I'm not sure what my motivation was behind getting...
I'm not sure what my motivation was behind getting a tattoo. I think it must have been mostly due to the fact to the fact I thought they looked 'cool', if done well and in the right location. I opted to have something tattoo'd inside my bicep, as it felt like it wouldn't be too overstated, and I'd seen other tattoo's in similar positions that looked good. I knew (or at least I thought I knew) that I wanted some text - and so I set about to find a quote online. In hindsight this already seems like the wrong way round to be doing things. I guess most people already have something in mind before they opt to get inked. I settled with a some latin - a quote by a famous Roman poet 'Horace' - "aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem." Roughly translated it means "remember to maintain an even mind in times of adversity". I liked it as it reminded me that things wouldn't always be plain sailing, and that life will sometimes throw difficult things at you - but its important to maintain a level-headed, strong minded approach when this happens.
Shortly after I had made my decision I went in to get the tattoo. In hindsight, the font I used could have been a bit more aesthetically pleasing - and its this that led me to believe that the tattoo looked a little lost and needed something more.
In early 2012 (and after toying with several ideas, some of which i'm very glad I didn't act upon!) I came across a website that allows you to set-out roughly a criteria, put forward a sum of cash (an amount you chose based on how much you're willing to spend!) and then artists compete to come up with a design for you. I wasn't willing to put forward too much cash, so I was only presented with a couple of ideas. I liked the design that I chose (see picture). It's a winding path, and represents life's journey and the ups and downs that go with it (which ties in with the quote - and is a little pretentious!).
I had it booked in and got the tattoo done. The guy who did the work seemed to rush it a little. I think this was partially due to the fact they had double booked me and someone else, and the other person waited for him to finish me! In hindsight (seem to be using that word a lot) this should have rung alarm bells and I should have come back another time.
From the moment I got home, something told me that I'd made a rough choice. I wasn't happy with the way it looked on my arm. This mindset has remained all the way until recently. I found/find myself not comfortable to wear t-shirts around people at the moment, because of the tattoo. I finally decided that I had been lying to myself, and wasn't happy with the sun aspect of the design. It just sat awkwardly on the arm.
I looked in to laser tattoo removal and found a place nearby that offers it. I went in for a consultation and had a test patch done. A week or so later I went back to have the first session. I could see that a lot of the ink had gone already from the test area, although in its place was kind of a reddish/brown color. This concerned me slightly at this point but after talking to the technician we decided it was still healing and that it was probably normal for it to be a little red for a couple of weeks. We proceeded with the treatment.
Over the following weeks I became more and more disheartened as the area that was lasered remained this stained colour, under the skin. I kind of obsessively looked for any info I could online. I came across things like hyper-pigmentation and post inflammatory erythema, but they didn't seem to quite fit with what I was experiencing.
7 weeks after the initial treatment I went back for round 2. I showed the technician that this strange staining hadn't really shifted (possibly had faded a very small amount). She wasn't sure as to why. We decided it probably wouldn't be wise to go over the whole thing again and so just settled with lasering a few small areas that had been missed on the first occasion and left it at that. I asked if she had seen what I had before, and she didn't. She very kindly said she would check with her boss (who had a lot more experience) and would get back to me.
A couple of days later I received an e-mail to say she had been in touch with the company that manufacture their laser and that they had indeed seen this happen before. It was something called 'hemosiderin'. This is apparently where iron from the red blood cells gets trapped underneath the skin following a trauma (in this case the laser treatment) and produces a kind of brown/red staining. This seemed to make sense. She was also told that this will eventually clear, but can take anywhere from 2-12 months to do so. She advised that they would have to cancel my next appointment and couldn't continue until such time that it clears. I was pretty deflated.
So that's pretty much where I am now. I have a dull, reddish stain on my arm in the shape of a sun, that's likely to not improve for some time. Kind of defeats the whole point of having the removal done in the first place. I can find very little information regarding 'hemosiderin' online (at least in terms of how it can be a complication of laser tattoo removal). I have purchased some cream that contains vitamin k oxide, which apparently could help, but I'm seeing no effects as of yet after 4 or 5 days use.
I feel somewhat angry with myself for deciding to get a tattoo in the first place. I could do without this stress in my life and the worst part is its very noticeable, to me, owing to its position on my arm.
I'm in two minds what to do next. I'm quite an impatient person, so the thought of having to wait a year (or possibly longer) for this to clear (if it does clear!) makes me feel ill! One option would be to return to the tattoo parlor (and use a different tattooist) and have something skillfully placed over the top of it and then leave it at that. Whilst i'm there I would have the rest of it touched up and made to look better, to make up for the reasonably poor job in the first place.
The other part of my brain is telling me that tattoos might not be for me (if I'm having all these thoughts about keeping it covered up in public) and that I should be patient, see what happens, and then if I do see fading of this stain, continue the treatment further down the line perhaps with a view to having the whole thing taken off. What worries me about this though is the idea that my body seems to be be pre-disposed to this kind of staining, and that every treatment I have will require months and months of waiting afterwards, whilst my body tries to clear it.
In a bit of a pickle really.
Has anyone else had anything similar to this happen to them? Any thoughts that might guide me? I'd be really appreciative.
I think I might start posting pictures on here every couple of weeks as a journal. Seems somewhat therapeutic to at least be writing this down. #
It's also worth mentioning that the when I had the treatment, I seemed to bleed. Every blip of the laser made a small puncture mark in the skin. This looked different to the other videos I'd watched of laser treatment. I've read that this can happen and figured that I must just have soft skin! However, part of me is worried that maybe the settings on the laser was too high - resulting in this damage. Just another thought.
15 Jul 2013
2 months post
I've been thinking long and hard about what to do next and I've come to the conclusion that I want the whole tattoo removed.
If I think about it, I haven't been comfortable with having the the tattoo on show since the day I got it. I would feel awkward if people asked me what it meant or wanted to see it. That shouldn't be the case, I know. I've decided that I'm not a tattoo person, its as simple as that (it's just a shame it took getting a reasonably large tattoo for me to realise it!).
What I need to do is look forward. I can dwell on regret, the what if's etc. I can be angry at myself for making a lousy decision, but none of that will help. I'm going to take pro-active steps in putting things right and re-gaining confidence in being able to wear t-shirts in public again and facing my topless self in the mirror!
Now, the problem I have at the moment (that I'm obsessing over daily) is this weird staining thing I seem to be prone to (at least from the one treatment I've had). I've been told that it will clear by itself over the coming months, but being the over-thinker I am, I'm worried that I could be left with a permanent stain in place of the tattoo. Having said that, I'd sooner rather be rid of the bulk of the ink and then perhaps use something to cover the remaining shadow up, should it come to that...which I hope it doesn't. I think there might be still be some light ink underneath the sun, so it might not be as bad as it looks, but it's still a real concern to me.
I have today booked a consultation at a different place for next week. I'm hoping I might be able to get a second opinion on what might have caused it. I'm also going to get a price for the removal of the rest of the tattoo - which is going to hurt (in every sense), I'm sure! If the price is reasonable then I'll likely go ahead and book up. If its way too expensive then I'll likely go back to the original place (which wasn't too pricey). However, in my mind I associate this place with this strange staining now. The suspicious part of me is worried that it could be be due to the laser they use, the strength or something along those lines. Anyway, I also have a follow up consultation in there the week after. So on a positive note, I've got a couple of options. On a negative note, my bank balance is gonna take a hit.
I'm going to keep this review up to date with my progress, including pictures. I find it helps to get this kind of stuff written down. Also, if it can help anyone else in making their decisions, then all the better!
15 Aug 2013
3 months post
So I'm fresh out of my first session on the rest of the tattoo. The inside of my bicep feels like an inferno. I won't lie, it was painful, considerably more so than the sun rays (due to the darker areas).
My technician also did a test patch on part of one of the sun rays (I won't try and describe where on the picture because the whole thing looks such a mess!). It didn't really seem to be picking up much though so I'm not sure ill see any change in the strange browning.
