Virginia’s Corner: Tattoo Removal - Before and After
Have you ever gotten a tattoo when you were young and regretted it down the line? Has your mom ever told you not to do something and you did it anyway and then wondered to yourself “how did she know?“ Well, that’s what happened when I fell in love (or at least thought I did at the time) with the wrong person and decided to show my devotion by getting his name tattooed on my skin. Permanently. In this case, my mom didn’t know because I was always scared she’d kill me if she did.
This is my first tattoo excision (removal, cut out)…and although I work here at Tannan Plastic Surgery, and I have seen first hand how talented and professional Dr. Tannan is, and I trust her thru and thru…I couldn’t help but feel a little nervous/anxious in the days leading up to it. For me, this was a big deal. I’ve had this tattoo with an ex boyfriend’s name on me since I was around 22. We both got each others’ name at the time and I thought this was IT for me. I thought this was the man I was going to marry. I’m having to address it now – 7 years after, with one beautiful, whimsical child later and an understanding open-minded fiancé (not the same man in said tattoo, obviously!).
Making the Decision to Remove a Tattoo
Removing this tattoo comes with a lot. It wasn’t a healthy relationship and it’s been physically marked on me since. A reminder of past mistakes made on some days, and on other days, past obstacles overcome. I don’t really wear bathing suits anymore because I refuse to show the name (it’s on my upper thigh) in public, ESPECIALLY around my fiancé. He is kinder and more understanding about it than I am. I love him for that. I judge myself a little (okay, a lot) more than he does. He sees it as something I did when I was young and oblivious of consequences, always trying to live in the moment. However, I never want to make him feel bad or self-conscious about it (even though he tells me all the time he doesn’t see it like that and knows I want to remove it), EVER.
I know I wouldn’t really like it if he had an ex-girlfriend’s name on him. I always thought about getting it lasered off, but so many things were happening during that time after the split that I just kept putting it off. Eventually when I met my fiancé, it became a priority. And then I got pregnant. So at that point I had to wait until after. Way after. I now had so many more important things to think of, I honestly barely thought of the tattoo. Until, of course, I felt more settled in, as a first time mom.
Removing a Tattoo with Surgical Excision
When I started working for Tannan Plastic Surgery I discovered the surgical procedure of tattoo excision and it saved me the money and trouble of laser removal. I always figured I’d have to deal with the process of laser tattoo removal, hoping for the best results – but expecting the worst. I assumed I would just be another person who shelled out money and had to continue to wait time after time to see the smallest results. Now, I think tattoo laser removal can be effective in certain cases, but it takes a lot of time, patience and money. Patience is not a virtue of mine. I wanted to see immediate results.
When I saw that Dr. Tannan did tattoo excisions I contemplated asking her advice on the tattoo excision. I talked about it with my fiancé – asking his opinion, “Should I show her?” I’d ask. He’d just look at me and respond ” I don’t know babe, it’s up to you. I don’t see why not? You’re not the first girl to get her ex’s name tattooed on them.” That actually made me feel better. However, I kept thinking “Ugh. I don’t want to be judged. And.. I WORK HERE. ” We have potential patients call all the time about tattoo excisions, and they’re mostly embarrassed to tell me about the tattoo they want excised. They’ll nervously chuckle when they say what it is, or hesitate, little do they know – I KNOW exactly how they feel! Speaking from personal experience, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed to make a change.
Spoiler Alert: Here is the tattoo on Dr. Tannan’s side table, after she took it off! <sigh of relief!>
What to Expect During the Tattoo Removal Procedure
So, one afternoon when it was just the two of us, I told Dr. Tannan. Summer was coming and I wanted to have the procedure done before then. I wanted to be able to enjoy the beach and pool with my daughter and not feel self-conscious about it anymore. Not at the beach, not when I get out of the shower, not when I have sex with my fiancé, NEVER. I really felt like it was holding me back. Monday, April 15th, a part of my old life was removed so that my new life can continue to move forward. Very symbolic, I know.
Dr. Tannan never judged me. She spoke to me about tattoo removal clearly and thoroughly and explained the realistic expectations. The scar to remove the scar. Only this time, the scar would be something I’m proud of. During the procedure I felt NOTHING AT ALL. I was anxious at first, thinking to myself: “What did I just get myself into?” “I’m nervous.” Dr. Tannan alerted me, “If you want to back out, now’s the time, before I prep everything.” I answered, “No, I’m okay.”
