Tattoo Removal - Cardiff, Wales

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Hi all, My name is Chad, and I'm a 22-year-old...

Hi all,

My name is Chad, and I'm a 22-year-old from Cardiff, Wales, UK.

I've been going through laser tattoo removal for almost a year now, and I've gotten a lot of comfort from following your stories on here. In return, I now feel it's time to share my own story.

I have two tattoos; one is my daughter's name, Lexie, and the other is a horrendous star tattoo that goes up my right arm. I got these tattoos within two months of each other at the end of 2011.

After having my daughter's name tattooed on me, which I loved, I rushed into getting another tattoo. This time, it was five star outlines that got bigger as you went up my arm. Looking at the photo, I cannot believe how disgusting it actually was, and I can't understand why I wanted something so terrible in the first place (but we all say that of course.) When I got married a few months later and saw photos of myself topless on my honeymoon, it was then I realised how bad the tattoo actually was. It was time to get rid of it!

I contacted a nearby laser clinic who quoted me £65 per session with their Q-switched YAG laser (is that right?). So, since last October I've been going there every 6 weeks. At first, I saw a real difference, but after the third session or so the results became very poor and There was very little difference, even for a black tattoo which supposedly responds best. On one occasion, I even asked them to turn up the 'oomph' as I just wasn't satisfied with the results. The two women who operated the laser seemed to rush and would always chat about other things that were totally irrelevant. Additionally, the laser clinic was actually part of a dentist, so I don't think laser was their speciality. Altogether I had 7 sessions at this clinic.

A few weeks later my wife very honestly told me that she thought I was being ripped off as nothing was happening after each treatment. I agreed straight away. After that, I contacted some other clinics and came across a very reputable one which had been open since 1988 (as opposed to a year or so at the other place!!). I went for a consultation and was quoted £80 per treatment to remove the stars, a little more than I was paying before. Each treatment was 4 weeks apart.

I was REALLY excited about this place - their laser, the Harmony XLI, is the only one here in Wales, and has won the gold aesthetic award for the last three years. Great!

So, I turned up for my first appointment recently and they were so much more professional and friendly compared to the other place. I even got a free cuppa! The faded photo above was how my tattoo looked just before my first treatment here. Unfortunately I haven't been taking photos after each treatment, but I will from now on.

There were even more surprises about this place; turns out, the other clinic were doing almost everything wrong. Firstly, my session at this new clinic was around 20 minutes long, compared to five minutes. Secondly, they would sometimes change the attachment on the end of the laser if they didn't think the light was penetrating enough which I thought was really good. And thirdly, they put a bandage on me (which I'd never had before), and when I asked for the aloe Vera gel they were horrified to hear that I'd been using that stuff. Apparently the tattoo must stay DRY. Yeah, this was a real eye opener.

At the end of the session I also mentioned - and bare with me here - that I want the tattoo of my daughter's name removed too. I know, I know. I can picture your face. It's not because we hate each other or anything, she's only 2-years-old! Basically, the tattoo (photo attached) takes up half my forearm and, well, we recently found out we're having another baby girl, due in January! Of course, I'd have to be fair to the other baby and have her name tattooed on my other arm. BUT, I really don't want that - two bulky black tattoos on each of my arms.

Instead, I've promised my daughter (and wife) that I'll get a much smaller, more sensible tattoo on the inside of my left bicep. That way, it's small and hidden away all the time.

The clinic was kind enough to do a test patch on this tattoo and I was amazed to see the ink completely disappear (photo attached).That's one impressive laser! I can't afford to have treatment on both tattoos at the same time, so I'll definitely be removing this after my stars are gone. I think it will be a much more positive journey that time, as it's not a tattoo I'm ashamed and embarrassed of. Very much excited to start treatment on it!

Apologies for the very lengthy story, but it's so reassuring to read all your stories on here and see frequent updates. I promise to do the same! You guys are all so supportive of each other. Here's to complete removal!

Laser distance from tattoo?

Hi all, hope you're having a great week so far.

So I've been doing some research about the laser I am currently having treatment with (Harmony XL), and I've just stumbled across a video of it in use. In the video, the technician is practically pressing the laser against someone's arm and moving it slowly along.

In my treatments so far, I have always had the laser approx 2-3 cms from my arm.

I wondered if any of you have your laser pressed up against your tattoos and if you think this has any benefit? I'm going to ask my technician about it when I go for my next session in nine days (whose counting?)


9th session down

Hi all. Hope you're enjoying the weekend so far. It's raining and cold here so I'm staying inside in the warm today!

So I had my 9th session on Thursday. It wasn't much different to my last, but they seemed sure that the tattoo had faded since my previous session - which is good!

In my last post on here I mentioned that I had seen a video online where a technician is moving the laser along the skin (touching it), so I asked them about this. My technician was very honest; she said it's quite hard to explain, but when someone first starts tattoo removal, they will sometimes start with the laser on the skin. As the tattoo becomes lighter, it actually becomes more effective to move the laser away from the skin as it somehow picks it up better. She showed me what she meant by placing the laser right on my skin. The laser was really quiet and nothing was really happening. So, if your technician is placing the laser right against you and you're not seeing great results, then this may be why.

Oh and apologies to wilks - I promised I would also ask about the brownish colour but forgot! I will remember next time. Honest.

When I came out, I asked if they had heard of picosure and the R20 method. They hadn't heard of either before, so I showed them this website and pointed out a few reviews of people having picosure. Unsurprisingly, they were shocked at the price.

It seems I stirred a bit of a debate about the R20 method; some of them were horrified at the thought of having more than one session within an hour, where as others said they would actually be willing to try it. Turns out, they've contacted their laser company to see if this is something they could do. I would definitely be willing!

Anyway, I've attached some photos since the treatment. I've been told to keep the tattoo DRY for 48 hours so I'm unable to clean it yet, hence why it looks like it could do with a wash!

I'll post another photo when it's looking less red.

Hope you're all doing well with your removals.

We're getting there.. 10th session on Monday

Hi everyone. Not long til the weekend now! I'm going on a mini holiday this weekend so I thought now was the best time to update the ol' review.

So I've had two treatments with the Harmony XL now and I have my third on Monday (can't wait). All I can say is the results have been just as good as the seven I had with the laser before. I'm really impressed and I'm hoping that it goes (or nearly goes) within the next four sessions - I paid upfront for six.

The tattoo is looking very faded. It should start losing its star shape any time now hopefully! With my second daughter due in just over three months, I'm extremely keen to get started on removing my 'Lexie' tattoo. It's not going to be until after the baby is born, but I hope it's not too long after.

In a previous update, I said that I was considering having a tattoo of both my daughters' names on the inside of my left bicep. I've had a look at some designs and I think I've pretty much settled on one. It's sensible, hidden, small, and something I am confident I will never regret. I will probably end up having it done (if I do) while removing the 'Lexie' tattoo, so the aim then will be to remove the old tattoo so that only the new is left. That's the plan.

With the stars, some areas have now faded beautifully. I've attached some photos (sorry for the poor lighting), and on the second smallest star there is a small freckle that I forgot was even there - because of the ink obviously. The majority of my tattoo is now a light brown colour so if it isn't gone in the next few sessions, it will certainly be almost gone. It's a shame I had to go to such a bad clinic first, as it could be much more faded at this point.

I'll let you all know how the 10th session goes on Monday. Hope your removals are going just as well!

Session 10 done

Hi all. So I just had my 10th session (about an hour ago) and it went really well. It's looking incredibly faded now and I have real faith in the technicians who work there; they are lovely people and they really show an interest in getting this thing off me. For anyone who might be living in my area, the clinic is called Beauty Advance who are based in Whitchurch in Cardiff. They really 'big up' the Harmony XL on their website too.

So they did things slightly different this time. It's hard to tell from the photo, but a different attachment was used on the bottom star. She said it's worth giving it a go to see if it responds any better. I can't remember what the particular attachment was called, but it's apparently very effective at removing red. The bottom star has those white patches, just like you get after your first few treatments. Obviously there is no red ink on my tattoo but it never hurts to try something new.

I'm really hoping it loses its shape soon as it will be so much easier to cope with and I won't be so embarrassed about it. I've booked my next session for five weeks time as I rely on a bonus that I get from work every six months to pay for treatment. I don't want to be getting them too closely together.

Hope you're all feeling positive at the moment. Winter is just around the corner I'm sure your tattoos will all be covered with thick clothing for a while. :)

Bottom star is looking red

It's been five days since my 10th session now. The top four stars are continuing to fade, as you'd expect. I had a different laser on the bottom star (still need to find out what it was called), and it's looking very red and patchy at the moment. It almost looks scabby, but it isn't. It hurts to touch more than the others.

I'm really excited to see what happens with this bottom star over the next few weeks. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I'm sure some of the ink has gone. I can't tell for sure yet though. Will keep you all updated. Have a great weekend.

KTP tip

So I just tweeted my technician and she apparently used a KTP tip on my bottom star. Let's hope we see some good results with it. :)

Pink skin

Hi everyone. I'm suddenly a RealFriend! But I'm not sure when this happened?! Really pleased though.

Only a week left until my 11th treatment. This has definitely been the most interesting waiting period yet.

