Subject: rec.arts.bodyart: Tattoo FAQ 7/9--General care/removal
Reply-to: stan AT cosmo.pasadena.ca.us
Approved: news-answers-request AT MIT.Edu
Expires: May 15, 2007
Summary: This posting contains a bibliography of various sources
available on the topic of tattoos. Anyone who wishes to read/post to the
RAB newsgroup, or obtain tattoos should read this first.
Last-modified: May 8, 2002
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This FAQ is maintained by Stan Schwarz <stan-rabfaq AT cosmo.pasadena.ca.us>
If you are reading this file using a web browser, and the file you are
looking at is from www.cis.ohio-state.edu, click on the other archive
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You can retrieve a copy of the FAQ via anonymous ftp from the MIT FTP
The FAQs are also available on the World Wide Web at
The rec.arts.bodyart Tattoo FAQ is broken up into 9 parts:
2/9--Getting a tattoo
6/9--Care of new tattoos
7/9--General care/removal <--YOU ARE READING THIS FILE
This file is structured as a traditional FAQ in the form of questions
and answers. Questions answered in this file:
Rec.arts.bodyart FAQ Part 7/9: Old tattoos--care/removal
How does weight gain/loss affect a tattoo?
How does lifting weights affect a tattoo?
How does pregnancy affect a tattoo near the abdomen?
Can a tattoo be removed?
Get it reworked--cover-up
Get it reworked--touch-up
Get it removed--Tissue Expansion
Get it removed--Sal Abration
Get it removed--Staged Excision
Get it removed--medical lasers
Innovative Government Incentive Program for Tattoo Removal
One person's decision toward tattoo removal
COPYRIGHT AND DISSEMINATION
Under the Berne Convention, this document is Copyright (c) 1997 by Lani
Teshima-Miller, all rights reserved. Permission is granted for it to be
reproduced electronically on any system connected to the various
networks which make up the Internet, Usenet, and FidoNet so long as it
is reproduced in its entirety, unedited, and with this copyright notice
intact. Web sites are included. Individual copies may also be printed
for personal use.
Tattoos can definitely be affected by stretch marks. Whether you will or
won't get stretch marks is apparently determined genetically, so
placement is a consideration if you are planning on getting pregnant. I
know for a fact that stretch marks can ruin a tattoo, because I have a
very small tattoo that now looks more like a blob because of a large
stretch mark running through the middle of it. Luckily, this was a
home-brewed job (the kind done with India ink and a pin wrapped in
thread) so I was never particularly attached to the artwork. :-}
If your skin stretches from weight gain and then shrinks back up without
losing its elasticity (the loss of elasticity is what results in stretch
marks), then I would expect that there wouldn't be much distortion of
the tattoo, maybe none at all.
Or, put the tattoo someplace that won't get stretched so much, like the
chest area above the breasts. My upper stomach didn't stretch much,
either, but the lower abdominal skin did stretch quite a lot. (I've seen
stretch marks on hips, thighs and arms as well--probably related to
muscle gain from weight lifting as well as general fattening/thinning.)
HOW DOES LIFTING WEIGHTS AFFECT A TATTOO?
For most people, the amount of muscle gain is nowhere near as quick or
as dramatic as what you would see with the stretching of skin on a
pregnant person. For this reason, you don't really have to worry about
your tattoo changing shape when you start lifting weights. I don't know
what would happen though, if you decide you want to be the next Mr.
Universe and you currently weigh 90 pounds.
HOW DOES PREGNANCY AFFECT A TATTOO NEAR THE ABDOMEN?
If you are planning on getting pregnant, you should be very cautious
about the placement of any tattoo near the abdominal area. Not only will
the tattoo stretch during pregnancy--there is no guarantee that the
tattoo will go back to its original shape after the birth of your baby.
Be particularly wary of getting any tattoo where the shape is important,
such as with symmetrical tribal pieces, or Celtic knots. Even geometric
patterns such as a circle could end up looking like an oval (or worse,
an irregular blob). A more "giving" image, such as that of clouds, might
suit you better.
There are two options you might want to consider: a) Do not get any
tattoos around the abdominal area at all, but limit your ink to other
parts of your torso; b) Put off getting your abdominal tattoos until
after you have had your children.
