When I was young I got a lot of large, ugly...
When I was young I got a lot of large, ugly tattoos as a way of coping with anxiety and other mental health issues. They're dense and colourful and will take years to remove, but I am trying to remain hopeful. They are on my leg, arm, and upper back. I started Picosure on my leg in late April 2014 and have had 7 treatments so far, most recently on the 31st of March. I'm hoping for complete removal. I've also had two treatments on my arm, which I'm hoping to lighten enough for a cover-up. The photos of my leg cover the first 3-4 treatments only. The photos of my arm are from summer 2013, before any laser treatments (the front part of the tattoo was treated with a fluid called Kataderm, which left raised scars).
I'll post some recent photos soon; there has been a lot more fading on my leg in recent months. Around 70% of the black ink is gone, the red has faded a bit, and the hyperpigmentation is now much lighter, with some small patches of my natural skin colour showing. I think it will take around 5 more treatments to completely remove the black. There is a new picosecond laser which can treat red ink - it has not yet been approved for use in the UK, but once it is approved, my clinic (Trueskin in Esher) will get one and start treating me with it.
The past year has been incredibly difficult. I just want the thing on my leg gone. I have to keep reminding myself that this is a long journey, and that obsessing over it will not make the process go faster. Summer is especially tough. Meditation and mindfulness practise keep me sane, though I'm not always as resilient as I would like.
Picosure is amazing - the results are so much faster than other lasers. However, even with Picosure, tattoo removal is incredibly slow. I saw a very dramatic result after my first treatment; all of the black shading disappeared. With subsequent treatments the results have been much more subtle, which can be upsetting, considering how long and painful the treatments are. But I know I've made a lot of progress, and that I can beat this thing; I just have to keep going. It's only been a year. I'm 30 now and expect to be removing tattoos until I'm at least 35.
The first treatment was absolutely brutal. I had enormous, mutant-looking blisters all over my leg, which lasted around 3 weeks. They were literally the size of golf balls, and left behind a large area of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, where the skin turned brownish red where it was inflamed. I was terrified that this would happen every treatment, but thankfully the following treatments were much easier, with some pain and blistering but nothing major.
All of the stories on here have been a huge help and support. I've been lurking in this community for a while and I think it's time I share my story. To everyone who is going through the same thing as me, please stay strong. Eat healthy, exercise, surround yourself with good people, and show yourself love and compassion. Life is a precious gift. It's so easy to get caught up in pain, anxiety and regret. But you can come out the other side and become a stronger, wiser person.
I would recommend using Emla numbing cream an hour or two before your treatments. It makes a huge difference, particularly in sensitive areas such as your ankle and your inner bicep. Tepezcohuite ointment is great for healing blistered and scarred areas - you can buy it on eBay, though it takes ages (around 5 weeks) to ship from Mexico to the UK. Keromask make some amazing cover-up makeup; you can get a sample kit for around £7.50 (including shipping) and pick a shade which matches your skin tone. It lasts all day (when applied over primer and set with powder), conceals everything, and looks like skin.
At your consultation, you will probably be told that your tattoo will take 2-8 treatments to remove. While this is possible for some tattoos, in my experience, darker tattoos will take much longer than this.
New photos - 2 1/2 weeks after treatment 7
These photos were taken today (15/04/2015). I had my 7th treatment on 29/03/2015. Still a long way to go.
This black has faded a lot since last summer, and so has the hyperpigmentation. This can be quite hard to notice when you're obsessively staring at the tattoo every day looking for signs of fading, so I have to try and not do that.
The dense red ink on my ankle and the back of my leg has broken up a bit . They're treating it with the Revlite laser, which is better suited to red ink, but uses the old nanosecond technology, so is much slower than the Picosure. I expect this will take upwards of 20 treatments to remove.
The 10 year-old tattoo on my inner ankle has faded a lot. Most of the dotwork on the back of my leg disappeared with the first two treatments and was replaced with heavy hyperpigmentation. This is starting to fade but will probably take another year to disappear completely. Small patches of my natural skin colour are showing through the hyperpigmentation, and I'm noticing more and more of these small patches every month, which is very encouraging. If you have hyperpigmentation, try not to worry about it to much. It's temporary, though it will take ages to fade.
The flowers on the front of my leg were the newest addition to my horrible leg tattoo. They were done in summer 2013 and were extremely dense and dark. Most of the ink is gone but some of the darker areas remain; most of the outlines are still there but very faint.
My next treatment is scheduled for 23 May.
Arm update - 2x Picosure
Here are some photos of my arm after 2 Picosure treatments. These were taken this morning (16/04/2015). My most recent Picosure treatment was on 28/03/2015. I've paid for 5 more treatments and am planning to have having a cover-up, so am not aiming or complete removal (anyway, Picosure will not be able to remove some of the bright colours such as red and pink). From a distance, the tattoo kind of looks the same as before, but if you look closely you can see a lot of fading. The black lines have started to break up. The green in the rose on my shoulder has turned yellow.