At my last treatment a different tip was used on my bottom star, and the usual tip was used on the others. Within days of the treatment, the bottom star had lots of tiny scabs where the laser had been zapping it, which I have never had before.

When I looked closely behind the scabs, the amount of fading was just incredible. I'm confident that the majority of ink had gone.

The scabs have since fallen off, but I am now left with a pink star which is new, fresh skin. I haven't been able to stop wondering how long this skin will take to revert to its original colour, and I've been frantically searching online with no answers. I'm applying bio-oil twice daily to prevent scarring. Has anyone else had this and how long did it take for the pink to go? I hope it's only a few weeks, and I hope even more that it isn't permanent!

I'm excited but nervous - it could be that there is no ink left and when the pink does go; the star could be completely gone! Or, there could still be ink left and I need another treatment on it. Let's hope it's the first outcome.

Apart from that, the other stars are continuing to fade - slowly. I've put a lot of faith into this new tip, and I'm not sure the usual tip is going to completely remove it. So, GO KTP TIP!!

Hope you're having a great weekend and feeling positive with your removals. :-)

11th session tomorrow

Just a quick update - tomorrow is my 11th session. The pinkness on the bottom star is continuing to fade as I'm sure the ink is underneath. I'm really excited to see what it looks like after it's healed fully.

Tomorrow I'll be asking for the same laser tip that was used on the bottom star. I imagine they'll leave the bottom star well alone this time as any injury is sure to cause scarring.

I'd like to add that going forward, I will be waiting 5-6 weeks between sessions. This is because the pinkness takes quite a while to heal, and it takes about two weeks for the actual scabs to fall off. I don't want to do any damage, so I'll wait longer if necessary.

With our second daughter due in just over two months, I'm super keen to get started on removing the 'Lexie' tattoo. It's sad to be doing it, but I really want a new, smaller tattoo with both their names - one I won't ever regret.

I'll probably post my next update in a couple of weeks as my arm is going to be pretty sore for a while. I'll continue to apply bio-oil twice a day. I have quite a bit of browning too, so let's see if this new laser tip makes it disappear.

It's alive!

Right - I said I wouldn't post an update for a few weeks. However, I had my 11th session about three hours ago and THIS is what my arm looks like. My bandage fell off which is why I was able to take the photo. I have a new one on now.

I've seen a lot of photos with blistering but is this normal? There's no chance of scarring is there? I'll admit I was scared to show this to my wife, lol.

My next session is on the 19th December which is just under six weeks away (it was that or well into January). The technician also said it would be fine to treat the bottom star again, so she did.

I was also told that apparently, someone had walked into the clinic recently saying they had seen my story online, and they went ahead with treatment. As a thank you for this they said they will give me a discount on my other tattoo when we get started on it - yay!

Blisters healing

Apologies for adding three updates in the last week. It definitely wasn't my intention to have severe blistering and I'm not trying to constantly be at the top of the review page, honest!

I'm pleased to say the blisters are finally beginning to calm down, just slightly. They are really sore and they tend to leak quite a lot. Unfortunately I had to burst the huge blister at the top as it became so painful and I was bound to pop it accidentally at some point anyway.

I'm dabbing bio-oil on the blisters using cotton wool to try and speed things up. It's impossible to tell if anything has faded as I can't even see the tattoo at the moment - fading happens over time anyway!

I forgot to add in my last update; when I went in for treatment, the technician said that somebody had come in based on a review they had seen online. Turns out it was my review on here. It was quite a nice feeling to have helped someone decide to go forward with treatment. If you're that person and you're reading this, then I hope I helped, and maybe you could post photos of your own progress here?

I've also been asked to visit the BBC studios near me for an interview about tattoo removal, which will then be played on the radio. I guess this shows that tattoo removal is becoming a huge thing and that a lot of people are regretting their tattoos.

Hope you're all doing well!

Just a quick one..

Had my 11th treatment 11 days ago. I blistered pretty bad, and my whole arm then became scabbed. The scabs have since fallen off and my whole tattoo is bright pink. My next session is just under a month away so hoping the skin would have returned to normal colour then. I'm confident that the fading has been really good!

I also had my interview with the BBC about tattoo removal which was great fun. The interview was prerecorded and should be aired in a few weeks - I'll let you all know when in case you fancy a listen.

Radio interview

Hi folks. If you're interested, my interview about tattoo removal is on air tomorrow. It's on BBC Radio 1 at 12.45 and again at 5.45 UK time. I believe it can also be listened to in BBC Iplayer. Not sure if you guys in other countries have a way of listening?

I've not heard it myself but I'm sure I will be cringing like mad.

Tattoo - still very pink after last treatment. Treatment 12 is three weeks away so hoping it would have calmed down by then. Very, very eager to see how it has all faded underneath. Fingers crossed!

Treatment 12 on 19th Dec

My skin is still pretty damaged from the last session. My tattoo blistered all over and then it scabbed all over. The scabs left fresh pink skin, and nearly six weeks later, the skin is still quite pink.

I'll be asking for the same wavelength again (but turned up) as it's doing a really good job, but I also don't fancy an arm of blisters again. I'll need to ask if there is anything I can do to prevent it.

The bottom two stars are by far looking the best. I think the tattoo looks darker than it actually is because the pinkness is covering the ink, which I'm sure has faded a lot. I think it's going to take a couple if months for the pink to return to normal colour.

I've said this in one or two posts before but I really hope it starts losing its shape after this treatment. I'll feel much better as soon as the star shapes are gone and it becomes difficult to work out what the tattoo was.

Hope your removals are going well and that you're looking forward to Christmas. I've attached a few photos (two inside the house and three outside - I struggled to get some good light).

12th session down

I had my 12th treatment last Thursday. The tattoo had healed enough that they were happy to go at it again. They used the KTP tip (532nm) again but did not turn it up due to the blistering last time. To stop the blistering this time, they tried not to go so close with things and left little gaps to allow the heat to escape from the skin. I can safely say that I have not blistered - phew. I can already see great progress and I'm sure it will continue to fade over the next six weeks. In the meantime, I hope you all have an amazing Christmas. Don't spend too much time thinking about your tattoos okay?

PS: Please ignore the fact that I commented this update first. I'm an idiot and I wish I could delete it! lol!

Considering the 1064nm again

While the KTP (532nm) is fading my tattoo quite well, it's doing a lot of damage to my skin. Ever since I was treated this way, my skin has always been red and has looked sore.

If I squeeze my skin to see underneath the redness, the amount of ink left is not much at all! The redness makes the tattoo look so much darker than it probably is.

As such, I'm going to ask to be treated with the 1064nm again at my next session (30th Jan). I'm hoping it will be able to blast away the final bits of ink that are left and will also allow the redness to go away. When I was treated with this before, my skin never turned red, nor did it scab, so when the redness does go away, we should hopefully see just how faint it has become!

Any opinions or thoughts are welcomed! Oh, and I hope you all had a great Christmas!

Delaying appointment

I've done some thinking today and I am likely going to delay my next appointment by about two weeks, maybe more if I feel I can. I want to give the redness time to heal until it becomes clear how things are looking underneath.

Also, here is a photo of the second star up when I stretch the skin. Not sure how accurate this is but you can see how faint things are looking.

Appointment rescheduled

I finally managed to reschedule my next session, so it is now on the 20th of Feb. This equals nine weeks from my last treatment. I'm hoping that this will be enough time for the redness to disappear. If not, then I'll call again just before and delay it by another three (or even another six) weeks! Yep, I'm willing to do it.

It's taken a while for me to realise but as oneTime2many often says, you should allow as long as possible between treatments. This can admittedly be really tough to do as all we want is our tattoos gone; we're under this impression that treatment after treatment will make our tattoos disappear faster.

My mood has generally been better since delaying my appointment too. I'm very, very excited to see how things are looking after nine weeks. It's been so long since my arm hasn't been red and it will be great to see how much ink is left - not much I hope. Again, if the redness still hasn't gone, I'll delay it again. This is something I never thought I would do. I have never gone beyond six weeks before.

In the meantime, I'm taking a photo every Monday just to remind myself that the redness is fading. Wilks also posted about the importance of photos recently, I can't recommend them enough.

In other news, our baby is due next Sunday (19th). I'd really like to get started on my other tattoo soon so that I can finally get a tidy tattoo with both my kid's names. Almost there!

Organic shea butter

I ordered some organic shea butter today as I've heard so many great things about it, including its ability to clear redness. I like that this butter is actually an 'unfinished' product, meaning it never had any chemicals or perfumes added to it.

Here's a link it:

I wondered if any of you use/have used this and how you found it? It's apparently absorbed quite deep into the skin, so is there a chance that it could hinder my future treatments?

Oh, I also had to delay my appointment (again). It is now officially on the 27th of Feb which equals 10 weeks since my last session. I'll continue to post photos every few weeks as the redness fades.

Have a great weekend.

32 days since last session

It's been 32 days (four weeks, four days) since my last treatment. I've been taking a photo every Monday for reassurance that the redness is fading.

I recently bought some shea butter - which comes as what is quite literally - a block of butter. You have to scrape some off and then warm it into your hands. It's yellow and creamy and takes a good while to be absorbed into the skin. I read some great things about it and couldn't resist giving it a try.

