Staying Positive Along This Journey - Rochester, NY

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...and it seems like I've only made it worse. My...

...and it seems like I've only made it worse. My name is John; and I'm 24 years old from Rochester, NY. Within a month after my 21st birthday, I rushed to get a small, black Polynesian star tattooed on my left forearm. I had "researched" that it stood for confidence, and instantly decided that it was right for me.

I loved it at first, but after just six months, I agonized over it. I thought that it looked "lost" on my arm. I became obsessed with the notion that it needed more embellishment, that it looked like a stamp placed on my arm. The original image had a web drawn around it, so I immediately went to the artist to have it added. Shortly after the grey web was drawn, I returned to have it redone in black and shaded in.

The end result was what I called a "spiderweb fan." I was horrified. I couldn't believe what I had done. I researched removal clinics in the area, and with a friend's recommendation, began treatments at a local dermatology clinic. The doctor used a Nd: YAG laser, that seemed to be current-- spacing the treatments six weeks apart. Following my 6th treatment, the office closed because the doctor was moving his practice to Phoenix, Arizona. What I was left with was a raised outline of the web.

Instead of continuing treatments, I rushed to have ANOTHER tattoo placed over the scar. I was convinced that I would never achieve full-removal, and that a cover-up was my only option to conceal this horrible reminder. The cover-up was poorly done, and I have since then resumed treatments.

I am both embarrassed and ashamed at my lack of forethought and impulsivity. I'm hoping that by learning about your experiences, I can find solace in my mistakes.

- John

Removal Part II

This update catalogues my second (and final) round of tattoo removal procedures! In April, I began going to Southgate Medical Group, located just south of Buffalo, NY. They use the Picosure laser, and nurses are wonderful. The drive there is well worth it! I highly recommend this clinic to anyone in the WNY area.

After just 3 treatments, the bodice of the image is nearly gone. My theory is that because it was over scar tissue, the ink couldn't penetrate as deeply and as densely.

I'm very optimistic for complete removal!

Anxiously waiting for the fourth treatment

So, the nurse at the skin center strongly recommended doing 8 week intervals between treatments for optimal healing and better clearance. But for someone who is as impatient as I am, it's not easy waiting! Nonetheless, I'm about halfway through the period between my 3rd and 4th treatments, so I figured I'd post an updated picture. I'm seeing improved ink clearance in the part of the cover up that was placed over the scar. However, I'm disappointed with the further scarring and skin discoloration (I suppose that's what you get for tattooing over laser-damaged skin and then removing it again!). What are some creams, lotions, etc. that you've found effective for scar reduction and overall skin health? I have been using Aquaphor and Cocoa Butter but maybe there is other things that I'm missing.

Best wishes to all my fellow tattoo removal peeps!

One of "those" days...

I'm having one of "those" days where I'm questioning myself and this overall procedure. I was with one of my friends yesterday who didn't understand why I'm having the "cover-up" removed, and that my arm "looks okay if I'm into scarification." I don't think many people understand how much tattoo regret wears on you. We're human and we all make mistakes; but when you have the stare the same mistake in the face day after day it becomes almost too much to handle. The scarring from the first removal procedure is significant, so I'm not sure what I should do now. I keep telling myself that when I finish the removal, the scarring will be a helpful reminder to not jump into things. I've spent well over $2,000 on removal, so I'm both mentally and financially exhausted. I don't want to stop because if I'm not working on something, I may breakdown. This is probably what got me into trouble in the first place. I apologize because I know that this isn't productive to my removal or anyone else going through this, but I needed to let it out. What do you do to stay positive along your journey?

Sweater Weather...Finally!

As I'm sure that many of you can relate, I've been long anticipating cooler temperatures. Today, it felt like fall, and it looks like next week will continue to be in the mid-to-high 50s. There's a feeling of relief being able to conceal this "blemish" under stylish sweaters and long-sleeve shirts. I've come to terms with the fact that I may forever be left with slightly bleached skin and a raised scar of where the tattoo was. However, it's a token that I will carry with me as a reminder not to jump into things without forethought. In the meantime, covering it with clothing as I undergo removal will aid in keeping my mind off of it. I wish all of you the same peace of mind, so you can take your mind off of the ink and concentrate on all of the important things in life. Happy healing!

Tx No. 4

Yesterday, the countdown app on my phone finally reached 0; and I ventured on the hour and a half drive to Buffalo for a zap with the Picosure laser. I asked the nurse about spot-size, and she showed me the chart that she uses to decrease the spot-size according to my regimen. Even with the reduced ink density, I was surprised how intense the snapping still feels! Nevertheless, I'm relieved to have another session behind me and I look forward to seeing more of the image fade away! Happy Fall!

