In December 2015 a gentleman called our office with an urgent request to remove a neck tattoo. He explained to our secretary that he simply needed to be seen immediately because he only had three days to remove the tattoo. "I'm joining the military," he explained. "My recruiter told me my tattoo needs to be gone by this weekend."
One of the more satisfying elements of working as a laser technician is helping people achieve their goal of joining the armed forces. Never does a week pass when some young and high-energy recruit does not call our shop because he/she just learned that her dream would need to be put on hold until her wrist/hand/neck tattoo had been removed. We get them in quickly and slash the price, but these folks only have one question on their mind: How long will it take?
If you were to put your trust in Google or Youtube you would have absolutely no idea how long the process would take because there exists an unprecedented lack of transparency and peer reviewed data in the laser tattoo removal industry. Truly, the only information available on the internet seems to be from for-profit companies selling the service. To be fair, that describes me too. Technically, I sell tattoo removal services. What I don't do is flood the airways with false hope and promises. I sell a wonderfully effective and technologically advanced service. I sell an experience. I sell the means to achieve an important end. In short, I sell 10% of the actual process of tattoo removal.
"... I need this tattoo removed this weekend."
Tattoo removal takes time. Often, this can be frustrating for the optimistic customer who has finally made the huge commitment to remove a tattoo. It is easy to be positive and optimistic on day one. Even on month one. But what about month four? Month eleven? Some tattoos are gouged in by an unskilled "scratcher" with illustration ink and a poorly tuned machine. Rarely (never?) has a customer told me that I shouldn't have a problem removing the tattoo because it was gently applied by a talented artist with a soft hitting machine, a 7 round needle configuration, a grey wash with distilled water, and Starbright brand ink. The FDA doesn't regulate tattoo ink and we, the canvasses, most certainly don't. Can a tattoo treated tonight be gone this weekend?
Can a tattoo treated today be gone next month? Possibly. But the only responsible answer on day one is "I have no idea."
The myth of tattoo removal is that the process is 100% science. Like the application of the ink itself, tattoo removal is very much an art, and both the technician and customer are players on that stage. Are you an active person? Do you spend your days shredding waves or watching Hell's Kitchen marathons? The application of the ink, the technology used to facilitate its removal, the experience you have during treatment, the number of passes with the laser, your mood, your attitude, whether you just came from a long nap or a Bikrim yoga session... all of this comes into play. You and your technician are partners in the process, co-conspirators, artists. The fading of the tattoo - just like the tattoo itself- is your work of art. And like all great works of art that came before it, this one too will take time.
Will you be deploying Saturday? It ain't gonna happen, kiddo.