I've been applying this once every morning and again at night, along with two layers of bio oil during the day. I feel these have really helped fade the redness so far, particular over the last week when I have been using both products.

Our daughter was born on Wednesday (15th) and she is beautiful. She arrived four days early, and we named her Macey. She has made me even more determined to reach the end of this very difficult path.

I'll update again in two weeks. I'm still following all your stories and they are continuing to give me faith! I'm getting even more excited to see what lies beneath all this redness after 10 weeks.

Will this pinkness/redness/purpleness shift?

Our new bundle of joy has certainly been keeping us occupied these last two weeks. She has done a great job of distracting me from my tattoo, but I still tend to worry and think about the whole process a lot.

It's really frustrating because I know my tattoo looks better than this, but as long as this pink (or whatever colour you think it is) remains, then I can't ever see any progress. I almost feel like I'm not going forward at all.

Has anyone had this after being treated with the 532nm? Is it scarring? How long did it take your skin to return to normal colour? What did you do to speed things up? I am pretty desperate to get rid of the pink.

At my next session I'm going to ask for the 1064nm on full power to really try and pick up any last bits of ink in there. BUT.. I can't do that until the pink is gone. Is it ever going to go? :(

The pink is a lot more obvious when outside, so I took some photos in my back garden this morning. It's been almost six weeks since my last treatment.

46 days since last treatment

I'm not seeing much progress with the redness/pinkness fading. I'll admit that it's starting to frustrate me a little. Personally I can't see any difference at all, so I suspect I'll need to reschedule my next session for 15 weeks, which will be in April.

I'll update again when I start to see progress. I've stopped using creams and oils; although they are great for healing, my technician has advised that it's also good to let the skin dry out, so I'm going to try that for a while.

Session 13

After some thinking I decided to go in for my 13th treatment today. It's been eight weeks since my last treatment.

The original plan was to wait 10-15 weeks and go for a treatment after that. However I've been really keen to use the YAG (1064nm) again.

I stressed that my two main priorities today were, 1) hitting the tattoo as hard as possible to get as deep as possible, and 2) making sure it all reacts perfectly.

We basically used the R20 method; 5mm tip all over and then 3mm tip a short while later. It's quite nice to not be using the KTP (532nm) anymore as it is so brutal to the skin.

I wanted the YAG again as it is supposedly much gentler on the skin and this will hopefully help the dreaded pinkness/redness/purpleness heal.

I never thought I would say this but my next treatment is booked for the 28th May - 15 weeks!! The people on RealSelf who have the most success are the ones who wait, so I'm going to be really patient with this treatment.

I think this could really be a turning point!

Let's get started on the forearm tattoo!

For the first time in weeks, the sun was shining in Cardiff today. When I was sat near the window and the sun shone through, I was really pleased to see how faint my tattoo looked (and it's still healing from a few days ago). As you can see, it's mostly pink, not ink.

It's clear now that time is needed for this pink to heal and to show just how good things are underneath. Although I've booked an appointment for 15 weeks time, I expect it to take longer.

As it's so difficult waiting long periods - which we all of course already know - I'm going to finally start on my forearm tattoo to keep me busy.

I'd like to stress again that I have a perfect bond with my daughter Lexie. I love her very much but the tattoo is simply too big and I no longer want a tattoo on my forearm (should have thought about it more). I'm going to book an appointment for this week and get started on it. When I had the test patch it completely removed the ink, so it will be interesting to see how things go. I intend to go in at full power with the laser.

I am determined not to stress over this tattoo. It will not ruin my life, and when my stars are gone I will wear short sleeves. After my first treatment I am going to try and wait about 14 weeks, which will take me up to my appointment for the stars. If there's one thing I have learned it's that waiting longer between treatments really pays off.

First treatment on forearm

It feels weird to have finally gone ahead with treatment on my forearm, and there's no going back at this point either.

I had my first session yesterday and had the YAG (1064nm) on the highest setting there is. It hurt a fair bit as there is so much ink, but it was bearable.

24 hours later it's blistered (but NOTHING LIKE BEFORE!) and some parts have already broken up, especially on the 'L'. I am going to wait 14 weeks before my next treatment - May 28th. As I have mentioned before, I am in no rush to remove this one and I will not let it destroy my life. My appointments will be very spaced out.

If there were an award for 'most appointment reschedules so far in 2014' I would probably win with my star tattoo. I've been changing my appointments like mad, but I've decided to leave the stars for a good few months while the infamous pinkness heals. I'm hoping to wait a minimum of six months (part of the reason why I have decided to start on the forearm).

So far I've tried a lot of things to battle the pinkness: bio oil, aloe vera, shea butter, sudocrem, etc. I've heard a lot of people talk about silicone and how it's great at removing redness/pinkness, but it doesn't come cheap. Seeing as I'm leaving the stars for a good while, I decided to finally have a go with something called dermatix. It cost me £25 (is that about $30 - $40?). I did plenty of research and read lots of reviews, many of which praised its ability to remove redness. It's apparently recommended by surgeons for post-surgery scars too.

This is very sticky stuff so a little does go a long way. The instructions say that it should be used for a minimum of two months before you see results, so I'm going to stick at it I guess.

Hope your removals are all going just as well, have a great weekend.

The anti-pinkness mission continues..

It's been 10 days since I had the 'Lexie' tattoo treated. I won't post any photos yet as it is still completely scabbed. However, some parts are showing through and it's definitely turned that bluey colour. I'll update on this when the scabs are gone.

Meanwhile, I just didn't get along with the dermatix gel. It was so gloopy and took 74733699 hours to absorb. I had to go everywhere with my sleeve up which is obviously not something I want to do at this time.

So.. -sigh- .. I have bought something else which I have promised myself will be the last thing I buy. When I buy a product to try and fade this pinkness, it has to absorb quickly, not make the tattoo look darker and generally not be a nuisance to apply. I visited my doctor this week who suggested PURE aloe vera, so I picked some up online and it's 99.9% pure. I was surprised to find that the gel has no colour. It also absorbs very quickly which tops my list of priorities.

I'm going to use this once daily for the next few months and see how things go. I just want it to heal so badly so that I can finish my treatments. If removing a tattoo was a massive brick wall, I feel like I was almost through but then the pinkness has given that wall more strength. So, so frustrating but I am determined to finish this.

Time to end this...

I am hoping that this will be one of my final posts about my stupid star tattoo. I began laser tattoo removal around October 2012. Ever since, my life has been turned upside down and no matter how hard I try, it is absolutely impossible for me to draw my attention away from it. My daughter Lexie turned three years old today, and I cannot believe how quickly she is growing up. As she grows she is becoming so intelligent, and I'm afraid that if I ask her one day, "Do you remember when Daddy had stars on his arm?", she'll say that she did. This is something I really do not want to happen.

It's been such a long journey, and it's certainly not one I ever wanted to venture. Waking up every morning and seeing five huge stars in the bathroom mirror is becoming too much for me.

I had my first ever - what I believe to have been - an anxiety attack recently. It could have been down to a variety of reasons: applying for a job I wanted so badly, money worries, chronic illness (ulcerative colitis) fatigue, or even a relative jumping over 100ft to take his own life. I'm still shocked.

I couldn't see, I couldn't hear, I felt like I was on fire. It was really scary and I never want to go through it again.

It could be down to coincidence, but I clearly remember glancing at my tattoo before it happened. Whether that's what caused it I'll never know, but I'll bet it contributed.

So.. with all the above in mind, I've decided that enough is enough. It's time to end this nightmare. I want to get out of this dark tunnel and move on with my life. I want to wear short sleeves. I want to go swimming. I don't want to feel embarrassed in front of my own family. I want to enjoy Summer!

There's no easy way to say this, and I've been thinking about it for a while now - I have decided to remove my tattoo by excision.

In a nutshell, excision is when the tattoo is physically cut out of the skin and the skin is then stitched back together. It's a serious procedure and it's something that needs a lot of thought beforehand as it will leave a scar.

It's still early days, but I hope to have this done within the next couple of months, ideally before the warm weather comes. I have contacted several surgeons and I am looking at a cost of around £2000. I have also been told that due to the size of the tattoo, I will probably need a skin graft. This is likely to be taken from underneath my arm as there is naturally a lot of excess skin in this area. There will of course be very mixed opinions about excision (just like q-switched vs picosure), but it is something I have really thought hard about.

People will argue that it leaves a scar, but isn't my tattoo a scar already, just in the shape of stars? A scar is something I have come to accept, and I have decided that I would be very happy with a scar rather than five ridiculous stars. As soon as the procedure is over I will be confident enough to wear short sleeves again. And yes, the scar will show, but I'll be so happy with it!

I spent a lot of time telling myself that there isn't much point having it excised as I have already come so far with laser, but truthfully, I have lost all faith that it is going to disappear completely. The pinkness that I constantly rant about is not shifting and the top two or three stars are just not showing any further signs of progress.

There is very little information about excision on the web, so I hope that my future updates will help give an insight into this method.

While I am relieved to know that I will soon replace my tattoo with a scar that I will be happy with (and will fade over time anyway) I'm quite sad at the same time that I ever regretted a tattoo in the first place. I have an enormous amount of respect for anyone in the world having a tattoo removed - or even considering it. It takes courage to admit that you made a mistake and to then deal with it.