One Week Post 4th Tx

I'm so impressed with the fact that with less ink, comes a shorter healing time. Although the "spider web" scar has become raised, and with evident hypopigmentation, I'm confident that it'll flatten out and fade over time. I will admit that I spend moments throughout the day staring at my arm and trying to picture what it would look like if I hadn't gotten those tattoo(s) there. However, those moments have become less frequent. Instead, I continue to look to this scar as a reminder of not to dive head first into things without thought and deliberate planning.

Am I just blowing smoke?

So, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the physiological process behind laser tattoo removal. I've scoured the internet for the chemical composition of tattoo pigments because I'm concerned about what is being released into my system after a laser session. I realize that I should have considered this risk before getting tattooed in the first place, but that's all water under the bridge now! I'm curious if anyone has ever researched what's in tattoo pigments? What about where the ink goes after a treatment? I've read that ink may be found in the lymph nodes of tattooed individuals but without reference to any health consequences. Lastly, should I really be concerned with all of this-- does it really matter if ink is in my lymph nodes or not? Perhaps I am really just blowing smoke! =O


Today, I met with my doctor to discuss my concerns regarding the laser removal process. Ultimately, my internet "research" doesn't account for how the body actually responds to the treatment. My doctor advised that the immune system is able to address the ink particles, and whatever it isn't able to expel would be "closed-off" by those cells as if it were exterior to the body. Not only did I discount the body's ability to remove unnecessary things from it, but I also lost sight of my ability to cope with something that I deeply regret. It's as if when I'm close to coming to grips with something that I struggle with, I find a "diversion" to drag me back down. Instead of agonizing over what fictional ailments the internet says can come from tattoos and their removal, I should be striving to re-establish my confidence and peace-of-mind, so that I may live a productive life. I have let tattoo regret control my thoughts and actions for over 3 years, and this regret has only lead me to regret the wasted time. However, instead of regret, regret, regret...I need to focus on accomplishing the things that I feel compelled to do. I'm so grateful for this forum, and to be able to share my accomplishments and pitfalls alike. Thank you!

I've Reached the Halfway Mark!

I felt that a photo update was appropriate because I've noticed pretty significant clearance during the past 5 weeks following my 4th Picosure treatment. I bumped up the healing/waiting period to 10 weeks at the nurse's recommendation. Although it will take longer (or at least seem it!), I can't wait to see more natural clearing before my 5th treatment on Dec 1st. I'm hopeful that my forearm will heal to a somewhat pre-tattoo state :)

Flashback on replay

As much as sharing my story and learning about others' removal experiences has allowed me to heal, this past week has been peppered with bouts of regret. I've been intermittently replaying that morning, in June 2011, when I was in the kitchen talking with my mom just before going to get my first tattoo. I was feeling uncertain about going through with it, but I thought to myself that since I had already paid my deposit, I didn't want to back out and act like a quitter. In retrospect, I wish I had quit right then and there. My gut told me no but my pride told me yes. My tattoo debacle has become a symbol for potentially deeper-rooted issues. I guess it's hard to see the light when you're forced to constantly look at one of your darkest regrets. It also doesn't help that the tattoo is on my left forearm. The lingering ink, and the hypopigmentation within the scarring, are the first things that I notice when I wake up and the last things that I look at before I fall asleep. How can anyone recover from a blow when they are forced to be reminded of the mistake day after day? Most days I believe that laser removal is the best course of action, but others I feel as if it's just adding insult to injury.

No shame

I came across a quote over the weekend that was pretty inspiring. It read: "Never be ashamed of a scar. It simply means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you." I tend to agonize over the scar that's been left behind from the initial laser removal. My skin looks paler, shinier and is raised in the outline of the spiderweb. It's a painful memento that signifies a point in my life where I lost myself, and chose to fixate and obsess over tweaking a tattoo in order to avoid a pressing issue in my life. This scar won't stand for weakness, but instead my journey to achieving a mental toughness to overcome feelings of regret and sadness. I wish anyone else who has experienced similar sentiments the same peace of mind as they go along their personal removal journey.


