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On the Job

Erasing tattoos, the signs of youthful whims

Elizabeth Schlesinger removed a tattoo on Jenny Adams at Delete—Tattoo Removal.

Jessica Rinaldi For The Boston Globe

Elizabeth Schlesinger removed a tattoo on Jenny Adams at Delete—Tattoo Removal.

“Tattoo regret” hits many people around age 30. Elizabeth Schlesinger, a tattoo removal nurse at Delete—Tattoo Removal & Laser Salon on Newbury Street, uses a variety of laser wave lengths to safely target pigments below the surface of the skin.

“Tattoos,” she said, “can be an unwanted reminder of an impulsive decision made over spring break.”

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But it’s not always a quick and easy procedure.

It typically takes about 10 sessions, at a cost of a several hundred dollars or more per treatment.

Is some tattoo ink more difficult to remove than others?

Yellow, white, and blue can be tricky. The lighter the color, the harder it is to take off. But lasers are becoming more technologically advanced so it’s easier to target any color.

Where exactly does the ink go after the laser breaks it up?

The laser breaks the ink into tiny pieces, then the body detoxifies it through the liver. The trunk, from the neck to the waist, is the optimal area for ink removal; the farther you get out in extremities, the less blood circulation, so it takes longer for the ink to clear. Smokers can take a little longer. Other factors, like taking a lot of fish oil and being active, help as well.

Does it hurt to have a tattoo removed?

The process of tattoo removal can be extremely painful, much worse than getting the tattoo. An optional injection of Lidocaine can numb the area. Men will most of the time say that they don’t want the local anesthesia then change their mind once the pain starts; on the other hand, women who say they don’t need it will end up not using it. So there’s a pain tolerance difference, which is why women have the kids, of course.

Some stats say half of all people with tattoos eventually want them removed. Why the change of heart?

I’m 34, and I think my generation was the first to start getting tattooed for fun. But now these tattoos often don’t look very professional in the workplace. I have a couple of tattoos I want to remove, including a 18th birthday “tramp stamp.” My 7-year old-son doesn’t like it.

What sort of tattoos have you removed?

I’m working on a 70-inch tattoo now; it’s some sort of red large bird with a tropical jungle theme behind it. One mom keeps bringing her 18-year-old son in: He gets a girlfriend’s name tattooed, breaks up with her, has it removed, then comes back a few months later with another name. I don’t think he’s learned his lesson.

Cindy Atoji Keene can be reached at cindy@cindyatoji.com.
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