So let's wrap this up.. I have a consultation with a surgeon later this month where they will tell me what exactly is going to happen. I'll then need to arrange a date to have it removed. It's possible that I may need to have a couple of stars removed and then go again a few months later to have the others removed. I'll need to check this. Truthfully though, as long as it's gone in the next few months I'll be thrilled.

Have a great weekend.

Consultation on March 28th

My consultation with a surgeon is booked for next Friday (28th March). I'm really excited and it couldn't come sooner. It's going to cost a hefty £150 though.

I've already been preparing a few questions which I've written below. If you have anything that you'd like me to ask on your behalf then just give me a shout!

Can a skin graft be avoided - They've only seen photos of my arm so far, but they seem to think I will need a skin graft. I will admit that this frightens me a bit, but I will do whatever is necessary. I'm just wondering if there's any alternatives.

Where will the graft be taken from - if I do need a graft then I will hope it is taken from inside my arm. I would be quite comfortable with this so hope that's what they'll do.

How many sessions - due to the size of the tattoo, I suspect they may need to operate two or three times. If so, I will want the bottom two or three stars gone first as they are the ones stopping me from wearing short sleeves. If they can be removed in one go - bring it on!

Can I have two or three smaller scars - I would rather have a few smaller scars (that look like cat scratches) than one giant one which will probably look more nasty. I think several smaller scars will look a lot better.

Healing time - I appreciate this could be well up to two years of constant cream rubbing, but I obviously want to fade the scars as much as I possibly can.

I have some other questions like price, aftercare, soreness etc as well. The main question is can they actually do it, and i'm praying that they can.

I will update after my consultation next Friday. Have a great weekend!

Six weeks post forearm treatment #1

Just a quick update on the forearm tattoo. It's been almost six weeks since my first treatment. I'm not due back for another nine weeks. Some parts are breaking up nicely.

There are little 'craters' which were left behind after the scabs fell off. I wondered if anyone has experienced this and if they 'filled in' with normal skin again?

Excision seems to be the option

Today was one big day. I left my old job, and I had a fairly long and tiring journey to Swansea where I had to use a map to find the hospital - in the rain.

My surgeon was a great guy, he instantly made me feel comfortable. We spoke for quite some time so I'll briefly list the most important points.

Firstly, we decided that I do NOT want a skin graft. He said a skin graft will never blend with your skin and will always be noticable. They are very unsightly and I would probably prefer the tattoo (and that's saying something).

We then went on to discuss what the scars would look like. He said the bottom three stars would form an 'L' shape, just how they are positioned at the moment. With the top two, he said that he may not be able to remove them completely without a graft, but there may just be a couple of pointy bits left. If this is the case, at least they would be covered by t-shirts and I could gradually remove them with laser.

He said that the scars will be quite noticable, but that they do of course fade over time. I'm expecting them to be horrific for a few months but I plan to be quite patient with it.

I could lose a man card here, but I thought I was going to cry when I walked out. I felt really overwhelmed that I even travelled so far to speak to someone about surgery, all because I made a stupid mistake a few years back.

On my way back to the train station I was thinking "I can't do this, I can't do this. I'll just get a coverup". I even walked past a tattoo parlour and stood there for a while, deciding whether or not to go in. Then I remembered all the realself members who regretted their coverups. You have possibly saved me making a huge mistake, again.

On the train home, I thought hard and realised that I do want this. I keep picturing myself wearing short sleeves again, with just a small 'line' (scar) showing past the sleeve. Being topless on the beach and not being conscious, and just generally feeling like I have overcome the biggest obstacle I have ever faced. I do want this, I really do.

I suffer with a chronic bowel condition called ulcerative colitis. It's similar to Crohn's disease and can take over my life if it isn't under control. It's a rare disease and many sufferers have their whole colons removed because they don't react to the medication. On Twitter recently, these people have been using #GetYourBellyOut, with a photo of their scars. Some of them are huge, but they seem to be really proud of them. These people are quite inspirational when it comes to scars.

I haven't been feeling too good lately so I found it difficult to take in everything the surgeon was saying. So, I'm going to give him a quick call on Monday to just clarify what his plan with the top two stars were. If we're both happy that they can be fully/mostly removed without a graft, I'll make a booking.

The price was surprisingly better than I had expected - £1105, as opposed to the £2000 I was quoted. He did say however, the price bumps up when anaesthetists get involved. This means that if I can undergo the whole thing under local anaesthetic, I'll pay £1105. General anaesthetic will be higher.

I could really feel sympathy from my surgeon and he did make me laugh too. I actually had a free consultation at a different hospital next week, but the surgeon there has totally ignored my emails. Although the appointment is free, I won't be seeing him! It pays to show courtesy, which he hasn't.

Peace and love.

The end is near

There was a lot to take in at my consultation last Friday, so I had no choice but to call my surgeon again today to clarify a few things.

I had some great news - the tattoo can be FULLY removed, but with a little more time. I am absolutely thrilled though.

Due to the size of the top star, the surgeon won't be able to remove it in one go. However, once the skin has regained its elasticity in only 6-12 months, I can go back and have the rest removed! Huge, huge relief and it will be great to have the 'what ifs' and 'whens' out of the equation. It'll be a little frustrating to have some left at first, but I can finally wear short sleeves comfortably again in the meantime!

In terms of scarring, my arm will be covered with silicone sheets for a while. After three months the redness of the scars will clear and things will soften and look better.

I haven't told my parents about this yet, so I hope they will be supportive of my decision. They've also never seen my review so I will show them in the hope that they get an insight into how tough and upsetting this whole thing is. My mum is a natural worrier and I appreciate she may not know much about how horrible it is, but I hope it helps her understand why I'm doing this.

So this is it.. I've been told to expect an appointment letter in the post soon. I will of course let you know the date when I have one.

The final stretch!

I have a surgery date! My tattoo will be GONE on the 16th of April.

Isn't that a weird sentence? If only we could all have a date. Life would be so much easier.

There will of course, be a small amount of the top star left (unless it turns out there is enough skin to remove it completely, but I doubt it).

It seems a bit surreal that in less than two weeks my arm will look completely different. I'm a little worried about seeing the result at first, but I'm excited to have a normal looking scar a few months after.

7 days to go

This time next week my tattoo will be gone, and my arm will most likely be sore.

I received my appointment letter and an inpatient booklet. Getting nervous now!

Other options

Hi everyone.

Apologies for not updating my review yesterday. I know a handful of you were keen to find out how my excision went. My head was all over the place.

Unfortunately I didn't go ahead with the surgery. I backed out at the very last minute, or second.

I woke up at 5.30am with every intention of having the excision done. I was ready to see my tattoo gone! My mum arrived at my house and drove me to the hospital in Swansea where I'd be having the excision done.

I checked in and was shown to my room where a nurse double checked my details and put a hospital band around my wrist. I was still fine at this point!

Eventually the surgeon who I had spoken to before walked in and wanted to check that I was happy with everything. Suddenly, he began saying things that really frightened me.

He said that he can GUARANTEE the scar will stretch, up to 1cm wide and possibly bigger on the shoulder where there is a lot of movement. He then also said that the scar could be raised, and there is no guarantee that it will ever flatten completely.

A lot of other things were said but it was these two points that worried me most. I was hesitant but said I would go ahead, and signed the declaration, even though it read 'incomplete removal'. The surgeon left the room and my mum said that I looked like I was panicking. After a quick chat with her (and not knowing when the surgeon would come back), we instantly decided this was a bad idea and that if I ever did want to go ahead, I could always come back. The surgeon was very understanding and agreed that I should not have it done if I am unsure.

I still think excision is a very good option for tattoo removal, and sometimes works out cheaper than laser. However it is much better for smaller tattoos and not those that are similar to the size of mine. Even if you have a small tattoo, you need to be 100% sure you want it and it's critical that you know what to expect with your scar and aftercare.

I was very relieved to get back in the car with my arm intact. If the surgeon hadn't left me alone after signing the declaration and took me straight into surgery then I could have made a terrible mistake.

I am now running out of options, but I can safely say excision was not a good option for me.

My stars are more scar than ink now, so I'm going to look into scar laser removal. If I could fade the purpleness of the scars then the tattoo could become almost invisible.

I have heard though, that this type of laser is expensive. So I have also thought about removing the bottom two stars and having a coverup tattoo over the top three stars (which are under my sleeves).

There is also the option of a chemical peel which is apparently good for discoloured skin.

Clearly I have some more thinking to do.

Have a great Easter!

Scar removal consultation

It's only been two days since that almost fateful day but I've already been searching around for what to do next (especially as I have no work for a few days)!

It's clear that what I need to do now is somehow blend this scarring with my skin tone. There is little to no ink left, so any fading would make a big difference.

I've started using the Dermatix silicone gel that I bought a while back. I'm trying to use this twice a day. Every little helps.

I've been scouring the internet for anything to do with scar removal, and the options I've come across most is laser, hydroquinone (a bleaching cream), steroid injections and more. It seems there are a good number of ways to fade scarring. However the prices are quite high from what I've seen.

I've already got the ball rolling again and have booked a consultation at a clinic for next week. I'll be speaking to a nurse as we will need to establish which treatment is best for me, and if I were to use hydroquinone, it can only be prescribed by a doctor or nurse.