I'll post up another picture in a week. I'm hoping to see some decent fading in the black (I hope) but I understand it can take some time for this to start!
Feeling generally down and deflated about the whole thing at present. Such a long process and none of this should even be happening. What a silly mistake!
24 hours later...
16 Aug 2013
3 months post
Thought I'd post up a pic to show what's happening at 24 hours after the treatment.
As you can see, the whole area is still pretty angry - red and swollen. Several blisters have formed on the darker areas but they're only very small.
You can see that the darker ink is already breaking up, especially the lettering. It's worth mentioning that I had the lettering done about a year prior to getting the rest, and at a different tattoo parlour. It'll be interesting to see if there's any difference in the fading.
Sleep wasn't too comfortable last night and I imagine it'll be the same tonight!
I can already tell the lighter areas are going in the same direction as the sun - brownness. I wish I had an answer as to why...
18 Aug 2013
3 months post
Still sore, still red, still miserable...
21 Aug 2013
3 months post
So the surface looks to be healing OK. The blisters have all flattened out and the darker areas that were treated now have a kind of light scabbing to them which I anticipate will clear in the next few days.
I'm having a problem telling if what I'm feeling now is still light pain or if in fact it's just skin tightness. The itches are setting in but don't seem to be too bad (yet).
I'm applying an organic Aloe Vera gel 2 or 3 times a day at the moment which cools and soothes the area and is meant to promote healing (so I've heard). During the first few days whilst the skin was a bit more blistered I applied Sudocrem, which has antibacterial properties.
The lighter areas (shading) that were treated seem to have turned red. When pressed they turn white. Obviously a lot of blood under the surface. This is pretty much what happened with the sun rays. I'm not sure what's causing this, could possibly be erythema?? Either way, I'm anticipating this to fade down and turn a light brown like before. Once the rest of the of the tattoo has faded down enough (and assuming the light brown hasn't cleared) ill need to see a dermatologist to try and figure out what it is and how I can hopefully clear it! I'll post a pic up at the 10 day mark once the surface has healed a bit more.
Whilst all of this is massively inconvenient, a real regret and a general pain in the a*s and something id much rather hadn't happened, I'm quite keen to see how and if this treatment works.
26 Aug 2013
3 months post
So the surface is still healing, but almost there. I'm going to defer putting a picture up until its healed completely and some fading is evident.
As predicted: the lighter shaded areas have now turned a brownish colour (like the rays did) and this is what worries me the most. It looks pretty rubbish at the moment.
The enormity of the situation (in my mind) has really hit home recently, and I'm starting to struggle a bit. This whole thing is on my mind 24/7! Any useful / uplifting advice would be appreciated :( Thanks ppl
So today marks 17 days since the first (second if you include the sun rays) treatment. It's pretty early on still I know. As you can see, the lettering is breaking up slightly. It's kind of strange how its working as I saw the lettering had broken up literally right after the session, I thought it would be a more gradual thing. I'm hoping that it will break up even more at the next session. The 'brownness' is in abundance now. I read in a couple of places that some black inks will turn brown as they degrade, however when the technician tried another patch on one of the faded rays she could hardly pick up any ink. I might have to come to terms with the fact that once all the black ink has gone ill be left with a faded brown shadow. That idea makes me feel pretty awful! Anyway, guess we will combat that when we get there. Ill post a side by side picture with the original tattoo at around the 4 week mark. Stay strong ppl.
Time Till Next Session: 39 days (but whose counting)
So the part that's bugging me the most at the moment is the sun. Its most prominent in my line of sight and i hate it! The rays received one treatment almost four months ago. A lot of ink shifted, but they are clearly still there. The technician isn't sure as to why its turned a light brown colour. At my last treatment (of the rest of the tattoo) she fired a test patch on a part of one of the rays. The laser was struggling to pick anything up. I'm concerned this is the sort of thing I could be left with when the rest of the ink is removed - whilst a lot more discreet than black ink, I don't think I'd be happy with it!
What do you guys think? Does this look like some leftover residual ink to you? Hyperpigmentation? I've gone on about this a lot on here, I know, just reaching out for any other ideas. Does she need to switch the laser up a gear to get at whatever's lingering around under the skin? If they can solve this I'll be a lot happier in knowing that they can treat the rest if it in the same way.
16 Sep 2013
4 months post
Just a quick update...
4 1/2 weeks since first treatment (I'm saying first as the top and bottom of the tattoo were treated separately on different occasions, so I've actually had two treatments, but technically one complete treatment of the tattoo... confusing!)
As you can see, the areas that were bright red after the treatment (the shaded areas) are now a dullish brown. The lettering has broken up somewhat. I'm pretty sure it's faded all its going to fade for this treatment.
I've decided to continue my treatments at a different place. Ill be being treated by a consultant dermatologist who specialises in laser treatment. Ill be paying a little more but I'm hoping it'll be worth it to be in the hands of a professional. The previous place I was going to was ok but it felt a little rushed.
Next treatment is 4th October. Ill post another update just before and then after that one. I'm hoping to see the darker areas begin to break up after number 2 and I'm keen to see what his take is on the brown sun that doesn't seem to want to set!
Still giving myself a hard time most days about this whole thing, but starting to settle in to the journey now, I hope.
Enjoying keeping an eye on everyone else's journeys too :)
(That wasn't as quick as I thought!)
Cover Up Sleeve
23 Sep 2013
4 months post
Hi guys, hope everyone's doing ok.
So I purchased a cover-up sleeve from the US and it arrived this weekend. I'm not sure if I'm allowed to mention the name of the website on here, but if you google 'tattoo cover sleeves' it can be pretty easily found. Feel free to message if you can't find it.
As you can see from the picture, my one is designed to cover tattoos on the upper arm, although they do a wide range of sizes and colours to cover tattoos all over the body! I went for a skin tone colour. It's surprisingly comfortable to wear and seems to be quite well made. I'll mostly be wearing mine at the gym when it isn't practical to wear long sleeves, and also a bit around the house when in a T-shirt. Although it's obviously there, it seems to make things more bearable when bearing a bit of arm skin again! Probably mostly psychological, but it's cool to not long down and see the inky mistake looking back at you. I find myself consciously making an effort not to raise my arm up when in short sleeves so I can't see the tattoo as much - which is just ridiculous, so hopefully this might help that a bit.
According to the website it also provides excellent UV protection. I'm thinking it might come in handy in the couple of weeks after treatment when the skin has had its ass kicked and needs protecting.
Anyhow, give me a shout of anyone wants any further info, just thought I'd share this.
Treatment number 2 next Friday!
Minor Change Of Plan (pretty boring stuff really)
So it turns out the new place I was due to be going to this Friday were only going to be doing a consultation and probably a patch test and not a treatment, like they suggested on the phone (I emailed them to confirm yesterday, glad I did now!). Admittedly this would have been with their consultant dermatologist - but they wanted £150 for the privilege! (Approx 250 US dollars). I called them and cancelled and explained that amount of money is way too much just for a patch test (they said I'd need a patch test despite already having been treated with a q-switched laser, as they use a slightly different laser, hmmmm). The only reason I had decided to change in the first place was to get a professional opinion on the browning. However, I've decided to head back to the original place and let them tackle the bulk of the ink and then worry about any brownness at a later stage. I'm no expert, but from research I think it's likely a change in pigmentation following thermal heating of the area - see doctor responses for this similar question: http://www.realself.com/question/brown-spots-skin-after-laser
Anyhow, managed to get a treatment booked in for Friday which is good. Round 2 here we come.
Session 2 Done...
Jeez that one hurt. The machine they normally use is being repaired (I didn't ask why, nor did I want to know!) so they used a different one - presumably on loan from somewhere else and still a q-switched yag (she assured me).
Power went up a bit this time apparently - I could tell. Seemed to bleed a little more than I recall last time so she dressed it before I left. Anyone else experience minor bleeding??
She commented on the sun rays looking lighter than when she last saw it (which I hope was sincere and not just being nice!).
Arm feels like s**t right now. Going to keep it covered for the rest of the evening and then unveil Frankenstein's monster before going to bed for what will undoubtedly be a horrid nights sleep. Moan moan moan!!
