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Thinking Ink? What to Consider When Getting or Removing a Tattoo

May 25, 2016 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Becca Newell

A form of self-expression formerly reserved for the not-so-mainstream, tattoos are slowly becoming more popular and more accepted among society. According to recent findings by The Harris Poll, almost one third of Americans have at least one tattoo. The findings also revealed that many people, particularly Millennials, are comfortable with professionals—including police officers, chefs, school teachers, and doctors—sporting visible tattoos.

Yet there are still those that regret going under the needle and have since had their ink removed. So whether you’re looking to get tatted or thinking about having one removed, here’s what to consider.

Getting One

First of all—and most obviously—a tattoo is a permanent mark on your skin (the ink lies beneath the epidermis, or top layer), so whatever your reason is for getting one, be sure it’s something you’re going to want forever. Secondly, be sure to do plenty of research when it comes to the tattoo shop. If you weren’t referred there by someone you trust, at least ask to see the artist’s portfolio. And thirdly, tattoos are expensive for a reason: don’t let your budget be the motivating factor behind where you choose to get inked. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are also several potential risks to keep in mind: allergic reactions to the pigment, skin infections, blood-borne diseases (like Hepatitis C) from contaminated needles, and, in rare instances, swelling or burning of the tattooed skin during MRIs.

Time & Cost

It’s difficult to estimate the time and cost of a tattoo because there are so many variables. A few factors that determine the cost are the skill level of the tattoo artist, the size of the tattoo, its location on your body, and any shading or color desired—typically, the more detailed and colorful the tattoo is, the more expensive it will be. Time is also determined by most of the aforementioned variables, particularly when it comes to the size, color, and details of your design. A large, intricate tattoo may require several appointments to complete. On average, even the smallest tattoo will cost a minimum of $60, with most shops charging on an hourly basis at a minimum rate of about $100 per hour.


Depending on your threshold and the location of the tattoo—certain areas, like feet, elbows, and sternum, are much more sensitive than others—the pain can range from mild to extreme discomfort. While you might consider using a topical anesthetic prior to getting inked, be sure to consult your doctor. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advises anyone considering the use of a numbing gel or cream prior to a cosmetic procedure to only do so under the supervision of a medical professional. In a 2000 public health advisory, the FDA warned about the adverse effects, such as seizures, difficulty breathing, and irregular heartbeat, of these agents when applied for a prolonged period of time or to a large area of the skin.


Metallic Tattoos

These glitzy temporary tattoos—often referred to as Flash Tattoos, the brand that originally brought the concept to national recognition—continue to grow in popularity after almost three years on the market. From designs that resemble jewelry to more boho-centric illustrations, these dazzling statement pieces are easy to apply and even easier to remove. The perfect summer sparkle to any ensemble, these beauties are often gold or silver in hue with black and teal elements. It’s minimum commitment with maximum impact!

We love Zahra Flash Tattoos ($22). Available at South Moon Under, Annapolis.


Losing One

According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, tattoo removal saw a 37% increase in 2015. Modern day laser removal, or Q-switching, consists of very hot, extremely fast pulses that break up pigmented ink into tiny particles, which are then removed by the body. (According to a Business Insider article, the natural process involves white blood cells absorbing the particles for transportation to the liver.). Black and blue hues respond best to treatment; other shades are more stubborn and can be difficult to remove. Different lasers are better suited to disperse certain pigments and the market continues to welcome new lasers that are more adept at removing varying shades on every skin tone with minimal risks. According to the Mayo Clinic, scarring is the most typical side effect, but skin discoloration and infection are also possible. Most importantly, be sure the person performing the procedure is certified. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene requires anyone practicing laser tattoo removal to be licensed by its Board of Physicians or Board of Nursing.

Time & Cost

Since the pigment sits under the epidermis, it’s often more time-consuming and costly to remove a tattoo than it is to get one. Multiple sessions will be needed to remove as much of the tattoo as possible. Sessions are typically scheduled every four to eight weeks to allow time for healing between treatments. Similar to getting a tattoo, there are a host of factors that determine the timespan and cost of the removal process, including the tattoo’s size, color, location, age, and design elements.


Like getting a tattoo, the pain of laser removal can range from tolerable to uncomfortable depending on your threshold. Many dermatologists and plastic surgeons give patients the option of a local anesthetic to numb the pain, while allowing the patient to remain conscious. The sensation has been likened to rubber bands snapping against the skin.

Post-Removal Care Information:

  • Replace dressing daily and clean wound with water; pat dry
  • Keep covered with a sterile bandage for about a week
  • Crusting, scabbing, and blistering may occur, lasting between 7 to 10 days. Seek medical attention if blisters become too large or painful.
  • Moisturize daily with a skin-healing ointment, like Aquaphor, or petroleum

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