It was very hard to find reviews on surgical excision of tattoos - in fact, the most luck I had was on YouTube. It's also not a glamorous before and after, like other cosmetic procedures, so I believe people are less likely to post before and after photos/videos. I reached out to some well-reviewed plastic surgeons in NYC and asked if they'd be willing to perform the procedure and received very few confident or positive responses.
Dr. Hyman was the first doctor to express total confidence in removing my tattoos. He explained the shape and size of the incisions and how easy the procedure would be. He was very clear that I was trading my tattoos for scars. I appreciated his seriousness and clarity, as I can imagine many people might choose to keep the tattoos instead of undergo surgery and be left with surgical scars.
The surgery went well and the recovery was as easy as could be. The stitches used mostly dissolved in the first couple weeks. The doctor did trim the ends as things tightened and began healing. I had no bleeding or issues, no infection, and very little discomfort (just a tight feeling). I was fortunate that one of incisions was on my side rib - not a lot to rub against it or agitate it, my bra helped hold any bandage in place. The downside of this location is there isn't much tissue, so when touched it was incredibly sensitive. The other incision did incur more friction and agitation, as it's located near my hip bone and bikini line. It helped to wear boy short underwear/spanx or tights, otherwise the edge of my normal underwear would frequently move against it. Some of it was unavoidable though when wearing certain clothes. However, the great news is that the incision can be totally hidden by underwear.
For the first couple of months especially, it helped to keep the incisions moisturized with different creams to help it heal and stay clean and healthy. I would cover the incisions with a makeshift bandage, just to keep things protected and from rubbing directly against my clothes. Aside from the constant tape/bandage/bandaid "glue" residue, this made things so much more comfortable.
After that I switched to ScarAway silicone sheets for 2-3 months. These were great and lasted anywhere from 1-2 weeks at a time. However, as my activity increased and the scars tightened and healed more, they sheets did not stick as well. Last week, I began using Scarguard liquid on the scars twice daily. I am sure to clean the scars and massage them regularly. If I am doing anything more strenuous, I will sometimes put a bandage over the scar near my bikini area as it gets agitated easily after working out. I have noticed that one of my scars is pretty red all the time. While the other changes color based on circulation or if I take a hot bath or something.
At my three-month follow-up, Dr. Hyman thought the scars were healing well, but thought I may still have some bruising. This is because there appears to be "black" or "blue" areas of the scar. These are still there at 5.5 months and I am nervous that it's actually part of my tattoo left behind. I am sure the Dr. will be able to confirm what's happening when I go in soon for my six-month follow-up appointment.
The side rib tattoo, which was a five-letter word in an italic font - height was one inch, except first letter which was approx. 2 inches, and length about 4 inches. The scar is now a 3-inch straight pink line, about a quarter-inch (max) in width. There is an obvious dark part of this scar (black/blue), not even half an inch in width.
The other tattoo near my hip bone/bikini area, which was a bird - height about 2 inches, bottom width 3 inches, top width about one inch. The scar is now a straight line parallel to the crease of my skin and my underwear/bikini line, it's about five inches long and ranges in width from a quarter inch to an inch. This make sense since it was essentially an imperfect circle incision, so the center of the scar line is thicker. The difference is that this scar is not red (unless agitated), it is pink, even white in some places already. The only remaining "black" part of this scar is the size of a pencil dot and could be mistaken for a freckle.
Regardless of the answer, I am very happy I chose to have my tattoos removed by surgery instead of laser.
Due to the need for general anesthesia, I did choose to have some other procedures performed. Dr. Hyman heavily suggested this for several reasons that I happen to agree with, as long as they are right for you - saves or combines potential recovery time, saves on costs like anesthesia, cuts down on potential time off of work, etc. Since the other procedures are totally unrelated to the tattoo removal, I will review them separately.
Apologies for my poor camera skills.