It happens so often, I get an email or a call from someone who is not only looking for a new tattoo to add to their body, but to also hide one at the same time. I constantly hear the story of the over eager collector, getting a tattoo and ending up with something they arent happy with, or a tattoo that is just old and doesn't look sharp anymore, or even it's just something that they feel no longer represents them as a person. Those unfortunate tattoos have the ability to stab at the self esteem, bring down morals, and sometimes, prevent them from moving on in life, whether it be in a personal relationship or a professional one. The idea and consequence of something being completely permanent on our bodies is hard to grasp before it's actually a reality, and sadly, regretful. They come to me with the hope that it could be covered up, 7 times out of ten, my response would be to get some laser treatments done on it first, not to be that guy that wants to send business to the local laser removal place, but because in the long run you will be happier with the results.
Tattoo laser removal was discovered possible in the 80s and has been developing ever since. It was a big step from sanding a tattoo off, or chemically burning it off, and left a lot less scarring. The word laser sounds so sci fi and almost intimidating, but I have never met someone who has regretted having it done. It takes time, which is one of the consequences of wanting permanence reversed, but in the end it's worth it because for one you get something you want over it, rather than something that will work to cover it, and 9 times out of ten, if there was no laser treatments done prior to the coverup, overtime the tattoo underneath the new one will show through.
For those who dont mind tattoos but are just over the one that they have, cover ups are a huge percentage of the appointments shops take on. Its always possible, but the gamble of ending up with something else you would regret is still there. Cover up tattoos require extra time and effort. The cover up design has limitations, requiring needs met to adequately replace the original tattoo, compromising design for functionality and can take a lot more "coats" to achieve full coverage and success. Even then they almost always show through the new tattoo over time. I, myself, have dealt a lot with both experiences on my own body as a collector. I started getting tattooed when I was young, and I'm working towards full coverage now. Ive got multiple cover ups on every limb of my body, four coverups just on my back. This was all before my consideration of laser removal. I've had laser treatments on my right arm, chest, several pieces lightened with the laser on my legs and a little laser work done on my back, I'm also in the process of getting my neck fully lasered, which has now been treated seven times and if i wanted to I could have it covered with ease and get anything i want. This would not have been the case if i didn't do any laser work on it. All the other spots on my body that I had laser treatments on have been covered and comparing all of my laser cover ups, compared to my regular traditional cover ups. The lasered areas with new tattoos look ten times better than the spots i had nothing lightened first.
Of course there are successful coverups that are being done everyday without laser treatments, but your design options will be limited, a more chaotic design works the best for coverups, for example: a bio-organic tattoo, one of the worst possible designs for a coverup is a pin-up, or portrait, especially in the skin zones, if there is a smooth area in the design that is trying to cover an old tattoo, it will not work! Maybe for that day or the first couple weeks, it might look successful but just wait, it will start to show thru. There is the option of going over it again once it is healed to hide the old tattoo better, this is usually mandatory for success. Just don't want to go to dark to where it creates a mess and make sure your artist is comfortable with coverups and has been successful at them in the past. I mentioned pinups and portraits being bad for coverups, but they can still be successful, but only if the coverup is within the shirt design or even better in the hair of the new portrait tattoo. This also makes the new tattoo to be large in order to work and this will also take the focal point off of the coverup area. Creating a new focal point and using the right colors are key! Theres alot of little tricks to doing coverups but for what i have seen with my experience of getting coverups and laser treated cover ups,and as an artist performing coverups. The ticket is getting some laser work done first. Whether you are coming to me for a coverup or another artist feel free to email me a photo of your existing tattoo and what your plans are for covering it and i will give you my opinion on whether you should have some laser treatments done.
What to expect from the laser...It hurts! It hurts worse than getting a tattoo, but it goes fast, they can laser my entire neck all the way around in 10 minutes or less. You will get hot, maybe even smell some burning hair, it feels like a rubber band is snapping you extremely hard over and over again,it kinda sounds like that too. But when i leave the laser place i feel like when i leave a tattoo studio and i just got a rad new tattoo, because i'm stoked its coming off. Most places have numbing agents that they can rub on prior to laser, it will still hurt, but takes the edge off. You usually wont see results after the first treatment, but after the second you should start to see results, if your planing to cover it up, you most likely will need to get it at the minimum hit 3 times and the maximum about 9 times. Anymore than that it could be a waste, again email or visit your artist to ask his/her opinion to see if its ready. Just minutes after you get your old tattoo treated its very possible you will get blisters,if you are removing color it will blister more than just black and grey. If you get huge blisters, don't pop them just keep it clean and possibly wrapped in gauze. You have to wait about 6 weeks in between treatments,and wait a good 6-8 weeks before getting it covered with your new tattoo after the last treatment. You can wait even longer and you will notice that the area that was lasered will continue to lighten up for a year to come. They also say that when you get your old treated tattoo covered up with a new one you could see your new tattoo lighten up in that area as well. If you do you will just need to get a touch up/fine tune session. In my experience and visiting about 4 different laser removal centers I have never gotten any scarring from it. The lasers are a lot better nowadays than they were when they first came out. As far as cost for laser tattoo removal, it could be as low as $50.00 per treatment up to $600.00 depending on size and how many times your going to get it hit.
If you are thinking about getting a tattoo removed and are in Southern California, I recommend Dr. Tattoff. I've always had a good experience there and they definately know what they are doing. You can check out their locations at www.Drtattoff.com
. Another place that I have gone to, is in the mid west called Unique Ink. Jack Morton does the laser removal there and he has tons of experience with it too.You can visit his website at www.rethinkyourink.com
Hope this helps anyone that was curios about the process or if you were considering a cover up and whether or not laser is right for you or not.