Obviously, this involves some level of family planning.
There are several methods for "removing" a tattoo, listed below. However
with all of these methods, you either still end up with a tattoo (albeit
a better-looking one), a scar, or a skinnier wallet. In other words, it
is much easier to get a tattoo in the first place than to get rid of
one. If you are considering getting a new tattoo, think carefully before
you do--or you may end up re-reading this section.
IMPORTANT Most health insurance companies do not cover tattoo removal
in their coverage. The removal of a small tattoo (2-inch square) could
end up costing you over $1,000--and there are "hidden costs" to the
concept of tattoo removal. The bottom line is, TATTOO REMOVAL IS VERY
EXPENSIVE. This means that it is extra-important for you to consider
CAREFULLY and spend a long time considering getting one in the first
GET IT REWORKED--COVER-UP
There are different ways to get cover-up work, depending on the
situation. A name can be tastefully camouflaged with a small design,
making the name impossible to read. If it's the entire thing you want
covered, it could be covered with another design. It is easier to cover
a lighter color with a darker color, although oftentimes the original
work is done in a dark color.
This means not just a good tattooist, but a really good artist; what
they'll have to do is find a way to work the existing tattoo into a new
design that will cover and disguise what's there. If you don't believe
that good cover-up work can do magic, take a look at some of the
before-after photos in some of the tattoo magazines. The artists know
how to work with form and shape, to where the new tattoo looks nothing
like the old one.
An example of BAD cover-up is an artist who simply blacks out whatever
was there before. I've seen big black rectangles where names used to
be. This is a rather inelegant way of covering an unwanted tattoo.
The main idea is to check with the individual artist. If they've done
significant cover-up work, they should have before and after photos of
it in their book, where you can see where the work occurred.
--The people at Tattoo City can do it (see their entry under 5.1 US West
Coast: California: San Francisco).
GET IT REWORKED--TOUCH-UP
With the advances in technology, technique and the availability of new,
brighter colors in the past few years, faded or blurred tattoos can look
brighter and sharper than when they were new.
Some touch-up work makes the tattoo significantly better looking than it
ever was, actually improving on the original tattoo.
GET IT REMOVED--TISSUE EXPANSION
The tissue expansion method is where a balloon is inserted and inflated
under the skin to slowly stretch the flesh. The tattoo is then cut out
and the newly stretched skin covers its place. This is a popular method
for removing smaller tattoos and leaves only a straight-line surgical
GET IT REMOVED--SAL ABRASION
Sal abrasion involves rubbing the image with salt and "sanding" it out.
GET IT REMOVED--STAGED EXCISION
The staged excision method actually cuts the image out, a small portion
at a time.
Both the sal abrasion and staged excision methods result in more
Also, homemade tattoos can be more difficult to remove because while the
concentration of ink may not be as great as in a professional tattoo, it
often goes deeper into the skin (you may want to consider cover-up work
in this case).
Monese Christensen (lynx AT codon.nih.gov) recounts a rather sad story
about her sister, who, on a whim without finding a good artist, got a
tattoo she regretted enough to try to get it removed. "The saline
expansion took about 4 months. The insertion of the saline bag was major
surgery. They put her out. And put her out again to remove the tattoo
and bag. The surgery was not covered under insurance for cosmetic
reasons and it came to $5,000." Note that for six months Monese's sister
had a big lump of extra skin growing on her back and she looked like
Quasimodo. This, I believe, for a tattoo about 2" x 2".
GET IT REMOVED--MEDICAL LASERS
There are a number of new laser methods for tattoo removal, although
they tend to be costly and are usually not covered by medical insurance
plans. Of the three forms of medical lasers currently available (the CO2
laser, the Q-stitched ruby laser and the Tatulazr), the new Tatulazr has
been deemed one of the most effective ways to remove blue-black tattoos.
According to Dr. Richard Fitzpatrick of Dermatology Associates of San
Diego County (who is the clinical investigator for the Tatulazr), the
Tatulazr delivers pulses of energy that are selectively absorbed by the
pigment granules of the tattoo. He says that the Tatulazr's wavelength
causes less absorption of the laser light by the normal skin, resulting
in less risk of scarring. The longer wavelength allows more energy to
reach the target tattoo pigment, resulting in greater removal success.
