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Guest Blog: Adventures in Tattoo Removal

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Mia

Music + whiskey + tattoos= me

My guest blogger, and new BFF, Brad is back with another installment of his tale of tattoo removal.

Part 2: Adventures in Tattoo Removal

OK, ouch.

Now that I have that out of the way, I had my first Q switch laser session to remove the dreaded 90's tribal arm band on Tuesday. For those of you who are thinking about erasing some of your ink for whatever reason, I'll do my best to describe the process, so that you will be a more informed consumer and know what you're getting yourself into.

The first step is finding a place to have it done. Considering how many tattoo shops there are in the city, you have very few options when it comes to removal. After a Google and Yelp search, and a recommendation from Nick Collela at Chicago Tattoo while Mia was getting her gorgeous pin up (SO jealous!), I narrowed it down to 3 contenders: The Reymar Clinic in Chicago, Dr. Memar in Chicago, and The Ritacca Laser Center in Vernon Hills. There were a couple of others, but I had either heard bad things about them or they were inconvenient to get to. I had a hard time scheduling an appointment with Dr. Memar's office, so I decided to narrow my search to the remaining two options.

A Yelp reviewer described The Reymar Clinic thusly: "I was told to go to a laser clinic called Reymar in Halstead Chicago and said that they do great work in a ghetto neighborhood and it is cheap too". Ok, I thought, I like cheap, and although I am a north side gay white boy, I'm no Chris Parker in "Adventures in Babysitting"! I can do this. So I made an appointment and off I went.

Guess what? Maybe I AM Chris Parker. This place reminded me of a 1970's era free clinic. The doors were locked when I arrived for my appointment. Not a good sign. I called and when someone answered, they told me to go around back. I walked in the back door, looked around, clutched my pearls and my smelling salts, walked out, got back into my car, and sped home. I'm cheap, but not that cheap. On to the next choice. (On a side note, when I checked Yelp today, they said that The Reymar Clinic was closed. Readers, I'm not surprised)

My next appointment was at the Ritacca Laser Center in Vernon Hills. It's a Medi Spa, meaning that they do lots of cosmetic procedures like Botox, facial peels, Restylane, and the like. It was clean, the staff was professional, they explained everything clearly, and I decided to have the procedure there. There were some mixed reviews on Yelp, but I didn't feel like checking out every single place in the city, and Vernon Hills isn't that far from where I work.

During my consultation, one of Dr. Ritacca's assistants explained the lasering process to me. Basically, the laser light breaks up the ink in the tattoo into microscopic particles, which are then absorbed into the body and eventually excreted. In order to keep the integrity of the skin and not scar, it takes multiple sessions to achieve the results, which according to them, are not a complete erasure of the tattoo, but more of a fading, as though you had a mild bruise. Older tattoos respond better than new ones, so yay for me, since my armband had faded a lot in the 12 or so years I have had it. Black ink fades first, then red, then blues and greens, so if you have a lot of color, it will take more sessions and a longer time to fade. Again, yay for me since it's all black.

The sessions are spaced every 3 months, to allow the skin to heal in between, so if you have a big colorful tattoo, you're looking at a lot of time and money. My sessions are $225 each, but that varies, depending on the size of area being treated, and they estimate that I will need at least 3 sessions to see substantial fading. I did some online research, and this seemed to be in alignment with what other places were saying, so I felt comfortable with having Dr. Ritacca do it. That's another really important consideration- who will actually be doing the lasering? A medical assistant? Nurse? Janitor? I liked that a doctor was doing the work himself. And off we went....

So's you go in, and your first choice is numbed or not numbed. According to Dr. Ritacca, topical numbing creams containing lidocaine aren't effective, so if you want to pay an additional $25, they will inject you and numb the site. Remember the part when I said I like cheap? Guess which option I chose? Not numb? You are correct, sir! Partly because I AM a cheap ass, partially for you, gentle reader. Yes, I did it for you.

So they fire up the old Q switch laser and begin. The whole lasering process took less than 2 minutes, thank goodness, because it did smart. A lot. Imagine getting tattooed. Triple the discomfort. That's laser tattoo removal. I have a pretty high pain threshold, and I got thru it just fine, but if you don't, get numbed. That being said, I'll probably skip it again myself next time too. In for a penny, in for a pound....

The treated area turns white when the laser hits it, and you feel a heat and a prickly, stabbing sensation. Once the treatment is done, it tingles a bit but doesn't hurt. They bandage you up, give you care instructions, and off you go. You have to keep the treated area bandaged for 7 days, and apply a bacatracin type ointment twice a day, and then you're good to go till the next session. Does it look different right away? Maybe a little, but it's supposed to fade with time, so we'll see what it looks like in a few weeks. I know, kind of anticlimactic, right? Oh well. I'll send some pictures for you to see. I didn't blister or scab, and it's been 3 days, so so far so good. I'll keep everyone informed as the entire process continues.

My next appointment is in May, so this is Brad, your intrepid tattoo removal reporter, signing off for now...

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