We scheduled the next session for 8 weeks. I initially put up some resistance, as I was hoping for 6 (the waiting in between sucks) but she assured me it's for the best. I guess in the grand scheme of tattoo removal, a couple of weeks really doesn't make much difference.
I'll get a picture or two up as soon as it looks less like a shrapnel wound.
Have a great weekend folks.
Post Session Healing
4 days since session 2, ugly ain't it! I thought I'd pop up a picture to show how my skin deals with the healing. As you can see, there is some moderate scabbing in the darker areas and those same areas are surrounded by redness which is slowly calming down. Interestingly enough I had zero blisters (I only had a couple of small ones the first time round) - not sure why that might be.
I've purchased some bio-oil and am planning on massaging it in to the whole area, twice a day, once the surface is healed. This'll hopefully keep any scars at bay and is apparently just very good for the skin (especially after it's taken a beating).
Area still a bit sore, but rapidly easing, probably one more mildly uncomfortable nights sleep and that'll be it for this one (I hope!).
I'll next update when the surface is healed and I'll stick up a comparison picture or the whole tattoo (fingers crossed for some decent fading!)
14 Oct 2013
5 months post
Happy Monday folks!
On a bit of a downer today (seems to always happen on a Monday!) hope everyone else is doing alright. This whole waiting game sucks!!
Anyway, thought I'd quickly share what I'm doing to try and aid the removal process and look after my skin. If anyone has any tips, please share!
1. I'm currently drinking about 3 litres of water a day to support my lymphatic system as it works on breaking down and flushing out the ink.
2. I'm taking a soluble multivitamin each day to help support my immune system. The weathers getting colder now and if I pick up a cold or a bug it'll likely compromise my immune system and my body will have to draw its resources away from the tattoo whilst it tackles it. Need to try and prevent this!
3. I'm massaging bio-oil in to the area twice a day. This is (supposedly) good for damaged skin and might help prevent scarring. It's also contains Vitamin E, which is important for skin health.
4. I'm applying a factor 50+ sunscreen to the area once or twice a day (which is actually intended for babies!). This is likely not doing a great deal but I've heard it's very important to protect skin that's hyperpigmented (even against office lighting(!) and may even go a little way towards reversing it. Plus, the additional massage and moisture can't hurt (I hope).
5. Exercising two or three times a week. As well as lifting weights, I'm putting a little more emphasis on cardio now in order to get that blood pumping (and in theory, bringing more microphages to the tattoo site to do their thing!)
So those are the 5 steps I'm taking at the moment. They may be doing something, they may be doing nothing at all! Sometimes I wonder if I should just leave the skin alone entirely, but I figured it surely can't hurt to just be rubbing stuff in to it now and again?
Is It All Worth It?
27 Oct 2013
5 months post
So I'm 3 weeks post second treatment. I hate to use the old cliché, but this thing really is a roller coaster. Some days I'll feel optimistic and others (more often) I'll think I'm travelling down a dead end, with very few options to put this mess right. Trapped.
As you can see, the black ink is responding well, some of the text is fading out, but in place of the ink I'm being left with a brown smudge. Surely that defeats the whole point of trying to get it removed?! I can't bare the idea of being left with a dirty brown smudge inside my arm for the rest of my life.
Every single day I'm asking myself the same questions - is this the ink breaking down? If it is the ink, why cant she remove the sun rays, why won't the laser pick them up? Is it hyper-pigmentation? If it is why isn't it fading out? Is it something else? Is it permanent? blah blah blah... If the position of the tattoo wasn't in my line of sight every time I wore a t-shirt or had a shower etc, then this wouldn't be so much of a big deal. But its always there, starting right back at me.
I'm extremely close to re-setting up the appointment with the laser specialist / dermatologist, to get his take on things. It'll cost £150, which is a huge chunk of cash (especially in the run-up to xmas, amongst other things), but I'm hoping at least he would give it to me straight and I'll know where I stand. If this brown staining is likely to be permanent, it seems fruitless to carry on with the treatments. My only options then would be a cover up (which I don't think would solve anything) or a surgical procedure (which would scar and would still take months and months!).
I try and tell myself that in the grand scheme of things, I'm still early on in this process, however, I had the first treatment on the sun-rays about 5 and half months ago now.
I've read that black inks can be made up of different colours, and I've come across other accounts of black degrading down to brown, but I worry that this then becomes a hell of a lot more difficult to clear, and I worry my current technician doesn't have the expertise to deal with this. Then again, I also worry that I could spend £150 to go and see this chap and he wont be able to give me a definitive answer! His details can be found here: http://www.exetermedical.co.uk/about/our-staff/dr-anthony-downs/
I've no doubt he is an incredibly knowledgeable guy, but I just worry that he might not be able to help me. What do people think?
Sorry for the glum post on a Sunday morning! hope everyone's feeling a bit more positive than me today!
30 Oct 2013
5 months post
...sounds like some kind of weird horror film, that.
Anyway, I got in touch with another well-established tattoo removal place in the South West (UK) to try my luck and see if they had witnessed this browning phenomenon during tattoo removal. A very helpful lady (presumably their laser technician) got back to me and said that it is something she has witnessed from time to time. She did seem to concur that (through her own research) this could potentially be iron deposits in the skin following the trauma of the laser (I'm now pretty sure it's this). She also said that when this does happen, they generally tend to find that it clears following the next few treatments. What's interesting about this is the fact that I've read on google about how effective the Ruby laser can be at clearing iron deposits under the skin (hemosiderin) -- this place uses a Ruby laser as well as the standard ND:Yag, the place I'm at currently only has the ND:Yag. I'm wondering if there patients are seeing this brown stuff clearing through use of the Ruby.
She said it would more than likely clear after the next few treatments (which would be amazing but I find difficult to believe, given her attempts so far), however, if it didn't, they would welcome me as a new patient regardless of how far in to treatment I am, and give it a go with the Ruby.
So my plan* is to now stick with my current place and go as far with them as I can and then once all the dark ink has gone, possibly make a trip to this other place and see if the Ruby can take on this browning!
Just though that might help for anyone experiencing something similar (I know there's a few of us on here).
*plan always liable to change as I anxiously move from to day to day with this whole thing!
14 Nov 2013
6 months post
I've read in a couple of places online (and I'm pretty sure I've seen it pop up one or twice on here) that Milk Thistle is a good supplement to take whilst going through tattoo removal. Milk Thistle has been proven to help support and maintain a healthy liver. With the liver being the body's main filtration system, and the broken down tattoo ink ultimately ending up down here during removal prior to it being removed from the body altogether, I figured its wise to perhaps take something to give the liver a helping hand whilst it's doing its thing! Again, along with the multivitamins, the cod liver oil and the bio oil, this may or may not do anything whatsoever to help, but surely it's only fair to give our bodies a fighting chance!
I found Milk Thistle tablets on a reputable eBay store for pretty cheap! Thought I'd share! I'm probably going to start taking them today in preparation for the next influx of ink in to my body after next weeks session!
Hope everyone's doing ok.
2 Days Till Treatment #3
20 Nov 2013
6 months post
Thought I'd post a photo to show current progress compared to original. Still a mixed bag of emotions and still kicking myself on a daily basis for letting this happen.
Anyway, treament 3 is Friday and I'm hoping to see a decent amount of breakdown in the black areas over the Xmas period. The ideal Christmas present would be to see the stupid Sundays dissapear for good, but it's not going to happen. Need to decide after this treatment if I want to move elsewhere, as it's getting to the stage now where I need to see some sort of clearance of the brown areas (which I think is going to require a specialist) to know whether or not this whole thing is going to be in vain! Post treatment 3 update to follow in a few days.
Stay strong everyone.