So, yesterday I went for my 5th treatment on the cover-up, including the residual ink leftover from the first tattoo. To the naked-eye, it doesn't appear that there's that much ink left in the bodice (webs), but judging by the picture there was enough to do some damage! I'm trying to stay positive each day, and to muster enough mental strength to see this through...but it's becoming quite tiresome. I just try to look forward to the future, and picture myself with an arm that bears only a subtle scar to remind me of my reckless, indecisive youth. Happy December y'all. Stay warm! :)

Into the universe...

It's been about one week since the 5th treatment on my forearm tattoo, so I figured I'd post a picture to show-off the fading! I've been applying Aquaphor 2-3 times a day and then covering the area with an elastic "ace" medical bandage. I read somewhere that by keeping the area moisturized, it may minimize scarring-- it also prevents me from pulling up my sleeve and staring at it! Lol!

Unfortunately, I'm still obsessing over not HOW my arm will look after I conclude treatment, but WHERE the shattered pigment goes. Despite the counsel of my physician, and the information and resources that the kind people on RealSelf have provided me, I continue to scour the Internet and medical databases for answers. It's consumed my thoughts and topic of conversation with friends and family. I've always had a mildly obsessive personality but I can't seem to just let this go. One of my friends, tired of hearing about this, finally answered me with, "Into the universe, John. It goes into the universe." I know that it was meant to be facetious but honestly it's true. I like to think that can control my destiny, but it's really only to a certain extent. I need to let go of this mounting regret and self-blame in order to work on the things that I can truly influence to better myself. It's easier said than done since this entire ordeal could have been not only prevented, but controlled when I took it too far by adding more ink, removing the ink, and then re-tattooing over it in a desperate attempt to save myself from self-destruction.

My goal is to minimize the amount of time I spend Google-ing "What happens to tattoo ink" and bringing it up around my friends. How obnoxious and repetitive! I'm missing out on the moment because I'm engrossed in my smartphone instead. I have this need to control every aspect of my life, but I need to learn let it go, so I can once again enjoy the most out of life.

I must relinquish some of this control to the universe, and into the universe this ink shall go.

Tx 5 update

I felt like I needed to post an update to show the fading following my 5th zap with the Picosure. I'm no longer stressing over what my system does with the fragmented ink (hooray!) but I'm disappointed with the scarring that has come from the treatments. Does anyone know any effective ways to break up collagen and fad scsrring? I would love to hear your insight :)

Remain Hopeful

Hi Everyone! So, I went for my 6th zap on the coverup with the Picosure last week, and I'm starting to see a glimpse of light at the end of this long, long tunnel. Korry made sure not to go over the parts that didn't need lasering, in an effort to reduce further scarring. (I guess it's pretty naive to think that two tattoos on top of one another, with laser sessions in between, would be removed again without any scarring!) Anyways, I've been applying Aquaphor 2-3 times per day and massaging the area. I'm desperate for anything that will reduce the appearance of the scar; yet I'm amazed to see some ink pull out while I massage it! I've also been keeping it wrapped in compression bandage to help reduce further scarring. I look forward to the day that I'm at peace with this temporary setback. The emotional and financial toll that this has created is almost too much to think about on some days. However, I need to see this journey through, so I can close this chapter in my book. I hope everyone else is staying warm and seeing great results on their personal journey's!

Lacking hope

March seems to be a difficult month for me. It tend to struggle the most with recurring depression around this time of year. It's not just over the tattoo, but the unbearable weight of several compounding issues. I'm going to be 25 in May and I'm still unable to get myself out of my parents' house. I have a 9-5 and a part-time job in retail but my credit card debt, car payment, and student loans are crushing my finances. I barely make enough to cover my expenses alone. Then, I remmber that I burned well over $3,000 (and counting) in a desperate attempt to remove my tattoo(s) and restore self-confidence. What I'm left with is a pale, raised scar of a spiderweb-star cluster. My arm looks destroyed and it's not like concealer will smooth raised skin. I feel utterly hopeless for satisfactory removal but I'm in too deep now. I've already squandered to much money. I want to give up. I've already failed myself.

Spring update

Hello Everyone!

Spring is finally here which means the temperature is warming up and short-sleeve season is upon us. I figured I'd post a photo update because my last post was rather melancholy-- and quite frankly counterproductive. I guess I never thought that I would have ever been so afraid of short-sleeve shirts. I'm hoping that this year I will face the world without a compression bandage over my arm!! (We'll see..)

I'm seeing excellent fading however I'm still dreading the spidey scar. It's ironic that I went through so much to remove a tattoo(s) but in its place is another tattoo-- one that's here to stay for my lifetime. I suppose that I need to come to terms with the fact that I will never see my arm the same again. I just don't know how/when I'll get there. Every time I look at it, it triggers so much emotion...anyhow, here it is in two different lights. It's funny how exaggerated it looks in the other light.

