for another tattoo and decided to charge me $200 for the whole arm from then on. A considerable savings in the long run! So far, I have spent $2,200. Ouch!!

Based on how things have been going, my best guess is that I will require 5 - 8 more treatments (which could be 2 more years or so, at least, depending on how far apart I space my treatments). Fingers crossed!!! My tattoo removal specialist seems to agree.

What he's been telling me from the start is that because my area is so large, the longer I wait in between treatments, the more ink will be flushed out. And so, the fewer treatments I'll need. He's always told me to wait at least 3 - 4 months in between sessions. Even as long as 7 months because from his experience, tattoos continue to fade even after that amount of time. Up to a year. For me, the fading is most noticeable usually around 6 - 8 weeks.

He says that if I wanted to speed up the process of breaking down the ink, I should wait at least 3 months minimum in between sessions for my skin to heal. That's what I've been doing since I started because I want this tattoo gone ASAP.
I would consider my tattoo at least 50% faded and can see skin and the original tattoo now. But because the fading has been so uneven and patchy looking due to different areas having more ink than others, the tattoo looks really horrible. Like a painting gone seriously wrong : P

I've learned to have a sense of humor about this experience because if I don't, it will drive me crazy...and it has before.

Anyway, the only thing I can do is to stay the course and continue to be optimistic that one day, the whole tattoo will be gone. To be honest, I'm not really sure if all the ink will fade out completely, but as long as it's at least 90% faded out, I think I'll be satisfied. At least that's how I feel for now...
?

The tattoo I covered up with blackwork

Hypopigmentation

I forgot to mention this in my previous review. In my last session, the specialist told me that there was very slight hypopigmentation in a few spots on my arm. But he assured me that over time, the skin would heal and normal pigmentation would return. Even if it doesn't, it won't bother me anymore at this stage and at my age ;-)

Large tattoo completely excised

This review is about a different tattoo on my right forearm.

I tried 10 sessions of laser treatment but there was minimal fading due to the color and scars had developed because of the poor technique of the tattoo artist.

I asked a top blackwork tattoo artist about a cover up but she said that it would be too challenging because of the scars. So, the only option left was to get it excised. I went to Berman Skin Institute and the doctors who did my excisions were Dr Jay Zimmerman and Dr Hayes Gladstone.

I began the first stage in October, 2011 and completed the final stage in August, 2013. A total of 14 surgeries at a cost of $4, 270.

There are few small spots of ink left but they're not significant enough for me to warrant further surgeries. At the time, the skin was too tight to get all those spots. I'll just live with them from now on. At my age, I don't care anymore.

Now it looks like I was in a bar fight ;-)

8 weeks after laser treatment # 11

Back to the blackwork sleeve again...

I've noticed quite a bit of fading so here are some fresh pics.

At my last session, my specialist suggested I try waiting 7 months to see a lot more fading if I didn't mind extending the process. But I've decided that I want the tattoo gone ASAP so I'm planning to get treatment # 12 in the last week of August, which would be 4 months after my last treatment.
James Yoon

I see James Yoon at Serenity Med Spa in downtown, SF. He has specialty training as a Registered Nurse in laser medicine and has been certified as a Tattoo Removal Specialist. He's also been on our side of the fence and knows what his patients go through because he's been removing a tattoo from his own body. He's very patient and always answers all my questions meticulously.

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 Time spent with me
5 out of 5 stars Staff professionalism & courtesy
5 out of 5 stars Payment process
5 out of 5 stars Wait times
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Comments (21)

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Does your clinic have the picosure laser? I'll be in SF in a few months and was thinking if I should insert a pico treatment while I'm there since we don't have that laser here. Or if not do you know of any clinics that have it? Thank you :-)
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No Picosure at my clinic, but I plan to ask my specialist about it next month when I get treatment # 12. I don't know of any clinics in SF that do, but there's one in Mountain View (south of SFO) if you're willing to drive down there. Someone i met told me about it.
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I just googled to find picosure lasers in SF and there's this place called Looking Glass Plastic Surgery in 1199 Bush Street suite 509. I wonder if I could send them photos of my tattoo instead of a face to face consultation so I'll have an idea on the price, etc. before I get there.
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Thanks for letting me know. I just read the reviews for tattoo removal on Yelp. I suggest you do that too....
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Yikes the Yelp reviews were horrible...
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Wow, that is great progress!!
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Thank you for sharing your excision journey! Actually, it looks really good! Sometimes I think I would prefer to have a scar than a tattoo. It is still scares me a lot and I am giving laser a try, but I am impressed how brave you are and sending you my best wishes! Glad this journey is over for you!
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Thanks and I would never consider myself "brave" : D Just full of loathing for the tattoo and desperation to get it removed at any cost!! All the very best to you too!
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Thank you for posting a review on your excision and kudos to you for being brave enough to go through it! Will the scars look better in time or will lasers help improve the appearance of the scars? If things don't work out with my laser treatments I'm definitely gonna consider excision. I don't know how my husband will take that news though.
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The darker parts of the scars will gradually fade to white over time. But the size of the bigger ones won't change of course. At my age, I don't care about improving the appearance of my scars. Guess being a guy helps too. All the very best to you with your journey and whatever you decide to do!
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Just started removing my blackwork today. I've seen some entire blacked out sleeves lightened for covers so just stay optimistic :)
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Thanks and more power to you too! I won't be getting any covers or any other tattoos anymore. I'm hoping that the sleeve will be at least 90% removed by the time I'm 50 in 3 years. If not, I think I may just live with whatever is left...
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Could you post how black it was before you started treatments? :D
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Unfortunately, I didn't take any pics back then. But it was as black as the shirt I'm wearing in the pics for comparison. The ink was very dense and felt like an extra layer of clothing!
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Hello! And welcome to the community! Thanks you for posting your story! I totally agree about the attitude. Tattoo removal can definitely drive you crazy! I have just started (had my 3rd treatment today), but I know all those depressing feelings and tattoo regret. Glad you stayed your course! It is fading nicely! What laser are you treated with? Sorry if I missed that in your review.
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Thanks and I wish I had discovered this wonderful and supportive community much earlier! I never mentioned what kind of laser treatment i was getting in my review, but the clinic is using the Q-switched laser. When I first began treatment, the setting was 3.3 and now, with much less ink, it's 4.5, which is the maximum my specialist said he would go. Hope I answered your question!
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Oh thank you so much for posting the original tattoo!! That is so helpful, I didn't realize it had that much red, your treatments are working beautifully! Not sure if you mentioned this, hope I didn't miss it, but are you experiencing any scarring?
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No scarring...or none that I've noticed enough to bug me : ))
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I am so glad you posted your review, you are on your final stretch of your journey! I admire your perspective in your situation. Glad you brought up the fact that waiting longer between sessions allows for more ink to clear, I have been told the same thing by my clinic, and had the same result - it just continues to fade away with time. How big was the tattoo you covered up? Do you have a picture of the other tattoo you are removing? Glad you are getting such a great deal, your tech has some compassion - this is an extremely expensive process! 

Be sure to keep us updated :)
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The tattoo I covered up was from shoulder to elbow. I will post a pic. The other tattoo that I had removed on my right forearm has been completely excised. I will post a separate review about that experience.
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Oh great! I am so glad because we don't have alot of reviews on tattoo's removed by excerssision so yours will be so valuable! Thanks again!!
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