Treatment 3 In The Bag - WARNING: Gross Picture Below
22 Nov 2013
6 months post
Treatment 3 done and dusted. They had their normal laser back this time which is good. Talked in some detail about this staining. Kayleigh (my technician, whose brilliant) is fairly insistent that she has seen it happen with other laser treatments and that it does fade, but takes a long time. I again told her of my concerns that I've read (if it is trapped iron deposits) that it can be permanent, and so I wanted to try and help disperse it (for the sake of my sanity). I told her that I've read that the Ruby laser can be helpful for this, and that I've been in touch with another clinic, an hour away, who have one. Basically I really want to see this treatment through to the end where I am now, however, if there is a chance the Ruby laser could help, then (for the sake of my sanity) I'd need to give it a go. We've left it that I'll see how this heals and that I'll contact her first if I do decide to have a patch tear at the other place.
Anyway, pain was bearable (seemed less so than the older machine they used last time). Again, had a lot of pinpoint bleeding as you can see in the picture!!). She said some people are just prone to bleeding a bit more than others. I had to pay a little extra this time as she went over the inner part of the sun rays, as it's evident there is still ink lingering underneath. Be interesting to see how they turn out in a couple weeks. We did another patch test with the 532nm (left of photo) to see if this picks out the brown. All in all pretty happy with the treatment (happy's probably the wrong word, but you know what I mean).
Again, sorry for the picture, I know it's pretty hideous! Normally settles down after a few hours. Pictures to follow in the next few days!
Have a great weekend folks.
26 Nov 2013
6 months post
Now 4 days post TX3. Every blip of the laser has left a tiny pin-prick sized scab (seems to be the norm for me). Resisting the urge (just about) to pick them off in anticipation of what's beneath. No itching really. Sorest part is the small test patch she did with the 532nm near my armpit! That looks to have been a bit more traumatic to the skin so will probably take a bit longer to heal.
Keeping a close eye on the part of the sun rays we treated. It's difficult to see, due to the scabs and the lingering redness around each one, but it almost looks as though they may have faded a little. Any appreciable difference would be fantastic! I'll post another couple pictures when the surface has healed (probably a week or so). Stay safe!
21 Dec 2013
7 months post
Patience really is a virtue, I wish I had more.
Attached are a few pictures as of today, 4 weeks post my third treatment.
There seems to be lingering redness around the areas of the sun rays that were treated - this is really bugging me. It seems worse after exercise and the shower. What's strange is that if I pull the skin tight, the redness clears and I'm left with what appears to be a small amount of ink. As soon as I let go, the redness returns. Also, if I look close enough (really close) I can see small holes in the surface of the skin where the tiny scabs were. I wonder if the skin is having a harder time healing perhaps? I'm fairly sure now I'm going to require a different laser to clear the lighter, lingering stuff. I just hope it can be done. I'd be so much happier if the sun rays were gone, so much happier.
The patch we did with the 532nm (to the left of the tattoo) doesn't look to have done a great deal, other than traumatise the skin a bit.
I'm quite a pessimist, and unfortunately I'm stuck in a very negative mindset about this whole thing, but I THINK the tattoo is very gradually fading.
Yep, that's it for the good stuff.
I have been slightly worried that the spot size used on me thus far has been too small, with potentially too higher fluence, thus leaving these small scabs and not 'treating' the entire tattoo, if that makes sense. I've read that the spot size should be as big as possible to begin with, and then made smaller towards to end. But what do I know!!
My next treatment is due on the 3rd January, however, I have a consultation with a view to a patch test and possibly even a treatment utilising the Ruby laser at a different clinic on the 11th, with a lady who I've been emailing who sounds very knowledgable and has extensive experience in the industry. She also specialises in camouflage, so I'll be probing her for makeup tips. So in the next few days I need to decide how in going to play my next step. Based on the fact there is still some redness, I'm inclined to cancel the 3rd and move my treatments to the new clinic, starting on the 11th. Just not sure what to do!!
Anyway, enjoy the holidays folks, we deserve it! I'll post up a new update in the new year.
I just purchased a flippin' trampette...
28 Dec 2013
7 months post
...or mini trampoline, or rebounder.. whatever you wanna call it!
I noticed a few folks on here talking about the benefits that exercising on one of these nifty little pieces of kit can have on the lymphatic system. I won't go in to the science, but be sure to check out the link below and read the article...
If you don't fancy reading through the article, I'll quickly sum it up...
Essentially, the lymphatic system is what rids our bodies of all the toxins and rubbish stuff that we naturally accumulate over time. And for us folks who are having our tattoos blasted by a laser every so often, it's this that is responsible for collecting up and carrying away the fragmented ink particles. Unlike the arterial system, that moves blood around the body, the lymphatic system has no natural 'pump' as such, and so relies on things like exercise and massage to encourage flow and movement. Studies have suggested that regular use of a rebounder can significantly increase the efficiency of the lymphatic system, due to the movement involved.
Ergo, vastly improved lymphatic flow surely = assistance in tattoo removal.
Aside from this, it has a number of other benefits to health, including just being a great cardiovascular exercise tool!
I literally only found out about this a week ago and have done some reading. As with everything else, nothing is guaranteed to speed up the process, but if we can assist our bodies in anyway possible (plus get a decent workout out of it at the same time) I figured I couldn't let it pass by.
Not sure how many times a week I'll try get on it, definitely twice at least; hopefully the neighbours wont catch a glimpse of me through the windows!
Hope everyone is enjoying the holidays. I'll post a new update in two weeks time after my next treatment - which will be at a different clinic and potentially getting the Ruby laser involved.
Take it easy folks.
Happy New Year!!
Not an update, as such...
Just wanted to wish everyone the best for 2014 and to express my gratitude to all those on this site who have helped me through the last few months. This site has been massively helpful in getting me through a real testing time. To some, it's 'just a tattoo', but to me it's the biggest stress and strain I've had to endure in my life (which is probably a little pathetic, people deal with far worse every day). Dealing with the constant feelings of regret, the 'what ifs' and the not knowing of what lies ahead has really taken its toll on me in 2013, since I admitted to myself that I'd messed up with this thing.
2014 will be the year I get this sorted out and I look forward to watching and supporting everyone else, as they do the same.
Thank you folks.
The Importance Of Taking Pictures...
Sorry for yet another update, just felt I should echo some of the comments made on here with regards to the importance of documenting your journey with pictures.
If you're anything like me you'll find yourself obsessively, impatiently looking at your tattoo every day - in the shower, whilst brushing your teeth, whilst changing for bed... It can be very disheartening when you think not much is happening, even after reminding yourself over and over that this thing is a long process. Comparing photos from weeks (or even better) months apart can give you a little boost and remind you that fading IS happening and that every day you're heading in the right direction towards reaching your goal. So if it isn't something you're doing, I highly recommend it's something you start. There's definitely something psychological going on here, its almost as if your brain disregards what the tattoo was looking like a couple of months ago, and focuses only on how its looking at present, which is obviously unhelpful and creates a false mental record of your progress.
I recall after my very first session that I was going to take a picture of my arm every single day, as I thought it'd be something pretty cool to behold at the end, in some sort of sped-up slideshow - soon got bored of that! A photo a week or a photo a month is a much better idea.
Promise this is my last update till my next treatment next weekend.
Session 4: New Clinic, New Technician, New Laser
11 Jan 2014
8 months post
So this morning I had my fourth treatment, at a new clinic, and overall I'm pretty happy with how it went.
I'd been in communication with them via email over the last few months and was really impressed not only with the communication, but also the level of knowledge that their technician, Emily, seems to have. She seems to have to taken a real vested interest in the areas of my tattoo that turned brown (as well as the rest of the tattoo, obviously), and understands how much it's been bothering me. I was with her for an hour this morning, and she listened to all of my concerns and answered all of my questions. She concurred that (aside from a skin autopsy) there is no real way of telling if the brown areas are iron deposits, feint ink or melanin, however she tended to agree that the Ruby laser would likely have an impact on whatever it is. She also said that she'd only very recently treated a guy with some browning and that it had shown significant improvement with the Ruby, which sounded promising.