As she prepared for the procedure, I laid down in the procedure chair. I felt both anxious and excited. She asked me what music I wanted to listen to and I told her I was pretty content with her playlist options so far. Early 2000’s girl groups, R & B, happy songs and familiar tracks I grew up listening to in middle school. I immediately felt more relaxed and nostalgic. Dr. Tannan explained that she would be administering the local anesthesia and that it may hurt a bit. I saw the needle and didn’t want to look. It didn’t hurt one bit for me…
Tattoo Removal Before and After
Soon after, she did the test to confirm I didn’t have sensation in the area that she was going to work on. The excision began. I didn’t feel a thing. Nothing. We chatted the whole time and felt organic and seamless. It took less than two hours. Once she was done I saw the result. I couldn’t believe it – the name was no longer there. There were some curls from the red lettering left behind, but that was it. She explained that based on how wide the font was for some parts she couldn’t safely take the whole tattoo out in one swoop, but the name would be gone for sure (and that’s what I really wanted anyway). The curls didn’t bother me at all. The main part, which was the name, was off of me.
The name laid on the little side table all scrunched up and almost illegible. Relief and excitement came over me. I was happy. I was able to walk around and still had no sensation and felt no pain yet. I had my local surgery instruction paperwork with me and waited to take my first Tylenol.
Here it is – the before and then three weeks after. You can see the parts where it was too wide to safely remove in one fell swoop – but the name is gone, gone, GONE!
Recovering from a Tattoo Removal Procedure
The first day I should’ve taken Tylenol sooner. You’d think that if I worked here I would’ve known that and done that! But no, I’m just like everyone else who doesn’t listen to their doctor. I’m no exception. I had shooting pain at times and at one point it was really uncomfortable. It felt like a bad cramp in the area that wouldn’t stop. My fiancé was very supportive. He always told me the tattoo wasn’t a big deal for him and he accepted it. But then after seeing the scar and the lengths I went thru to remove it, seeing the results made him emotional. He was very attentive and caring throughout the recovery process.
The night of the procedure, I put my daughter to bed and I rocked her to sleep in my arms on the right side of my body so her legs wouldn’t rub the treated area around my thigh. I sat on my couch, watched Netflix and treated myself to a Halo Top ice cream shortly after. When the Tylenol kicked in, I slept surprisingly well. I placed a pillow under my leg so there was some elevation and put it in between my legs when I was on my side. I noticed I did feel a little tired as well. To sum it up, this night was more discomfort than pain and after this day the pain subsided.
The second day, I woke up without pain but feeling a little sore. I learned my lesson from the night before so I took pain medication by 9am and the soreness was basically gone. I wore loose pants and hadn’t taken off the bandaids or dressings yet. On the third day, I didn’t really feel pain so at this point I was only taking the prophylactic antibiotics and the bandage was still on. I didn’t feel the need for pain meds so at this point, I was no longer taking them.
On day four, I took off the bandage. It looked great and I could see the steri strips. The fifth day is when the itching started. The steri strips started to loosen and come off. Dr. Tannan cut the edges of the steri strips off so it wouldn’t itch and told me I could do the same. I told her I was afraid of scratching it during my sleep. So, she put a bandage on it and gave me some extra ones, so that if I did scratch, I scratched around it. If it was in an easier spot to wrap, like my arm, I could’ve wrapped it in an ace bandage.
A week later, Dr. Tannan took all the dressings off and started me on the scar cream. The knot from the stitch was still in my wound. Dr. Tannan informed me that she would not remove it until the following week. Two weeks later, Dr. Tannan removed the stitches that did not absorb away on their own and said now the massaging with scar cream begins. The removal of the three stitches was probably the most uncomfortable of all the follow up appointments but nothing too detrimental. At this point, it looked a lot better and the scar has begun to show less and less.
The massaging hurt this first day when Dr. Tannan did it. However, I waited two days to start my own, since the area was sensitive and it felt so much better. It really helps relieve the itching I feel from the healing. I try to take a couple minutes in the morning and before bed at night to apply the scar cream and do a little massage. I’m eager and excited to see the final result! I know I won’t be able to tell for some time, as the best factor in the betterment of scars is time.
My first time wearing a swimsuit with my family – feeling proud of my decision!
Since having the tattoo removal done, I’ve worn bathing suits without feeling self conscious of having an ex-boyfriend’s name on me anymore. I’ve been to the lake with my family and of course, listened to instructions about applying sunblock to the scar. What a liberating feeling!
Throughout this whole process, the idea of ridding myself of the tattoo outweighed any scar that would be left behind. I want to clarify to anyone reading this and possibly thinking of having a tattoo excision that – yes, you will end up with a scar. Dr. Tannan really makes that clear in your consultation with her. For me, it was still a no-brainer. However, for others it may be something worth taking some time to think about, and that’s okay. Take. Your. Time.
All tattoo removal procedures are different. This is because it depends on the location and the size of the excision. It’s also important to remember that not all tattoos can be excised. It’s contingent on the location, the size and how much elasticity in the skin there is on that area. There will always be a scar in the place of the tattoo. The healing process is specific to each individual patient and their anatomy. So, it’s pertinent to know that in advance and have realistic expectations. Dr. Tannan does also inform her patients of this during the consultation. Thanks for reading about my very personal experience with a tattoo and the liberating experience of removing it!
Feel free to ask Virginia about this experience when you call for your consultation: (919) 797-0996