In addition, the wavelength allows for deeper penetration into the skin,
which means fewer treatments may be required for complete tattoo
For the name of a physicial in your area who uses the Tatulazr, call the
Candela Laser Corp. at 1-800-733-8550 Ext. 444 (or write to them at 530
Boston Post Rd., Wayland, MA 01778).
The following, brought to my attention by Mike <silicon AT cris.com>, is a
copy of an FDA alert dated September 1992 against the method of
chemical tattoo removal being marketed by Tatex, Inc. based in
Pickering, Ontario (Canada) and marketed in the US out of Las Vegas,
Nevada. I have no reason to doubt Mike's intentions in forwarding this
alert to me. From what Mike tells me, it's possible that Tatex is a weak
acid or peroxide formula that eats away at your skin. He says he
believes the FDA alert is due to their not having completed necessary
tests. The following is the alert in its entirety. I'll let the readers
decide for themselves whether this stuff is appropriate or not.
(Reformatted for ease of readability.)
I recently received an email from the makers of Tatex, asking me to
remove this section. I checked, and the FDA alert is still in effect,
having been updated as recently as October, 1999, so this section
FDA IA#66-11, REVISED 9/21/92
TYPE OF ALERT: Automatic Detention
PRODUCT: Tattoo Removers
PRODUCT CODE: 66V--99
PROBLEM: New Drug without a New Drug Application (NDA) (DRND)
PAC FOR COLLECTION: 56008H
CHARGE: "The article is subject to refusal of admission pursuant to
Section 801(a)(3) in that it appears to be a new drug within the meaning of Section 201(p) without an approved new drug application [Unapproved New Drug, Section 505(a)]."
RECOMMENDING OFFICE: CDER/OTC Compliance Branch, HFD-312
REASON FOR ALERT:
Three complaints of injury have implicated this drug as the source of acute inflammation, cellulitis and secondary infection of the skin. All of the complaints indicated that the tattoo remover was received through the mail from the Atlanta Co., Pickering, Ontario, Canada. The product was received in small plastic vials labeled in part, "Tatex Tattoo Remover*** 2 1/2 cc accompanied by labeling entitled, "Instructions for use of the Tatex Tattoo Remover." Although there has been no recent detention activity of the Tatex brand tattoo remover, the alert remains in effect because of the possibility of entry which may be attempted for similar products from other foreign manufacturers. INSTRUCTIONS: Detain products which claim to be tattoo removers. Notify CDER/OTC Labeling Branch at 301-295-8063 when detentions of these products are made. KEYWORDS: Tattoo remover, New Drug, Tatex Tattoo Remover, skin, infection
PREPARED BY : Linda A. Wisniowski, DIOP, 301-443-6553
In a news conference held in April '94, San Jose Mayor Susan Hammer
announced a new program that would help young people to remove unwanted
tattoos. $15,000 from the San Jose BEST anti-gang grant program will pay
for the tattoo removal from about 100 people. Hammer said she will seek
"I want to send a message to every young person troubled by the presence
of a tattoo," Hammer said. "This program is about you and about your
dream." The service is being provided by plastic surgeon Josh Korman,
who is donating his time.
Another program to remove juveniles' tattoos is funded by the
California Youth Authority. People under 25 can have tattoos removed
in exchange for performing 30 hours of community service. In Southern
California, this program is administered by the Hollywood Sunset Free
Clinic. Information about this can be found at:
The following is a personal account by Cindy Browning
<browning_cindy AT smtpmac.bah.com>, of her decision to have her tattoos
I started getting tats at 24 with a very small shoulder piece. I dated
and ended up marrying a self-professed (now professional) tattoo artist,
and got more pieces, all blackwork. The marriage ended, and I was left
with a lot of tat work; some good but most, painful reminders.
I had heard of tat removal, but these rumors were usually prefaced by
"It hurts a lot, worse than the tat, it doesn't always work, and it's
incredibly expensive." I saw the results of a removal on a friend of
mine--she had a racist symbol on her hand, and her mom sent her to have
it removed for around $500. (being married to the artist, none of my
tats had cost anything--you get what you pay for.)