So, we proceeded with a full treatment (rays included) using the Ruby laser. She said she couldn't go in too hot, as she wasn't aware of what my previous settings were, but that we'd start at a fairly decent setting - 6KJ with a 5mm spot size. The pain was fairly comparable to the YAG, although there was no bleeding. After about 2 minutes I asked if they used a chilled air blower, like the previous place, she said yes but that a lot of patients don't bother with it!! So I went it alone, no blower, nothing!! It wasn't too bad to be honest. The brown areas were again picking up the laser and she seemed fairly happy with this, some of the really light areas struggled a bit, but that's to be expected.
Right now I've got some blisters going on, as you can see, which she said was to be expected with the 694nm. The area is very red and looks quite similar to my first full treatment a few months ago. Pain levels are easily tolerable but I'm trying to be careful with the blisters.
Aloe Vera: Check
Next appointment scheduled for 8 weeks today.
Let's see how this goes!!
24 Hours Later: Hell Hath No Fury Like A Tattoo Lasered
12 Jan 2014
8 months post
Well, she wasn't wrong about the blisters!
Area looking pretty grim this morning, glad she only went in at 6KJ now!! She said that the Ruby reacts quite differently on the skin than the YAG. What I gained in not bleeding this time, I seem to have made up for in some hefty blisters!!
Plan: Lots of Aloe Vera, lots of staying hydrated and lots of hoping it doesn't stay so angry looking for too long!!
Update.. Kind of.
22 Feb 2014
9 months post
Haven't posted for a few weeks...
It's been 6 weeks since my first treatment with the Ruby laser at a different clinic. Time has flown by, but I'm disappointed to say the Ruby hasn't really done a great deal as I prayed it would. My hope was that it would pick up on whatever was giving the 'brown' appearance and get it moving, but it seemed to only redden things up and potentially make it a little worse. Only now does it seem to be almost back to what it was.
For all the blistering and scabbing that followed, the results on the dark areas were lacklustre.
I've been reading up a lot in the last few weeks and trying to educate myself as best as possible on what makes a good laser removal machine. It transpires that the machine at my first clinic, with which I had 3 treatments, isn't particularly powerful, and is geared around many other treatments, aside from tattoo removal (something you should apparently look out for). This would perhaps explain why their technician went in at a smaller spot size from the get go (smaller spot sizes are needed to generate more concentrated, higher power) and apparently reducing the spot size can result in a lot of the energy being superficially absorbed by the upper layers of the skin. Long and short.. I think I could have been further along now if I'd been treated with a better laser to begin with, and I might not even have been dealing with this brown thing. Anyway.
My next treatment is on the 4th March. I've been in touch with the technician and asked if we can use the YAG, as I didn't see much from the Ruby. They operate the Quanta Q Plus A, which (I think) has almost double the power of my previous laser. I'll be emphasising that I really need to start seeing things moving along a lot quicker from now (for the sake of my sanity) and I'll be insisting on a relatively strong and very thorough treatment (we'll probably leave the sun rays, and maybe work with a tests patch of the brown stuff). This machine apparently uses a square 'spot', which is supposedly good for an even, 'homogenous' treatment. We'll see.
Like a few others, I'm accutely aware of the fact that the milder/warmer weather will be upon us again in the next few months. I had hoped to be able to feel confident in baring some upper arm skin this summer, after keeping covered up last year, but it's looking unlikely again. I try to take pride in my appearance, I work out regularly and I'm reasonably happy with progress I'm making in the gym, but having this thing on me is like owning a decent looking sports car, but with the most stubborn bird crap sprayed all down one side. So it's having to stay in the garage, even on a hot sunny day when you should be out cruising with the hood down.
I'm babbling, sorry.
Hope everyone's doing ok. I'm seeing some good success stories developing on here.
No pictures today, as there isn't much in the way of progress from my last treatment. Hopefully that'll be different for my next update.
Update: Treatment 5 - New Laser
4 Mar 2014
10 months post
So I've just got home after my 5th treatment. As per my previous post we went ahead and used the ND:Yag, which is the Quanta Q Plus A - a good spec laser and on par with something like the Revlite by Cynosure, I think. As you can see, we treated everything below the sun rays (and one sun ray, which we're experimenting with). We used a 3mm spot @ 10j/cm2 for the most part, and 11j/cm2 for some of the lighter stuff. This is the highest amount of power I've been treated with thus far. Surprisingly the pain was on par with my previous treatments, perhaps even more tolerable. Again, no blower was used, just straight up in and out! I was happy to see that there was no real bleeding, like had been evident at my previous clinic. Emily was very thorough and I think we got everything. On the treated sun ray we did three patches; two different strengths with the 3mm spot ND:Yag and one spot (the inner most part) with the Ruby, but cranked up higher than my last treatment. All got some form of reaction, but we'll see if anything happens! I/we decided to leave the rest of the sun rays as we felt it would be pointless in treating them again if they weren't going to get a reaction and it could just anger them ('them', they've got their own status now!!), hence we're experimenting with just the one.
I think she fired around 3000 shots in total.
Some crazy raised-ness was going on shortly after, but soon died down. The area is now red and a little crusty, like normal - but I'm happy to report no bad-ass blisters this time!
Next treatment April 22nd, but I'll post again in a few weeks - really hopping to see some magic this time - I want this thing faded down as much as poss before the summer arrives.
Hope everybody's doing OK..
Anyone get this..
12 Mar 2014
10 months post
Disclaimer: Bit of a moan ahead, again..
Anyone else find that they feel particularly down about the process in the couple of weeks following a treatment? For me, it tends to be at the beginning of week two, and can last for a week or longer. The buzz of getting another session done, and potentially dislodging a load more ink particles, starts to wane a little bit. The scabs begin to separate from the skin as your body does it's thing and there's ugly pinkness-a-plenty. Your mind plays tricks on you as you desperately look for any signs of fading, even though you know it doesn't really happen (noticeably) for a few weeks, but the ink is looking very similar to how it did before. The whole area generally looks a mess and you can't help but ruminate daily about what the hell you did to yourself!
It's a rough old thing this tattoo removal malarkey!
Thoughts Needed: Exercising and Lifting Weights During Removal
31 Mar 2014
10 months post
Was doing some (over)thinking recently about exercise and its role in the removal process. I remember a few people on here saying that they lift weights several times a week. I'm the same (normally 3 or 4 times if possible). I had a fairly intense leg session about 4 days ago, and I'm still pretty damn sore (good ol' DOMS). Got me wondering about whats actually happening when our muscles have been broken down and are repairing, and if this could possibly have a negative effect on removal.
Check out this excerpt (mainly the bit about Inflammatory Reaction):
Seems to suggest that as part of the inflammatory response in the muscles, an influx of microphages are brought in to the area to help remove debris, following strenuous exercise. Kind of got me concerned - what if these scavanger cells, that are necessary to remove the shattered ink via phagocytosis, are largely being perpetually drawn to our muscles (in the hours and days following workouts) to remove debris from breakdown of muscle fibre etc, and as such, we're getting a reduced amount at the site of the tattoo?
I'm SURE that exercise has to have a positive effect on things (increased blood flow etc), but what if too much of it, or lifting weights too often might slow things down?
Im probably thinking waaay too deeply here, but I'd be keen to get some thoughts, if anyone has any!
Treatment 6 Tomorrow...Could this be the halfway point?
21 Apr 2014
11 months post
Fair to say this thing really looks like a piece of crap now. I think the only thing worse than having a tattoo on your body that you don't want, is having that same tattoo on your body, but half-faded, blurred and generally a mess.
I have my sixth treatment tomorrow. Really not sure how we're going to play it. Overall, the dark stuff has definitely faded a shade in the last 7 weeks. Some of the letters appear to be perhaps 70% gone. Although some of them are still reasonably dark. The same goes for the mountains etc. I can feel some very, very minor scarring on the two dark areas nearest my forearm (where the skin is thinnest, I think). Very slight though.