The scarred section on the front of my arm was treated with Kataderm years ago (this is a lactic acid fluid which is applied to the tattooed area in small patches, with a needle similar to a tattoo needle). Before I started Picosure, there were bits of bright blue ink between the scars (the blue ink was mixed with white to produce a vibrant teal colour, which is notoriously difficult to remove with traditional lasers). Those blue bits are all gone now. They've turned greyish brown but I'm pretty confident that this is temporary (it happened after the first treatment and all faded by the second treatment 8 weeks later). The stars on the front of my arm were treated with a Q-Switch laser 3 times in 2013 and had faded a bit. The rest of the arm had no treatments before starting Picosure.
I'm hoping this will go faster than my leg, since tattoos on the lower extremities are supposed to be much harder to remove (there is less blood flow to the area). Also, if you don't see dramatic fading in the first couple of weeks after a treatment, don't worry too much. The tattoo will fade more over time as your body works to clear the ink. I've definitely noticed this with my arm.
Treatment 8 (leg), treatment 3 (arm), treatment 1 (foot)
26 May 2015
2 months post
I had another round of Picosure treatment on Saturday, 23rd May. It was the 8th treatment on my leg, and the third on my arm. I'll post pictures in a couple of weeks once the skin has healed. Blistering was minimal, pain was manageable (largely thanks to numbing cream). Already seeing some black ink fading/breaking up, and hoping to see more visible results in a few weeks. Still a long way to go.
A few days ago, my clinic got the Boost handset, which treats red ink and has finally been approved for use in the UK. They started treating the red parts of my tattoo with this - previously they were using RevLite, which gave some results but was slow. I had a patch test with the Boost handset on the 23rd and went back today to complete the treatment. No noticeable fading on the red so far - will just have to wait and see.
I've allso started treating the anchor tattoo on my foot with Picosure. I previously had 8 Q-Switch treatments on the anchor, starting in November 2013. These left scarring, which you can see in the pictures - the skin texture is different from the surrounding area and sometimes turns a darker, reddish colour. The Q-Switch lightened the tattoo considerably, but the last few treatments gave very disappointing results, so I'm trying my luck with Picosure. I didn't experience any blistering or swelling on my foot after the first Picosure treatment; just a bit of pinkness. There is no noticeable difference in the ink saturation so far, but there seems to be a slight improvement in skin texture. This tattoo was very dark and deep and I'm expecting removal to take a long time.
Treatment 8 (leg), treatment 3 (arm), treatment 1 (foot) - photos
The blisters and scabs have healed after my treatment on 23 May; here are some photos of my progress. I didn't see much fading last week and started to feel frustrated and anxious, but now the ink on my arm is looking much lighter than before and I've noticed some fading of the brown discolouration/hyperpigmentation on my leg. From a distance the tattoo on my arm looks more or less the same, but up close you can see that the ink is really starting to go. The bold red ink on my ankle has finally started responding to treatment, seeing lots of light patches and breakup around the edges - still early days, but it looks like the Boost attachment does in fact work on red. An itchy rash has developed on my arm. Not sure if this is a reaction to the procedure, or the Tepezcohuite ointment I applied after the treatment. Hydrocortisone seems to help. Hoping to see more fading in the coming weeks - I'm drinking lots of water, eating healthy, going to the gym, basically doing everything I can to help my body clear the ink. I have 4 treatments remaining on my arm - after which I'm planning a cover-up. As for my leg and foot, I want to keep lasering those until the ink is gone, which could take a very long time. There is some scarring on my foot from previous laser treatments (Q-Switch), which makes the tattoo look quite dark. A few days ago I started treating the scarring on my foot and arm with Dermatix silicone gel, I'm hoping this will improve the skin texture and colour.
12 Jun 2015
3 months post
A few days after my most recent treatment, I developed an itchy rash on my arm. I used hydrocortisone and over-the-counter antihistamines for a short while, then stopped. Now the rash has got much worse. My arm is itchy, sore and inflamed. I did some research and it turns out this is a relatively common reaction, since tattoo inks are unregulated and could potentially contain substances such as mercury. I'm planning to take longer breaks between treatment on my arm - 4 months instead of 2 - to give my body a chance to recover.
The rash is back with a vengeance
24 Jun 2015
3 months post
The rash on my arm improved since I last posted photos on the 12th of June, though it never completely went away. Last night I put tepezcohuite on it because it was a bit itchy, and it just went crazy overnight. It's now very inflamed, scaly and angry-looking. Hurts like hell, and it was oozing pus all day today, really gross. It's mainly concentrated around the tattoo on my arm, though it's also on the back of my neck and my hands. I got some Piriteze (cetrizine hydrochloride) tablets, hydrocortisone cream (1%) and Dermalex Repair Cream for irritated skin. Hopefully these things will help. Has anyone else experienced allergic reactions after PicoSure?