I've Reached The Fork In The Road

I think that for those of you who are familiar with my dilemma, what I'm about to propose is going to leave you thinking that I'm out of my mind. For those who aren't, here's a quick recap: I had a dense-black tattoo removed from my forearm. I went to a reputable dermatologist and the doctor himself performed the treatments. However, what I was left with was a scar that mimicked the outline of the tattoo. Desperate, I rushed to conceal the collateral damage with another tattoo. It didn't work. So, what did I do? I had the cover up blasted away by another series of laser treatments. Yet, I was still left with the same old spidey scar. It pains me to think that I voluntarily did irreparable damage to my skin-- the most superficial part of the body.

Yesterday, I broke down in front of my parents. I began uncontrollably crying about the damage that I've done to myself. My dad, who has been most upset about the money that I burned on the whole ordeal, calmly said "I think you just need to get a good tattoo to cover the scar, and end it." At first, I was like that's the craziest thing I've ever heard! But, as I thought about it more, people have scars covered with artistic designs all the time. I was prepared to find a doctor to inject Kenalog steroids into my skin to flatten the scar or point another laser at my arm to break up the collagen. How much more radiation should I be zapping into my body though? I need to come to terms with the fact that my skin will never look like the skin I was born with anyway, and those treatments would just put me further into debt. I really need to find something that will not only make the scar less noticeable to others, but to hide it from myself.

What do you think-- can a skillfully drawn tattoo diminish the scarring? I feel like at this point, it's my only hope.

To FRAXEL or not to FRAXEL, that is the question...

Thank you to everyone who replied to my last post; I really appreciate your ongoing support. Yesterday, I had a consultation with a dermatologist. For my type of scar (hypertrophic/slightly raised), he recommended the Fraxel 1550. This Fraxel aka Fractioned Laser penetrates collagen in the scar in order to facilitate new, healthy (fingers crossed) collagen. The outcome is a flatter scar, with less defined edges. The catch? It costs $500 a treatment, and he estimates 3-4 to have optimal results. Because I'm so desperate to fade as much of the maitake as possible (yes the ink is gone, but now I'm permanently tattooed with the tattoo). Who knew tattoos were so permanent? Lol. Anyways, I agreed to one zap on July 17th with this new laser to see if it helps at all. After this is over, I hope I never have to say "laser" again.

I'm wondering if after I flatten the scar, and since the scar will always remain, would a cover up even be possible? I'll have plenty of time to think one over and then go from there!

Hello again!

Hi RealSelf friends,

After taking some time off from Picosure treatments (my last zap was in May), I’m pleased to share the results from my first Fraxel treatment. The Fraxel 1550 laser is a fractionated skin resurfacing laser from Solta Medical. It penetrates tiny columns in the skin to smooth the skin and to stimulate healthy collagen production. It’s primarily used on the face to treat acne scars, wrinkles, and damage caused by the sun. I’m going to share this experience with the tattoo removal community because many of us have varying degrees of scarring. It’s much more expensive than the Picosure, at $500 a visit; however I picked up a part-time serving job to cover the expense. Fortunately, the new restaurant has been busy enough that I was able to finance the entire series (four zaps) in just one month.

As you know, the scarring left from the first round of tattoo removal devastated me. With the ongoing support from the RealSelf community and my own self-reflection, I am slowly coming back stronger than ever. As you can see in the comparison pictures attached, I have improved skin tone and complexion. Since the laser on ‘damages’ a fraction of the area treated, one can expect a quicker recovery than with other methods. As a result, some areas of the web are smoother than others. The scar is becoming less dramatic and my skin is softer. I’m hopeful that with time, I will continue to see a fresher forearm. I realize that I’ll never be able to erase the scar completely, but it’ll serve as a reminder to never jump again.

Thank you for taking the time to read my update. I really appreciate the continued encouragement the people in this community have given me.

Only my best,

December Update

I feel like I've dropped off the face of the Earth, but it's been slammed at work and I'm trying to get my ducks in a row for graduate school. Nonetheless, I wanted to post a quick update on the great results that I've had from the Fraxel treatments. I've had a total of 3 sessions to date and I've booked one more for January 15th. It's pricey, even for such a small area of skin, but since I've seen an improvement I'm going for one more. Have a safe and happy holiday season!
Southgate Medical Group

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