The areas of brown still continue to depress me. They look ugly. I kind of wish I'd never had a treatment with the Ruby laser, as it only served to darken things up a little, in my opinion. You might remember, we did three test patches on one of the sun-rays last time. Two with the YAG at different strengths, and one with the Ruby at quite a high power. The two with the YAG have done little (the patch with the higher fluence is still slightly red). The Ruby patch potentially looks a little lighter, but also the skin doesn't look like it should yet. I don't think I'll ask her to touch the sun-rays tomorrow. Whilst I detest them with a passion, they are still fairly light, and I know if she treats them there's every chance they could turn dark for a few weeks. Its our honeymoon in 5 weeks or so, and I know I'm going to be self-conscious enough of the rest of the tattoo - I can't be dealing with darker rays too. It will have been around 14 weeks since the other rays were treated, and they haven't done much. If they don't appear to have changed at my next treatment (22 weeks) then we'll have to hit them again I suppose. I'm still confident I can see ink in there when I press down on them and contort the skin in certain ways.
So, the ever-changing plan at the moment is, decide on the best treatment parameters tomorrow and have a decent, overall treatment (except the rays). Take 8 weeks for fading/healing. Within this time I'm getting married, going on our honeymoon etc - so I should have enough going on to keep my mind fairly occupied. Have another treatment a couple of days after we get back (mid-June) - this could potentially be a complete treatment of the whole tattoo. Then take 3 months off over the summer for extended healing and fading. This'll take me up to 7 treatments.
It's depressing to think that next month will be a year since I decided to remove the sun-rays, and they're still there, admittedly a lot less dark. This month marks 8 months since I started removal of the rest of the tattoo (and is kind of what I count as my official starting point). I keep trying to remind myself that 8 months is still fairly on in terms of tattoo removal. I really hope that in another 8 months time I'll be close to end of this nonsense. It saps so much of my mental energy. Just earlier today I got ready for a gym session, got sidetracked a little by looking at the tattoo just before I left the house, and the next thing I know I was feeling miserable and decided I couldn't be bothered. Terrible I know. That's what this monster does to me!
I'm determined to get out in t-shirts this summer, regardless of where I'm at. I won't be confined to long sleeves this time! Plus, I know that the things will be more positive than they were 8 months ago, when things were REALLY dark and REALLY brown.
I must apologise about the picture quality. There's something really tricky about trying to take a decent picture of your inner arm! Hopefully you can just about decipher what's been going on. I find the tattoo looks different in different lighting. In dull day light it looks darker and generally hideous, compared to artificial light. I'm sorry also that I haven't been taking pictures consistently in the same light/room/position.
I hope everyone else is getting along well with their removals. It's really great to see this forum flourishing and packed with people at lots of different stages of removal. I'd like to thank everyone again for their continued support, not just to me, but to one another also.
I'll potentially update again after my treatment tomorrow. However, if we just go ahead with another treatment with the YAG, there might not be too much to report, in which case I'll update in a few weeks.
22 Apr 2014
11 months post
Said I probably wouldn't update, but what the heck...
Completed session 6 last night, feel OK about it. We discussed the best way to approach it and settled on leaving the sun rays this time and treating the rest of the tattoo with the YAG 1064nm at 11 joules, again with a 3mm spot size. Slightly more power than last time. We got some good frosting, which lasted a couple of minutes, probably the best I've had so far. The 'snap' of the laser this time was very loud and sparky, which I can I only assume was a good thing, as it interacted with the ink. The whole treated area temporarily became raised (as you can see in the photo) and seems normal for me, soon going down after half an hour or so.
We did a very small patch of the light stuff with the 532nm, as a test. The frosting (as you can see) was bright white! It also lasted for longer too. This got my hopes up a little, but my technician reminded me that this wavelength interacts with the blood under the skin, so pretty much always gets a reaction. We'll see if anything happens.
I'm fortunate in that Emily (my technician) has done some courses in camouflage makeup. We spent the first twenty minutes of the session matching my skin up with the right shade of 'Dermacolor' - she had some colour palettes in her office. I've managed to find a couple places online that sell it, for reasonable prices, so will order some in the next few days, once I'm healed. I'll let you know how I get on with this at my next update, but it looks really good so could be worth a go for some people!
I hope I'm Ok mentioning the brand name?
I'm going to update again in 8 weeks time, just before number 7 on the 17th June.
Thought I'd check in, as it's been a few weeks!
I've seen decent changes with my last two treatments. The difference between the Quanta and the laser I was being treated with to begin with is quite apparent. Although what I'm gaining in improved fading, I'm having to exercise more patience with healing. It's fair to say my last treatment was aggressive (so was the one prior). I'm noticing lingering redness (even now, 5 weeks from the last treatment). It's most noticeable around the dark areas, like the lettering. One of the words, nearest my armpit (interestingly) is now pretty much indecipherable, but there is some redness (maybe some hyperpigmentation in it's place). You can kind of see what I mean in the picture (not the same part of the text).
I had originally planned to have my next treatment (17th June) and then take there months off, but I'm wondering now if it would be sensible (as much as I'm gonna hate it) to cancel the session and take the next few months off. The skin has been subject to three aggressive treatments since Christmas (1 Ruby session also - picture on left is post Ruby healing), not to mention the treatments I had last year. Apparently an extended break, mid treatment, can really had a positive impact - allowing for proper healing and extended fading.
The other part of my brain wants to get another treatment in the bag, and I'm worried I'll be obsessing about whether or not I should have had one or not over the summer!!
We go on our honeymoon this weekend for two weeks (now a married man! Scary stuff!). I'm determined not to obsess about it. There'll be occasions when I'm topless I expect, I'm really hoping I'm not overly self conscious of it. I know that I'm going to be 'aware' of it the whole time.
I've got some strong sun lotion to throw on it daily and will be taking care of it.
I guess I'll decide what to do when I return. My clinic is great and said it's no problem if I want to cancel right up until the day before. Hopefully it may even fade more in the two weeks I'm away. I do sometimes wonder if the real fading begins only once the skin has healed - in which case I may have been jumping at these treatments too prematurely!
We haven't touched the sun rays since January, and I've decided not to touch them till the rest of the tattoo is at the same level. Despite how much I hate them, I can't risk spoiling my summer even more by potentially making them worse or darkening them up. For now I'm using Dermacolor to help lighten them. This boosts my confidence a little bit. It's good stuff, if anyone is thinking of checking it out.
As always, good fading and good healing to all.
Catch up in a few weeks!!
Time For A Break...
Got home today from our honeymoon.. Had a really great time. Managed to keep the tattoo out of the sun pretty much the whole time. I did feel self conscious when doing the little sun-bathing I did, but I kind of expected that. Pretty much half of the people on our cruise ship sported some kind of tattoo! It's pretty crazy when you see people walking around in their bathing gear, just how many people have some kind of tattoo, be it a small or a large one.
Anyway... I had a few down days (some worse than others), and thought about the tattoo a lot (like I have been doing for a year now).
I find there are times when I feel I should just go for a coverup and be done with this, but I MUST press on!
Like I mentioned in my last post, I've decided to postpone my next appointment (which was due in a couple of days). It's going to be pretty tough but I'm going to wait at least another 6 weeks before I have another treatment. Possibly longer. As you can see in the picture, there is still healing taking place, even after almost 8 weeks. Areas of the tattoo get a little pink still when rubbed. I think the skin on this particular part of the body is quite delicate, and perhaps takes longer to sort itself out. You can see the pink area near my armpit that she tested the 532nm with (the area that got the really white frosting). This is taking AGGGGESSSS to heal for some reason. Anyone know what I could use to speed this up?
Also, you'll notice that there appears to be areas (most prominently around the lettering) of brown-ness (not just the areas of shading that have been like that from the start). I think this is either a) hyperpigmentation or b) broken down ink migrating away from the site. Either way, I don't think another session right now would be sensible, considering there still appears to be a lot going on. I also want to test the theory that an extended break, mid treatment, can yield some good results.
I'm buckling up for another uncomfortable summer (mentally speaking mostly) but taking some solace in the fact that I've come a good way since last summer (and hopefully won't feel quite a miserable as I did a year ago!). Hopefully this time next year all that'll be left is a faded reminder of all of this (which I've pretty much come to accept is likely the reality now - hopefully very faded, mind!).