I'm very hopeful that I can fade this purple colour and blend it with my skin tone. If the stars lost their shape I'd be absolutely thrilled! Just the thought of it makes me so happy.

I'm super glad I didn't go through with the excision, and your comments have made me realise that leaving the hospital was the best thing to do. Thanks everyone.


I had my consultation for scar removal yesterday. I expected to see a nurse who knew very little about tattoo removal, but was amazed to speak to a nurse who was an expert in tattoo removal and worked for a Sk:n clinic in Bristol (in England, about an hour from here).

Sk:n are supposedly one of the UK's best for tattoo removal. They have 34 clinics across the country and I know that a few people on realself visit them.

The nurse told me straight away that there is still quite a bit of ink in the tattoo, which didn't really surprise me. I was also impressed that she mentioned things like spot size and energy etc. This is always a good sign in my opinion.

She asked which laser I use and she had never heard of the Harmony XL. Truthfully, I don't know of any places other than my current clinic that use the Harmony XL, so I think it's time I tried a different laser.

The nurse told me that the laser at Sk:n is very powerful and that it also has a 2mm spot size. I've always been treated with 3mm. The smaller the spot size, the more concentrated the energy and the further down it can penetrate.

She predicted (did not guarantee like many places), that my tattoo would be completely or nearly gone after four sessions spaced 12 weeks apart. It was great that she recommended such long periods in between.

I'll be speaking to a lady called Lynne who has worked there for 13 years and has seen all kinds of tattoos.

With the above in mind I am really hoping that this is a turning point. I say this a lot but if the stars lost their shape I'd be much happier and may even be comfortable enough to wear short sleeves.

My consultation is Friday 2nd May. I suspect they will only do a test patch this time but I'm seriously looking forward to the full treatment and hope that Sk:n are as good as they say!

Forearm update

It's been just over two months since I had the first treatment on my forearm. Quite obviously, we went in too hard and I've scarred pretty bad, particularly on the 'E', where the scar feels lower than the skin. The only letter which doesn't seem to have scarred is the 'L'.

Truthfully I'm not all that bothered about the scarring. Considering I almost had full surgery on my arm, a little scar or two isn't going to upset me much. I've been at this for so long now that I'm not expecting to come out looking perfect. I'm applying silicone several times a day to heal the scarring as much as I can.

As mentioned in my last update, I have a consultation at Sk:n this Friday. They use the MedLite C6 laser by Cynosure, supposedly one of the top lasers out there. Needless to say I am very (very!) excited to see the results, especially as the laser I'm using now isn't that well known.

Due to the long distance I have to travel, I'm going to have both tattoos treated at each visit. These sessions will be 12 weeks apart (minimum).

Back from Bristol

I had my consultation at Sk:n in Bristol today. The whole journey there and back took about five hours.

When I arrived I had to fill in the oh so familiar forms and declarations, and I was taken into a treatment room by a nurse. As soon as I walked in I spotted the MedLite and prayed that I would be able to use it. In the end I didn't, not even for a test patch.

The nurse basically said that my stars are still healing and she won't touch them without first contacting a consultant. The same also went for my forearm tattoo due to the scarring. The nurse seemed very knowledgeable and the clinic looked very professional, but I could soon tell that I was not going to be treated today.

If I continued treatment at this clinic, I would have to go back in a few weeks for a test patch and then go again for the actual treatment. The train tickets aren't cheap and this is obviously a lot of time spent off work.

I didn't go away empty handed; I was offered a cream which is apparently a 'miracle worker' on damaged skin. I had to pay £35 for this which is pricey. To be fair, the tube and box look a lot different to any other product packaging I have seen before. You get a real 'clinical' feel from it. I have already applied it to both tattoos. It's extremely thick and you really have to squeeze the stuff out.

It's likely that I won't be returning to Sk:n, but I will use this cream several times a day.

Some months ago I came across a clinic in Cardiff which uses the RevLite laser. I think this is the newer model of the MedLite? I'm going to book a consultation at this place to see what they can do. This is only 10 minutes from my home.

Have you thought about makeup?

This could be a really interesting update for those over-obsessive worriers like me, especially if you have some cash to spare.

I've been giving makeup a go recently, and it's a lot more difficult to apply than I had expected. It's a little disheartening when you can't cover everything completely, especially as tattoo makeup does not come cheap. If you can master it though, this can be a great mood booster and give you that bit of confidence back.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to cover my tattoo completely as it is slightly raised. I did however nearly make it invisible!

If the skin is uneven, Dermacolor sell a product called 'skin plastic'. I ordered this and tried again, and the result didn't turn out so well. The skin plastic is extremely hard and you have to use a spoon to scoop it out the tub - imagine scooping ice cream fresh out the freezer without letting it melt a little!

While makeup is a fantastic way to cover your tattoo during removal, I'm not sure it's something I'm comfortable using. When you apply the 'fixing powder' you also have to wait 10-15 minutes for it to set. I live quite a fast paced life so this isn't great for me.

I have - yet another - consultation booked. It's a clinic near me who use the RevLite laser and the owner of the clinic has 20+ years experience, and trained in the University Hospital of Wales where my children were born.

The nurse at Sk:n yesterday refused to do anything to the tattoo as she didn't think it had healed completely. While she was very informative, she wasn't too sympathetic and half the conversation was based on a script, I could tell.

I personally feel like I am ready for another treatment, but if this doctor also thinks I should wait then I reluctantly will.

Finally some good news!

I was absolutely blown away at my consultation today and it couldn't have possibly gone better.

Of all the tattoo removal 'experts' I have met on my journey, Dr Maria Gonzalez is the most amazing person and definitely IS an expert.

It was really strange going to the clinic. It's in the same building where we went for a private scan with Lexie over three years ago. The nostalgia was crazy.

Anyway, I was so pleased to meet Dr Gonzalez face to face. She is the first person who has so far given me a handshake.

There is no way I can describe her expertise in words. She knew about all kinds of lasers, she OWNED several kinds of lasers, works for the NHS (national health service here in the UK) knew lots about picosure, knew about the R20 method, and so much more. The last person I met who was this experienced was the surgeon back in Swansea.

She was appalled at the state of my tattoos and what procedures had been done on them before; using the 532nm on black ink, and using the highest settings on a fresh tattoo.

The one thing that really surprised me - and I found it difficult to believe at first - was that you shouldn't ever use the 2mm spot size on tattoos. In fact, she apparently never uses the 3mm either.

She said that she will always use a 6mm spot size, and that the 2mm tip has a high chance of causing scarring. She seemed confident that the bigger the spot size, the further down it penetrates as well.

I imagine that some of you guys will be unsure about this, as was I. However I've looked around on the net and actually it does seem that this is the way to go. I didn't even know a 6mm spot size existed! I guess there will be mixed views among you guys on this, but only time will tell.

She agreed that there was no need for a test patch as I'd already had two before. She was happy to start treatment on both tattoos.

So.. I have an appointment on Thursday where both tattoos will be blasted. She refuses to treat tattoos on the day of consultation as she insists that people have time to think. She will leave no less than 10 weeks between treatments.

She was disappointed to hear that I had been told to keep a tattoo dry after treatment. She said that you must religiously apply aloe vera, Vaseline, e45 or diprobase afterwards. Moist skin heals better.

She also said that on the second treatment she would be keen to use the r20 method. However numbing cream/anaesthetic will be used. During the whole consultation I could feel that she was so concerned for my safety, and she definitely was not interested in my money.

I left the clinic in a great state of mind. Could this actually be a huge turning point for me now? A Dr with 20 years plus experience in the NHS, the Revlite laser, and a spot size twice as big? I am very very excited!

I kind of wish that we were able to amend our realself posts. It's a little embarrassing reading my older posts where I'm shouting "this is great!" when actually my arms are now pretty messed up.

I guess I'll get back to you all on Thursday! Bring on the RevLite!

P.S. I had a letter from Sk:n this week inviting me to go back to see their medical director at an appointment almost two months away. I had a really poor experience with these guys and won't be going back, although the cream I bought has really helped fill in the scars.

Just to say...

I've just re-read my update and it kind of sounds like I'm saying "don't ever use the 3mm and 2mm spot sizes".

Sorry if I came across like this. What I meant to say was that the 2mm poses a higher chance of scarring and Dr Maria personally chooses not to use the 3mm. It's down to their preference I guess. There's nothing wrong with either.

Treatment 14 & 2

Well Dr Gonzalez once again amazed me. She is so knowledgable and lovely.

The RevLite is definitely different to the other lasers I have tried. I couldn't see anything though as Dr Gonzalez completely covered my eyes with those little goggles you use on a sunbed.

With the Harmony laser, I couldn't really feel any kind of pain on the stars. Today though, that snapping sensation came back and it reacted well - good news.

As for the forearm tattoo, this was officially my most painful treatment ever. It was on a fairly low setting compared to the highest Harmony setting that made me scar, but it hurt so much more. My palms were sweating the whole time.

Dr Gonzalez was kind enough to also go over my scars as it is the 1064nm that is used for scar removal.

I just can't believe how different everything is done here in comparison to the last clinic. So far I feel that I am in much safer hands.

My next session is scheduled for 10 weeks away, 25th July. I'm so excited to see what happens.

