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.

Treatment # 12 on September 2nd, 2014

The fading continues and is still very patchy. It's very clear where there is more ink in certain areas and less ink in others, making the tattoo look even "uglier" than before. But it's nice to feel my skin again in the areas where the ink is almost gone.

I'm still praying that it'll be completely faded out within the next 3 years because I'll be 50 by then....and right now, I wouldn't see the point of continuing treatment after that.

3 years and counting.....

I just realized that my last treatment was my 3 year anniversary month.

What a journey it's been. Even though the fading has come a long way, I still get plagued with self-doubt, sometimes, and there are days when I question whether I should have started treatment in the first place because it's still so hard to see the end.

The more fading I see, the more impatient I get! Lol.

I will try and post more close-up photos tomorrow.

Close up pics

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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