Anyway, comparison picture above from start till now. Lighting is artificial in the most recent one. It's ugliness changes depending on what light you view it in. With natural light in a room it looks pretty gross, but I'm gonna use the Dermacolour to fade it down a bit and hopefully get me through the summer.
This'll probably be my last update for a few weeks. I'm going to keep track of everyone else's reviews and comment where I can. We're all in this together!!
Keep going people, keep going.
Just Checking In...
So following my last post I decided to take an even longer break - my next session is booked for September 9th. This'll have been a 4.5 month (around 20 week) gap. I'm already almost 12 weeks post my last treatment, which is considerably longer than I've waited before, and I think my skin is benefiting from it. The black areas of the tattoo are now well and truly broken up, and in some spots are almost completely gone, which is nice to see. I'm hopeful that things will continue to improve over the next 8 weeks. The redness seems to have calmed right down, but I do still have some lingering hyperpigmentation, which will hopefully settle down.
Going forward I've decided to put 12 weeks between treatments - this means that'll I've had ten treatments (4 more) by the time next summer rolls around, and I really hope I'll be almost done by then. This still weighs very heavily on my mind for a great deal of the time, but I'm hoping that persistence will pay off in the end.
I'll post a full picture with my next update, after treatment 7, in September. I just wanted to highlight the break up in the dark areas in this update.
I'm gradually coming to terms with the fact that the skin there will never likely look as good as new again, as there are some sections of the tattoo that are very slightly raised - but provided we can get all the pigment out, I'll be ok with this.
As ever, best of luck to everyone and keep at it!
Better Progress Comparison Pics...
Sorry to update twice in two days...
Was on a bit of a downer this evening, so decided to try and pull together some more comparison images. I must apologise for the lack of continuity - not only do I apparently make bad tattoo choices, but I also can't seem to grasp the concept of taking pictures in the same lighting!
Anyway, next month will mark a year since I started full removal - here's where we're at...
Promise not to update again till September..
This thing is really taking it's toll on me of late. I'm not too proud to say I've been reduced to tears because of this whole mess on more than one occasion recently - which to some may sound pathetic, but it's true.
The tattoo today looks as dark and as brown as ever. It's clear my tattoo hasn't responded to laser treatment in the way most do. I'm now left with a black/brown mess on my arm that I can't stand the sight of and just perpetually makes me feel miserable.
I've emailed a nearby clinic (i mentioned them earlier in my review) to ask to see their consultant dermatologist, who specialises in laser treatment. I'll be asking him for his expert opinion and what the likelihood is of this staining clearing. It's clear that waiting isn't helping - the sun rays were last treated almost seven months ago and they're pretty much as dark today as they were then. I still hope that some kind of optimal laser settings are required to remove this browning, but it could be permanent, I really don't know anymore. I'm also experiencing brownness appearing around the lettering, which wasn't the case before. It's just all a little too much. I don't want to pay any more money on treatments if they're just going to make things worse and not better. I certainly don't want to be stuck with a brown silhouette of a tattoo either. I'm being as patient as I can, but I can only go so far.
If the consultant is unable to help then i may well start looking at a coverup. It seems like my last option. It would be something i'd have to think very long and hard about (something I neglected to do when I first got the tattoo) and would have be done by the best artist I could find. That said, I still don't know if it's light enough to cover yet! At the beginning of my review I think I said tattoos aren't me, but in hindsight I'm wondering if I felt that because this tattoo put me off. Maybe if I can get something I really like that looks fantastic over the top of it, then, who knows.
The pictures in my previous couple of updates look considerably better than the tattoo does in person. I just took another one and it looked awful - so much so that I can't bring myself to post it.
I feel pretty hopeless right now.
So sorry to post such a negative update. Like I've mentioned before, I want to be as candid as possible in documenting this process - including all the very low points!
I know there are people on here who have been at this for a lot longer than me, but I'm so mentally drained from a year of constant worry and obsessing, that I need to do something about it now.
I'll let you know if I get an appointment with the consultant.
In the mean time, good luck to everyone as ever, and I look forward to continuing offering my support where I can.
Woke up this morning feeling a little more positive again. I was having a pretty rough weekend with it all, and probably overeacted a bit when I said that the tattoo was still so dark and a real mess. Probably doesnt help that I spend so much time prodding it, pulling it and poking it about! I shouldn't have written my last update - negativity like that doesn't help anyone! I'm sorry.
That said, I still get taken aback by how kind and generous people are with their support on here. Thank you again for the ongoing comments. I've updated quite a bit lately, and I hope it doesn't look like a cry for attention.
I promise my next update will bring more positive news.
In the meantime, I'm going to start thinking about how I might go about a coverup, but it wouldn't/shouldn't be something I go ahead with (if it gets to that point) until next year. Can't hurt to start throwing a few ideas about.
Enjoy your week folks, I'm making it my goal to stop this obsessive thinking! :)
Five Month Break Complete, Now Show Me The Laser! (But First, A Consultation)
Just wrote a huge update before my laptop decided to restart and I lost it all!!
Summer time is coming to a close here and the weather is starting to cool down a little (which is good news for those us tiring of having to make excuses about being in long sleeves!).
My last treatment was back in April, and I (reluctantly) wanted to take some time away from the laser to allow for some extended fading and to give the skin a bit of time off from getting beaten up!!
So, how's it looking....?
Well, there has been some definite fading in all of the dark areas (the lettering and the mountains). Some of the lettering nearest the armpit is all but gone (which I assume is due to more movement and friction in that area, drawing more blood in. My last treatment was pretty intense, and as a result an army of melanin warriors decided to join the battle - resulting in some brownness around the inked areas (on parts of the skin that contain no ink), mainly the lettering. I have theorised about this, and wondered if this was due to the spot size used being wider than the area of ink (talking about the lettering here), and so something was also being targeted within the un-inked skin (even though I know its mostly only supposed to target the ink pigment) - anyway, not sure about that.
The lighter areas remained kind of the same, and may have faded slightly (the shading at the bottom etc). The sunrays have perhaps faded a fraction since they were treated at the start of the year, but their brown silhouette remains very much there and haunts me daily! In certain lights and at certain angles I can see that they are ever so slightly raised up - so I assume we're dealing with some minor scarring. I also have a couple of very small (what I think are) keloids in the darker areas, which I assume could have been due to scabs coming off prematurely. I'm not too worried about these, although they do get a little pink from time to time. All in all I think the extended break was a good idea.
So, i'm 6 treatments in, and if I had to guess, from looking at the tattoo, I'd say its between 50-60% faded. Not bad for 6 treatments, but still a good way from what I'd consider an acceptable outcome. My last two treatments (with the Quanta Q Plus A) probably yielded the best results so far, but the trade off has been some additional hyperpigmentation (and maybe even a little scarring).
The whole brown thing still gets to me. I don't know if I'll be able to settle with a light brown silhouette of the tattoo, once all the ink is gone, I'm just not sure that's an aesthetically sufficient outcome for me. So, for that reason, I decided to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist to get their opinion on my progress so far, what the brown is and if it can be targeted/dispersed etc etc. You may remember from earlier in my treatment that I'd scheduled to see him before, but pulled out due to how expensive it was. I re-booked to see him, and am due to do so this Thursday.
I know some people on here think that seeing a dermatologist is a waste of time, as they don't really have an understanding about how tattoos are applied etc, but, this guy (according to the credentials on the website) is a consultant dermatologist and laser specialist of international standing. He has collaborated with the likes of Cynosure and Candela as an advisor and clinical researcher and is considered the leading opinion on non ablative laser treatment in the whole region. I get twenty minutes with this guy, for quite an obscene amount of money, and I plan on walking in there with a list of twenty questions and lots of photographs etc. Depending on how the consultation goes, I suppose he may offer his services to remove the remainder of the tattoo, tackle the brown etc. Or, he may just tell me to keep going where I am. I know one of the worst things you can do in removal is switch clinics (especially more than once!), but I got to be smart here. If he offers his services and the price is similar to what I'm paying now, then I may be very tempted. They're also situated within five minutes of me, not an hour. It all depends on how well the consultation goes and if I develop an affinity with this guy. I'll also be asking him (purely out of interest) what my surgical options would be (if any).