It was also a month ago today that I woke up ready to have surgery. Well am I glad I didn't?! I don't know what I was thinking. The thought of that place makes me feel sick. I can't believe I was less than ten or even five minutes away from having such a huge procedure done. I signed the declaration and everything.

Please, please think carefully about excision. I think my mistake was that I expected two nice tidy scars, when actually they would have been stretched, raised, unsightly and would have required at least six months of constant maintenance. That place will haunt me forever!

.. but I am grateful that I didn't go ahead and that I am currently in the hands of a fantastic lady. No stopping now!


Yesterday (Saturday) was really nice. The weather has been a total scorcher here recently so we took the kids to a farm with my parents. It was really busy and looking round I noticed there were only a small minority of people in long sleeves. As soon as I stepped out the car I was so hot. It was a great day but also very frustrating at the same time.

I'm pleased to say that I can already see a small difference in my tattoo since being treated on Thursday. It isn't much different, but I appreciate all the magic happens over the weeks after.

One thing that I've learned is important through all this is that it's good to plan ahead. If a year down the line you're not where you expect to be, what would you do next?

I'm obviously going to give the RevLite time to work (somewhere between 6-10 weeks), and if it hasn't changed as much as I'd hoped, I think I may give Picosure a try.

Picosure is that laser that everyone seems to debate about. Personally I've always just thought "No way, too expensive" and stopped thinking about it straight away. However lastnight I decided to have a trawl through the Picosure section of realself and some of the results on there were just incredible. One thing I did notice though is that Picosure is very good for removing colours and shading but dense black lines can be tricky. I've noticed this with Jake's tattoo as well (the awesome guy having the angel sleeve removed). My stars have been zapped 14 times now, so I would hope that they aren't as 'resistant' to the laser as a fresh black tattoo, if that makes sense? Many photos show the tattoos completely losing their shape after one treatment, and for me, that would make a world of difference.

I've come to the point now where money is no longer important and I am willing to try anything to remove these tattoos.

My nearest Picosure laser is in London which will take me a whole day to get there and back from. It's at the trueskin clinic on Harley Street.

I've already emailed them with my story and I've asked if we could begin treatment without a test patch - that is a seriously long way to go just for a test patch. Not willing to do that.

It's the stars that really bother me so I'm not sure whether I would just have those treated or both tattoos.

If Picosure doesn't live up to its name and I don't see the fantastic fading and breaking up that they claim, then I would very happily go back to Dr Gonzalez and her RevLite.

Just to be clear - I'm waiting a good few weeks before deciding whether or not to try Picosure. I'm giving the RevLite time to work first. Again, it's good to plan ahead.

I'd like to try Picosure once to see how big a difference it really makes.

Do you guys think I should try it? Would it be effective at this point?

Picosure booked

Probably way too early to be posting this update, but you know me - keen to keep everyone up to speed!

I've booked a Picosure treatment for the 5th July, but only provisionally. By this I mean that if I'm really pleased with what the RevLite has done then I may change my mind.

I decided not to go with trueskin; their reply to my email seemed very cut-and-paste and they weren't willing to treat me without first doing a test patch. It'll take me a whole day to get to and from London so I'm not really willing to do that. Oh, and their prices are higher.

Instead I'm going somewhere nearby to see a guy called Wayne. His place is called the ResetRoom. He has been fantastic when answering my emails and you can tell he has great sympathy for all his clients. There's a video of him on his website and you get a good feeling about him even just from that.

The treatment won't be cheap. It's costing five times what I can get with a q-switched laser, but if it makes a big difference and clears some areas then it's worth every penny. Money is of no concern to me anymore, my happiness is more important and I am just desperate to go back to how I was before. I will focus hard on paying the money back when I'm done with this!

I'm going to email Dr Gonzalez to basically say that I want to give Picosure a go. If it doesn't meet my expectations then I'll go straight back to her clinic. She was 'bigging up' Picosure a lot during my treatment so I'm sure she'll be pleased for me and keen to see how it goes.

I hope Picosure is worth the time and money. The results are going to have to be excellent to make me go there a second time.

Soldiering on

It's been 12 days since my RevLite session. I can't say I've seen much difference but I'm obviously not expecting anything for a few weeks yet.

This has already officially been my toughest 'in between' stage as I am super eager to see what Picosure can do for me.

The reason why I'm actually using Picosure now is because even after 14 treatments, the stars are still solid stars. There is no sign of them breaking up so I'm willing to pay the price to do this.

I've been trawling through the Picosure section of realself and the difference is often very clear.

I've also been questioning some members about the spot sizes they've been using, and the answer is usually a very small/smallest spot size. My soon-to-be technician Wayne also thinks a small spot size is the way to go. Let's hope that targets the deep ink.

Some great news - the purpleness that I've been stuck with for so long is finally subsiding. Having looked at some older photos on my review I'm quite shocked just how purple things were. Lesson learned: don't use the 532nm on black ink (and that was the technician's idea would you believe?). Sometimes when I look at the tattoo it is black/grey which is great, but there is occasionally still some purpleness lingering, depending on the temperature/what I'm doing/ how hydrated I am, etc. What's reassuring though is that where there is little ink left, there isn't really any purple. Basically - there's a good chance that the purpleness will disappear as the ink does. It's more apparent where there is more ink.

With the above in mind, I'm hoping (and praying) that a good amount of ink disappears after my first session. GO AWAY STARS.

As I become more excited about trying the Picosure, each day becomes more difficult. As you can see from the photo attached, I am definitely NOT keeping track of how many days are left or anything. ;-)

I'm trying to think of the long journey to London as a day out and not just a trip to use the Picosure laser. I guess that's another reason why I'm so excited.

Picosure - speed of clearance?

This will be my last my update before my Picosure treatment in July.

Since my RevLite session I have definitely seen fading, but I really want to speed things up as much as possible now as I have noticed that I am 'arm obsessing' again. The more I do this the more it brings me down. I am so excited for my Picosure treatment but it feels like an age away.

Something I have been wondering, is with tattoos that have shading, the shading is often cleared in one treatment by Picosure. There are loads of reviews that prove this. However the denser areas of a tattoo always stay for longer.

This makes me wonder how my tattoo will react, as I have had 14 q-switch treatments already. While my black tattoo has no shading, it has taken a real battering and I wondered if this would make things considerably easier for the Picosure to clear? Would the ink be less resistant and shatter much more effectively? I'm going to insist on a setting that is both powerful and can penetrate deeply.

It would be great to hear your thoughts on this, especially from anyone who has gone from q-switch to Picosure. It's a long journey to this place so I would hope that it can be cleared in no more than three sessions. Many areas of the tattoo are now a lightish brown colour which means the skin is coming through! Could the stars lose their shape after one session?

I've also used the 'ask a doctor' section of the site so it would be interesting to see any replies (the question is currently pending).

What do you guys think? Feel free to post links to Picosure reviews.

Gradually feeling better

I didn't plan on updating my review until after my Picosure treatment next month (5th July), but I thought now would be a good time to show some progress photos and tell you how I've been getting on this past month.

Well, I took a big step today, which was walking to work in just a t-shirt (and pants etc of course). Now that my stars are so faded I don't feel like they're as obvious as they used to be, and only the bottom two show through my sleeve anyway. I'm not embarrassed of the forearm tattoo at all so it's of no concern to me whether it's covered or not.

Of all the waiting in between sessions, I still think this has been the toughest. While I think the Picosure is going to really change things, I can't hide from the fact that it might not. I'm staying optimistic until my treatment though and I'm trying my best to get through each day without worrying too much. I still have the occasional day where I feel fatigued about the whole thing.

Anyway, here's how things are looking. The stars: so faint, but still recognisable as stars. They're often a very light grey colour (unless I'm warm and they go slightly red), and the skin tone looks like it's dying to push through. I'm feeling somewhat better about them now but still hate them like crazy. They're proving to be very resistant but I'm determined not to give up. Picosure is supposedly good for tattoos that have stopped reacting so I hope this is the case for me.

The forearm: very obvious scarring which doesn't bother me much. If you look past the scars you can see that the fading has been amazing so far. I try to imagine what my arm will look like with just the scars once the tattoo has gone. I'm wondering whether or not to do anything about them afterwards or whether I should just keep them as a reminder of the hell I went through and how I finally succeeded in removing my tattoos. Chances are they'll get lighter over time anyway, and as I'm a pale lad they should blend in fine with the skin tone.

Hope you're all doing well. I'll probably update again a few days after my Picosure treatment when the bandage comes off.

Side by side

Forgot to add this photo. What an improvement, but I still can't wait to be done with this!

Pre-Pico photo

This is my tattoo before my Pico session this Saturday. I'm excited but have no idea what to expect in terms of results. This is my 'before' photo.

The stars are still very prominent so I at least hope that they will begin to clear in some areas. This will make me much happier.

First treatment with Picosure

Firstly, thank you for your comments wishing me good luck yesterday. It was a great day but also a really long one. I woke up at 6am and didn't get home until 10pm!

Anyway, I finally met Wayne and his Picosure laser. Felt kind of strange actually seeing a Picosure for real. It looks sexy!

