Tattoos | How to prepare, cover, and remove
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How should you prepare your skin for getting a tattoo?
A successful tattoo experience is generally one where the pigment takes easily into the skin and there is minimal irritation or healing afterward. There are several steps that you can take to prepare your skin to optimize outcomes.
Moisturize your skin well in advance of your tattoo appointment. Moisturizing on a daily basis with a moisturizer that contains ceramides or petroleum jelly will work best to hydrate and protect the skin.
Hydration of the skin from the inside is also achieved by drinking plenty of fluids.
Try to avoid any particularly irritating products such as retinoids, retinol, or other alpha and beta hydroxy acids
Dry irritated skin does not take pigment well and can often result in further irritation during the healing process after obtaining the tattoo. This is increasingly important to recognize as technically even microblading of eyebrows is a method of tattooing the skin. Often facial skin can be dry or irritated from anti-aging of acne products. It is important to address these issues before your appointment to avoid a disappointing experience.
Are there other preparations you should make before getting a tattoo?
Shaving the area is helpful but take care to avoid nicks and scrapes in the process.
How should I manage my skin after a tattoo?
Follow the instructions provided by your tattoo artist. The area will likely be covered with petroleum jelly and covered before you leave the studio. The petroleum jelly will protect your skin and new tattoo and prevent the bandage from sticking to the skin. The trauma to your skin from the tattoo process is like a wound.
Clean your tattoo gently with a cleanser. There are actually tattoo specific cleansers available. Try to choose a mild cleanser, preferably fragrance free to reduce irritation.
Your pain should improve day to day, not worsen. If you are experiencing persistent or worsening pain, see your doctor to rule out an infection.
Try to avoid excess sun exposure after getting a tattoo. Avoid heavy exercise in first couple of days to reduce the tendency towards excess sweating that can irritate the area.
Do not shave or scrub the area of the fresh tattoo until the area has healed. Also avoid immersing the tattoo under water until the area has healed to reduce the tendency towards infection.
What do I do if I get a tattoo but need to cover it for work or other occasions?
There are times when covering a tattoo may be necessary for work or other reasons. We tried out several concealers to see which performed the best. The key factors that need to be considered with concealers for tattoos are:
Does not rub off on clothing
Blends in easily without appearing caked on
We tested out the Tarte Shape Tape Concealer as a tattoo coverup and could not be more impressed! Tarte blends in nicely even on body skin, didn’t smudge or rub off easily, and provided amazing coverage!
We also tried out Dermablend Leg and Body Makeup. This product also did a great job and set really nicely.
What if I have regrets? How does tattoo removal work?
Think of tattoo removal as breaking up the pigment from the inks into smaller particles to help your body naturally remove it.
When you first get a tattoo, ink is deposited into the dermis of your skin and triggers an inflammatory reaction. Your immune cells hone in on the reaction and notice the ink sitting there. Cells in our body called macrophages eat the pigment but because the particles are too large the color just sits there.
Tattoo laser works by targeting the pigment in ink to break it up into lots of tiny pieces. This makes it possible for your macrophages to finally get rid of the ink. (It’s almost like having a large rock right in the middle of a construction project- you can try hacking away at it to get it down into smaller pieces to move but it will take forever. If you blast the rock into lots of tiny fragments with a smaller surface area for each fragment, it’s easier to move all of the tiny little pieces a lot quicker!)
How long does it take to remove a tattoo?
Each tattoo removal session is usually around 15-30 minutes and it's best to space these apart. I usually recommend at least 6 to 8 weeks between sessions. With this in mind, it can be a process that takes 6 to 12 months to see complete removal. It’s important to space the sessions apart for adequate time to heal as well as to give your body a chance to also continue to fade out the tattoo.
What is the ballpark cost for tattoo removal?
The cost of tattoo removal will vary based on the size of the tattoo and, sometimes, the colors as certain colors can require more treatments. In general, a tattoo with an area around the size of the bottom of a can of soda that is mostly blues, blacks, and reds will cost about $300 per session and take somewhere between 3-6 sessions to remove.
What to know before considering removal?
It hurts. I do numb our patients with lidocaine but it’s hard to get larger surface areas numb enough to avoid any discomfort. Most of our patients have told me that it hurt more to remove the tattoo than to get it in the first place.
There is healing time after. It’s important to keep the area moist and covered to minimize the risk of scarring and infection.
You may lose some of your own pigment in those areas leaving a faint lighter outline of where the tattoo was. With smaller or finer tattoos this is less of an issue. However, tattoos with wider lines or hazier edges can often lead to hypopigmentation where the tattoo once was.
Green can be a difficult color to get remove without access to the right device. There are a lot of clover tattoos and Philadelphia Eagles tattoos in my area. The green can be so difficult to remove while the rest of the colors fade that the faint green hue that remains can look like a faint bruise afterward.