So, that's where I'm at at the moment. I'll be sure to post an update once I've met with him and I'll try take some decent photos (although I find it more difficult each time, as I just hate looking at the thing!!).
On a side note, I've been seeing a therapist recently to try and help with obsessional thoughts on this thing. We're working on 'accepting uncertainty' - which is pretty relevant when it comes to tattoo removal! I'll also keep you posted on if that helps.
All the best for now.
So I went and saw the consultant dermatologist this afternoon - wasn't fantastic, but wasn't bad either, I guess. I don't really know what I was hoping for, to be honest.
Anyway. I gave him a brief rundown of the situation, and showed him a couple pictures. I spent all day trying to work out what I was going to say, but still couldn't get it all out in the right order, nor say everything I wanted - but I think he got the jist. I said my primary worry is being left with a brown silhouette once the ink is gone. I showed him the tattoo. He had a look in to the skin using some pretty cool handheld device with a light attached - very similar to what doctors use when they peer in to your ears! He said that the colour wasn't the right kind of brown to be hemosiderin (iron deposits) so I guess I can finally cross that off the list of suspects. He pretty much agreed it was an abundance of melanin, the colour producing cells, possibly mixed in with some ink particles too. He did a couple of small patches with a fractional laser (which I barely felt!). Nothing much happened except for turning the skin a little red for a few minutes. More interestingly he advised me to go away and try a cream called 'Pigmanorm'. They ship it in from Germany. It contains 5% Hydroquinone, and essentially works as a depigmenting cream (cost me £40!!) I've heard different things about hydroquinone, and I know it's quite a contentious ingredient, but I'm at the stage now where I'll try anything to reduce this brown tinge. I'm to apply it three times a week (I'll probably apply it every other day) and see how it's looking after a couple of months. I found translated instructions online that say to cease use if it isn't working in three months, so if it is going to doing something, hopefully it should be visible after a few weeks. I still don't know if something topical is going to reach to whatever depth this brown pigment is sitting at, but then again, who knows where it's sitting at!!
I called my clinic and told my technician about my consultation. Reluctantly, at the advice of the doctor, I should continue with my break away from the laser, whilst I give this cream a chance. So for that reason I'm not having a full treatment on Tuesday. However, I am going to have a couple of patches blasted with the Ruby laser again, at different spot sizes and higher energy. We did a really small patch with the Ruby back in March, at a higher energy than my full treatment with it back in January (the one that didn't do much) and it looks almost like some clear skin peaking trough, but it's too small to tell, hence I want to go a little bigger.
The waiting game sucks so bad, especially when not a lot appears to be happening. If this cream doesn't deliver, and the Ruby laser doesn't do anything, then I'll have to weigh up my options (which are fairly limited!!). The doctor did say that studies have shown that ink will continue to fade up to a year after a treatment, so that made me feel a little better in knowing that all this time passing me buy isn't being completely wasted!
I'll post again after my patch tests with the Ruby next week. Not really worth putting up a picture at the moment, as it's so hard to capture what's going on, and doesn't look too different from when I posted in April.
Ruby Patch Tests
Just made the 2.5 hour round trip for a few patch tests with the Ruby. Could be clutching at straws but a (really) small patch we did with it back in March almost seems to be showing signs of clear skin in one of the sun rays, so I wanted to do a couple of bigger patches, with a couple different settings (high fluence) to see if it can fade the brown at all.
Quite frustrating not to have a full treatment, especially as it's been five months since my last, but I'm going on the dermatologists advice, and want to see of the Pigamanorm does anything to help reduce the brown on the rest of the tattoo.
So, to summarise, I'm now going to wait and watch for a few weeks a) to see if the Pigmanorm fades the brown at all or b) if the Ruby fades the brown at all. Best case scenario is at least one of the square patches we hit with the Ruby clears, or at the very least shows some fading. Second best case scenario is that the Ruby does nothing, but the Pigmanorm does. Worst case scenario is that neither does anything. Irrespective of what happens, I'll be having another treatment before Christmas. My technician and I agreed that there's still a decent amount of black to target, and once that's gone the whole thing will appear really light. We can worry about the brown later.
I'll update again in a few weeks. Fingers crossed.
So I've just got home from my seventh session (not including the small test patches I've had done here and there) after a 6.5 month layoff.
Unfortunately (as you might see in the picture) the Ruby patches hasn't fully healed yet, and are sill red, so it's not clear to tell if they did a great deal. My technician was quite surprised by this, as it's been 6 weeks. On a side note, I'm thinking of asking my doctor for a diabetes test, as I've noticed I tend to heal a little slower on other parts of the body too (and pee quite a lot!!) - anyone any experience with this?
Today we went for a partial treatment on the remaining script and mountains. I wanted to leave the sunrays again and also the shaded area below the script, as I plan on continuing the Pigmanorm cream on these sections over the next couple of months. My thinking being, if these brown areas are a post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation response then going over them again could just end up 'stacking up' more melanin under the skin, which I don't want. So, if I give the Pigmanorm cream (which contains 5% hydroquinone) a full and thorough chance of supressing the melanocytes and THEN go over the areas with the laser, in theory this should lead to easier targetting of the remaining ink and less likelihood or additional brownness forming (IF it is melanin). I'm only 7 weeks in to using the cream, so by waiting till my next appointment on January 10th, i think it will have had enough opportunity to do its thing. If not much has changed then at least I know I've tried it. All a little complicated, I know. Hope that makes sense!! I'm trying to approach this as sensibly as possible. One thing I do take a little comfort in is that I can actually see there is still some targetable ink left within the sun rays. So at the very least we should be able to fade them down a bit more.
Anyway, I expressed my concern that the uninked areas around the ink (especially the lettering) took on a little of this browness after my last two sessions, and so I asked about using the 2mm spot, to try and reduce overlap on to uninked skin, which we did. We went over the remaining dark stuff in as much detail as possible. We were up pretty high with the fluence (around 20j I think), and managed to hit most of it. Still getting a good 'snap' reaction and some immediate frosting, although this session seemed a little less painful than the others. The difficulty arose when all my surrounding skin started turning red (I've got such rediculously over-sensitive skin) which made it a little tricky to decipher the ink. Anyway, all in all I'm relatively happy with how it went, and ready to push on with this now.
I'm also trialling a new aftercare lotion - so I'll be sure to let you guys know if this helps. Right now the area isn't very painful at all - I don't know if this is the lotion, or if it's because there was less damage caused by the laser, due to their being less ink!
All the best for now folks. I'll update the day of session 8 on January 10th, when we'll probably do a complete treatment.
A-ha! those mind games...I remember you.
Not strictly January 8th yet, but thought I'd just quickly post about those post-treatment 'mind games'. Even now, after 7 sessions and 15 months in to this process I still allow my mind to play tricks on me in the first days and even the first few weeks after a treatment. For the first three or four days the scabs cover the ink and 'lift' the skin a little, putting a lot of the ink out of site. You start to think, "wow, has it just obliterated all the remaining tattoo?!". More often than not it hasn't, and after a couple more days, as the scabs naturally come away, the ink reveals itself again..coupled with some pretty ugly looking red, healing skin. It's around this time you may find that your asking yourself "what the hell did I do". I find this to be quite a low time (at least I have in the past).
I'm probably preaching mostly to the already well-educated on here, but for those who are new to this and perhaps don't fully understand the process that the ink/skin is going through after each session, it's important to remember that the full extent of the success of your most recent laser session is only fully realised just before your next treatment. It's a very gradual process of breaking up the ink, then allowing the body to naturally collect it up and take it away over the following weeks and months. Don't get sucked in to thinking that a treatment has done nothing (assuming the technician has used sufficient settings) in the first couple of weeks or probably even the first month... The real work happens in the weeks following on from that!!
I hope that reassures a few people (myself included!)
All the best for now. This is my last update of 2015. I hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas and I'll update on Jan 8th (as per the original plan!!)