As I expected, Wayne was unbelievably friendly and even though he said that I was a 'veteran' with all this, I actually felt like the technician knew more about removal than I did for once. I picked up a few really handy tips from him, I can't recommend this guy enough. His answers to my questions were very thorough and you could tell that he genuinely wanted these tattoos off me. He also showed me the spot where he had been having laser himself and you could easily tell the difference between the q-switched and Picosure treatments.

Before treatment Wayne shaved the areas which was new to me. We went in at a smaller spot size between 2mm-3mm and there was a good snapping sound with each hit. I would say Picosure was a little more painful than my last treatment with the RevLite.

I asked the golden question of "how many sessions do you think we will need, though I know you can't guarantee this?", and he estimated two for each tattoo. He stressed that he couldn't guarantee it, and I'm not sure if he meant two additional sessions or one session after this. Either way I'm happy.

He checked the tattoo all over to make sure every spot had been hit and went over any bits we had missed. He also mentioned the laser gods, lol.

I was even more impressed with the aftercare. He spent a good 10-15 mins dressing the tattoos and the aftercare is pretty complicated compared to what I've had before. He's given me LOADS of different things and he talked me through how to do redress the tattoo.

The tattoos are looking red today, and the forearm has blistered which he said would likely happen. He said that they will be pink for some time and not to freak out about it. He also said that I need to wait a minimum of 12 weeks before going back, which I did plan to do.

So now we wait!

I'm taking a break

It's been just over a week since my Picosure treatment. Things are still looking red and the forearm tattoo is still scabby. If you look past these scabs you can see that the fading has been pretty good so far. The scarring still doesn't bother me much.

With the star tattoo though, there is just so much redness that I can't say if there has been a difference yet.

My plan was to go back to London after 12 weeks for a second Picosure treatment, but my thoughts have changed a lot over the weekend.

I am taking a break - instead of waiting 12 weeks, I am going to wait 20 weeks. This will take me up to the end of November. For someone as impatient as me, this is a really long time.

Why? Well, ever since I was wrongly treated with the 532nm, my stars have had a 'red tinge' which only starts to clear by the time my next treatment comes round. This tinge has frustrated me for some time now, so I'm going to give my skin the much needed rest it needs to let this redness disappear and HOPEFULLY reveal a very faint, grey tattoo.

While I am reluctant to wait 20 whole weeks, it is definitely the right thing to do and I hope that the results will be worth the wait.

I've also been thinking about which laser I'll use next. If at the end of my break the fading has been excellent, then I'll probably go back for another Picosure treatment. If not, I'm going to go back to Dr Maria Gonzalez who lives a few streets away from me. Her RevLite laser did show good results and was obviously way cheaper than Picosure. So unless the Picosure does something amazing, I'm probably going to go back to Dr Maria.

In the meantime: plenty of water (with a squeezed lemon as this promotes collagen growth, and is actually very refreshing), exercise where possible, more water, rubbing pure aloe vera every day, and more water.

I've also noticed that I can update my review quite a lot (going to get a wrist injury scrolling down my review at some point!), so going forward I'm going to hold off for as long as possible and only update with useful, relevant stuff. I've also come to disagree with many things in my earlier posts, such as not using aloe vera after a treatment. Aloe vera is amazing stuff, so I was stupid to say that. The 'crap clinic' told me it was bad, and I didn't know a lot about removal at that point.

So yes, I hope this wait is worth it and that the redness finally subsides to reveal an almost-gone tattoo. I have days where the whole thing really affects me but on other days I do really well. Regardless of my feelings I am determined to have this break and wait the full 20 weeks, and I will use the two attached photos to reassure me that things are happening.

R20 method, supplements and extended break

I've pretty much decided on my next move in terms of when and how I'm being treated.

I am not using Picosure again. It's still too early to say whether or not it's had a great effect (at least, that's how I'm seeing things), but I've decided that paying £600 a session and an extra £50 to travel to London just isn't worth it.

So it's official; I am going back to Dr Gonzalez and her RevLite. BUT, this time, I'll be trying the R20 method. I'm aware what this is (four passes spaced 20 minutes apart), but it isn't something I've tried yet which gives me hope as I like trying new things. I've already been in contact with Dr Gonzalez who being as sympathetic as she is, has agreed to treat both tattoos four times each for £200 - a third of the price of one pass with Picosure. Seems like a no brainer.

So, I wondered if any of you guys have been treated this way yet, and if so, did you notice a difference compared to one treatment? I can't wait to try this, though I imagine it's going to be my most painful session yet.

My R20 session is still a good while away. In fact, I have decided to extend my break even further to 30 weeks. I still believe that the ink on the stars is very faint but until the reddy-purply skin clears up then it won't look any better.

However, as my forearm tattoo is quite far behind in terms of progress, I'm going to treat this at 15 weeks, and then again with the stars another 15 weeks later (30 weeks after Picosure). The 30 weeks is going to kill me, but I feel it's important to leave the stars alone so that they can 'heal and reveal'. And, treating the forearm with the R20 method sooner will give me a good idea of how effective it is.

Finally, as we all know, a strong immune system means an easier removal, so I've been buying a couple of supplements to help me along.

I've attached a photo which includes my 6 Asacol tablets (to control my ulcerative colitis, these won't help with tattoo removal), multivitamins, zinc, and aloe vera capsules. After reading reviews about the aloe vera capsules, many of them were actually from other Crohn's and colitis sufferers who said that these really helped with their symptoms, so this was a 2-in-1 benefit for me! I am also still applying my pure aloe vera gel twice a day to both tattoos.

I hope that the above supplements will help speed up the healing process and get my skin back to normal ASAP! If you have any other handy tips then I'd love to hear them.

I also hope you like my tattoo removal break countdown. I find it helpful to cross off the weeks as I go along. :-)

Happy healing to you all.

Introducing the Picoway

It has now been almost 15 weeks since my Picosure treatment, and this month marks two years since I began removal.

These last two years have been hard. Tattoo removal is a rollercoaster, and that becomes clear when you read anyone's review. Their attitude constantly changes toward removal; one minute they're really optimistic and the next they're not coping well. I would hope that at some point, a much quicker option becomes available for removing a tattoo.

This is why I'm updating today. It's been over three months since I was treated with the Picosure, and sadly there doesn't seem to be much difference, especially on the stars. I believe this is because the Picosure operates at the 755nm wavelength which is not ideal for black (though it is still effective to a certain extent).

But was the Picosure worth it? In my personal case, I don't think it was. It was overpriced and showed little results. Not to mention the long journey. Picosure was definitely meant for coloured tattoos I think.

Anyway, I have some great news. I have been introduced to a new laser that has literally (as of Friday last week), just hit the UK market. The laser is called the Picoway, and is manufactured by Syneron-Candela who made the Alexandrite laser. It operates using picosecond technology, just like the Picosure, but the Picoway uses both the 1064nm and 532nm wavelengths. I believe the Picoway is the first laser of its kind.

This laser could have the power to completely change the tattoo removal industry. Black tattoos are very common, and hopefully now they can be removed much more quickly, causing much less mental stress to anyone undergoing removal. Only time and people's results will tell.

Currently, the laser is not commercially available to clinics so I am keeping my eyes peeled for when one does become available. I am holding off an R20 treatment just in case the laser does become available somewhere soon. If one does, I'll be there straight away - so watch this space!

If you look at the attached photos, you can see that since I began treatment two years ago, the fading has been incredible, but the stars are still stars. However, in the close-up photo you can see that some areas are just barely hanging there.

I'm hoping that I can remove my stars within the next 12 months. The forearm tattoo causes me no upset, so once the stars are gone it'll almost feel like my removal journey is complete.

I will continue to look for a Picoway device. As soon as I find one I'll let you all know.

Fixing the scars

It's November already!

I am still looking into the Picoway laser and hope to be treated with it soon. I know that there is already one in London but I would prefer to visit a clinic nearer to Cardiff. I'm not in any huge rush.

I have made some purchases recently. The first is a dry skin brush which is very effective at stimulating the lymphatic system. This removes toxins from the body including our tattoos. It's important that we keep this as active as possible.

I have been trying this for a week now, usually once a day but twice if I can find the time. I do a full body scrub (not just the tattooed area) and there's a tingling sensation afterwards. It is actually quite therapeutic and I look forward to doing it in the evening. You have to pay particular attention to areas such as the armpits, where a large amount of lymph nodes are located. The back can be tricky to reach so I would recommend a long-handled brush rather than the one I bought. Thanks to jman622 for suggesting this to me. I do think this will make a difference in the long term.

Meanwhile, I have had so many treatments on my tattoo now that's it taken a huge battering. The top two stars are quite badly scarred and I have come to the conclusion that the infamous redness I have is because of the scarring. So I am going to try really hard to flatten and fade these scars as much as I can. I have bought another bottle of Bio Oil as well as some cocoa butter. I've been applying the Bio Oil twice daily and the cocoa butter before bed. I hope that this will really fix up the scarring and make the overall tattoo look better as well. It is still the case that if I rub my arm, the redness disappears and the tattoo looks very faint. Hopefully by applying these products I can permanently remove that redness. It will of course take a few months to achieve this if so.

Although I am currently taking a break from my removal (17 weeks post treatment now, and I cannot believe how fast time has passed), I would be willing to try the Picoway as soon as I find one near me. My removal has been a very slow process and I knew it would because of how dense my tattoo was at the beginning, but the ink is finally starting to lose its grip and a good blast from such a high-tech laser should hopefully change everything. Fingers crossed.