I decided to go with cover-up work. Got several pieces from '89-91,
blackwork and color, all by recognized professionals I knew. Some of the
nicest ones I got were around my ankles--Egyptian-themed pieces from
historical sources, a tribal tiger head from a book catalogue. My job
was extremely unconventional--a retail store manager specializing in
jewelry, minerals, and the occult. Located in a very hip, trendy area of
Washington D.C., celebrities walked in regularly. The store owner
encouraged us to be interesting-looking, and tats fit with the
fashion-forward clothes that we wore.
I left my job abruptly in '91, and used my computer skills to enter the
extremely rigid, conservative world of government consulting. At first
it was easy to cover up with black hose, long sleeves, and blazers, but
this became increasingly constrictive. I began dreaming of wearing
shorts, white hose, sleeveless shirts, bathing suits, anything, without
being a one-woman free tattoo show. My life changed. My rock & roll
friends were bored with my stories of work, not impressed that I was
earning money, driving a new car and living on my own instead of in
grimy group houses.
New friends made judgments about me once they found out I had tattoos.
Romance was difficult--there was always the "I have......tattoos"
conversation to go through. There are surprising numbers of
unenlightened men out there who think you are a) sleazy b) ready for sex
at ANY time c) perverted d) into "pain" e) gross f) all of the above if
you have tats. I think I met all of them in the D.C. area.
One approached me on the mall on July 4th when I was celebrating freedom
in my own personal way by wearing a tank top. He ran his slimy finger
down my tattooed upper arm and said, "Pretty" in a Hannibal Lecter
voice. I ran away. I think it was then that I began my soul-searching,
before searching for doctors who could effectively remove tattoos,
starting with my ankle pieces. My search was futile. I met at least one
dermatologist who was really nice 'til I took off my shirt, at which
point I believe she thought I was a candidate for Psychotic Monthly.
I did eventually meet a man who said he didn't care if I had tats, but
had none of his own. But those T-shirt aphorisms you read about
non-tattooed people are true. We were driving past a boutique one night,
and there was a velvet sheath dress in the window, cut up to here and
down to there. He looked at me sadly and said how he wished I could wear
it. I said, "Huh?" as I am not overweight by any means. I then realized
what he really meant, that he wished I did not look like the missing 5th
member of the Cycle Sluts from Hell in the dress. Groan.
I did so well that I was offered a new position and a promotion at a new
office in San Antonio. I grabbed it. Upon arriving and perusing the
local rock & roll paper, I saw an ad that read "Married to Mary Lou but
still have Debbie on your arm?", advertising the Laser Institute of San
Antonio. I called, made an appointment, and went as soon as I could. The
doctor (Dr. Marc Taylor) was very friendly, if a bit surprised by my tat
work, but said he could help me. I saw a short video that showed results
that looked miraculous. He warned that scarring could occur, and with
professional tats, several treatments were necessary, scarring one's
pocketbook as well.
But I didn't care. All I could see was a rainbow, with white stockings
and shorts and sandals at the end. Let me tell you, not wearing shorts
in Texas in the summer makes you look like un-American. And I have no
wish to look like someone's dad, or the Captain of the Love Boat, with
dorky ankle socks.
Now, you might say that individualism is prized in Texas. But after
years of having tattoos, I stopped caring about what others think, and
am concerned with my own comfort level.
So far I have had one treatment. It went on for about 20 minutes, and
felt somewhat like getting a tattoo, but more like a rubber band
snapping on my skin. The machine is about 2 feet high and has a probe on
a mechanical arm coming out of it, sort of like a dental drill. There's
a pen-shaped attachment on the end, and a plastic shield (to keep the
laser from shooting all over the room). The doctor, the attendant nurse
and I all had to wear eye protection. The pen attachment shoots out
little bursts of light, accompanied by an unpleasant crackling noise.
The initial consultation was $45.00, and each 15-minute treatment is
$195.00 (with incremental amounts added for every additional minute. It
was $240 for 19 minutes. Aftercare is exactly the same as that for a
tattoo, with 6-8 weeks between treatments. The results from my first
treatment; there are areas where the tats have completely disappeared,
although I was advised that this might not happen on every try.
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This ends "rec.arts.bodyart: Tattoo FAQ 7/9--General care/removal." This
should be followed by "rec.arts.bodyart: Tattoo FAQ 8/9--Miscellaneous