Trialling the Picoway!

Great news. It turns out that my technician Dr Maria has a very close link to Syneron-Candela, the company who manufactured the Picoway. She wants me to help her trial the laser!

She explained that she contacted the company recently and told them about my journey, and she also showed them my RealSelf page. The company were interested and have agreed to treat me with the Picoway very soon. We're hoping this will happen by the end of the year.

Before being treated I will need to be interviewed by their PR team so that they can gain a good understanding of my history with the tattoo and the emotional impact it has on me. It's possible that there may be a TV/newspaper appearance but this is currently in the air and cannot be guaranteed.

Dr Maria has passed my details on to them and we are just waiting for a date now. As soon as I hear more I will let you all know.

I am extremely grateful that Dr Maria has chosen me to help her trial the Picoway. This really is a massive opportunity and I am hoping that it will destroy the tattoo and really transform its appearance. I feel very privileged to be helping her with this.

I've noticed that many RealSelf members are getting excited about the Picoway's release. I hope that by trialling this and posting my results, it will help you all decide whether or not it is worth it and whether you should go ahead with it.

I also quickly spoke to Dr Maria about the redness I have. She is confident that the Picoway will bypass the redness and target the ink. She said that the redness should lighten as the tattoo fades and that it won't be star shaped. She has lasers which are used to treat redness anyway, and she insists on getting rid of the tattoo first which totally makes sense!

Excited is an understatement!

No news on the Picoway - yet!

My hopes of trying the Picoway before the New Year are slowly fading. Syneron-Candela gave us a time period in which they expected the Picoway to arrive in the UK, but this period has now passed. I did expect a delay if I'm honest.

I'm not worrying as me and Dr Maria are still confident that it will all happen at some point. I just really hope the wait and excitement is all worth it and that it makes a noticeable difference. I think things will happen quite quickly when the device does get to the UK, especially as the HQ is in Cwmbran, not far from me.

If I don't hear anything soon then I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas and a Happy New Year. I'm hoping that this will be my last Christmas with the dreaded star tattoo.

Don't let any tattoo regret spoil your festive period!

Progress since the beginning & PIE

Firstly, Happy New Year to you all! I hope that 2015 is my last year turning this mess around.

My Picoway treatment will be creeping up soon. Unfortunately I still do not have a date for the treatment, but the laser is expected here in the UK virtually anytime now, and according to Dr Maria, we "remain first priority". This means we will be one of the first people in the country to try it which seems crazy.

Anyway, 26 weeks on since my Picosure treatment in hot and sunny July, I thought now might be a good time to post my 'pre-Picoway' photos. As you can see, the difference since starting my journey two years ago is just incredible. It's hard to believe that my tattoos were ever that dense. I'm sad to say though that the Picosure does not seem to have made a lot of difference. In my case it just wasn't worth the expense.

Meanwhile I've been doing some more research on my chronic redness and I believe I have now solved the mystery of what it is. It's a condition called post inflammatory erythema (PIE for short) and this occurs when the skin has taken damage and takes months to heal. After being wrongly treated with the 532nm wavelength in November 2013 and smelling burning afterwards, my skin severely blistered, and it then turned a purply-red colour. This has become more reddy-pink over time.

So what is PIE? It's not to be confused with post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) which darkens the skin to a browny colour. With PIE, the skin has been damaged and so more blood is being sent to the wound, therefore causing the red colour.

The symptoms of PIE (which I seem to match all of) are the skin turning white when pressed, severe redness after a hot bath or when feeling flushed, and the redness completely vanishing after a cold shower or being cold in general. This is because the blood vessels constrict and reduce the amount of blood getting to the wound. This is exactly what lasers like the Vbeam do; they permanently restrict the vessels so that the redness disappears.

This probably won't be relevant to most of you, but if you have read my review from top to bottom you'll know that this discolouration has caused me a huge amount of stress for many months. It was this that made me go a bit crazy and go down the excision route. I'm positive that it is PIE I'm suffering with and it is such a relief to now know what I'm dealing with.

What's even better is that PIE does not always need laser to go away. They say that "time is a great healer" and that is definitely true. The redness is very minimal at this stage and I have attached a photo showing the difference at 15 and 26 weeks after treatment.

Lastly, although my tattoos have faded massively, my biggest peeve at this point is that the tattoos are still holding their full shape. It's a little frustrating seeing the tattoos of others become unrecognisable after a few treatments when I am still stuck with what are obviously stars. Once the stars aren't so clearly stars I will be wearing t-shirts publicly again, and when my treatment date does arrive, I'm going to insist on a strong blast that will really get deep into the skin. I am determined to finally change the way the tattoo looks after all this time.

I really hope that the Picoway changes my life. It's probably not wise but I have pinned a lot of hopes on it.

Once again I really hope that 2015 is everyone's year. Good luck!

Picoway treatment date confirmed

I'm pleased to finally be able to tell you all that I have a confirmed date for my Picoway treatment - and it's very soon. My treatment will take place on the 14th January (this coming Wednesday).

The unfortunate twist is that the Picoway has been sent directly to London rather than Cardiff, so I'll be making a 4-hour journey there for the treatment, then a 4-hour journey back, and will return home at around midnight. Our youngest daughter Macey's 1st birthday is also the next day which makes things a little more inconvenient, but I am positive that the effort will be all be worth it. The treatment will be free after all.

Hard to believe that it's all finally happening. This has been a really stubborn tattoo and I hope that this gives a big push in terms of progress.

Wish me luck!

First PicoWay treatment complete

I made the long trip to London yesterday and finally had my treatment with the newly released PicoWay, free of charge. As I'm trialling the laser it was also confirmed that I will be receiving more treatments with the laser going forward.

I had quite an audience at the treatment: Dr Maria Gonzalez who performed the treatment, the GM of Syneron-Candela (lovely lady called Michaela) and a lady named Naomi from Maria's PR company who took photos in the case of the treatment being published. A few members of staff at the clinic also observed. I asked if we could film the treatment but the short answer was "It will melt your camera", so I decided it was best if we didn't! Naomi the PR lady could only take photos when the laser wasn't operating.

I know this is all very new stuff so I'll try and be as detailed as I can. I won't pretend that I know all the technical bits as I don't, but what I do know is that we began using the 4mm spot size on the top star which caused pinpoint bleeding, with little pain. This was quite slow and the rhythm was a bit like: zap, lift and move, zap, lift and move, zap. The skin didn't rise much.

Maria then explained how she much prefers the 6mm spot size and so we used that on the next star. This was more painful and much faster; constant zaps while continuously moving the laser. There was no pinpoint bleeding but the tattoo raised A LOT afterwards (much more than in the attached photo as that was taken during treatment). We saw some brilliant frosting and the snaps were nice and loud too.

With the forearm tattoo we simply used the 6mm all over, avoiding the scars. This one did hurt a lot, obviously because there is still quite a bit of ink left to react.

This was basically the treatment in a nutshell. It will be interesting to see which spot size works best! I used no pain relief or cooler during.

The next thing to do is wait, and I'm going to wait about 6-8 weeks before I post my progress. I hope this is ok.

In the meantime I'm going to drink tons of water, lemon water, green tea and keep up the dry skin brushing. I'd really like to see something worthwhile from this.

That's all for now. Happy to answer any questions if I can!

How long after laser do you start to see fading?

I thought it might be interesting to gather a bunch of answers to this question to help build up some sort of average timeframe.

As we all know, our bodies work to remove unwanted ink for weeks after treatments, but I was curious to know just WHEN you really start to notice a difference? Do you notice a change within the first week after laser or do you find that it takes more time? Weeks? Months?

I appreciate that everyone is different, but would love to hear your own views. :-)

Pinpoint bleeding - does this mean anything?

I've been monitoring my progress carefully for the last two and a half weeks. The fading happens over time so there isn't any noticeable difference yet. However, one area has caught my eye, and it's on the top star where we used the 4mm spot size and had pinpoint bleeding afterwards.

Due to the settings used, there is a lot of superficial redness and I am sure that this will clear in a few weeks or months. What I've noticed on though is that there has (hopefully) been excellent fading underneath. I was debating posting about this as I have made a few predictions in the past which have later been wrong, so this could again be one of them - sorry!

Anyway, I've attached a photo, and you can see that things are still quite red. On the areas with the arrows (particularly on the right-hand side) the redness is more of a pink colour, so it looks like there's little to nothing left underneath.

I won't know for sure what's going on until this redness heals, and thankfully it's just post-treatment redness and not anything chronic, but what I'm really hoping for is just one little gap in the star, which would mean that an area has finally broken up.

If my prediction is correct, then this leads me to wonder if pinpoint bleeding is actually what I need? I've never had pinpoint bleeding before and for ages I've thought that my ink is just very deep down. Could it be that I need a more brutal session to break up this resistant ink? Should I go for the 4mm all over next time with high power? It'll be really sore afterwards!

Has anyone had good results after pinpoint bleeding? It would be great if these areas faded even more over the next few months and cleared completely.

I'm still taking the lymphatic thing seriously. I have now added a mini trampoline and milk thistle to my daily routine. There's not a lot more I can do!
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