Cover up or Remove: What To Do About the Tattoo You No Longer Love

Tattoos are a permanent and life-long decision. More often than naught people get tattoos drunk, as a result of a bet or on a whim. Some tattoos fade or change appearance if a person’s body shape changes. Then sometimes people have tattoos they want to get rid of, not because they were done in the spur of the moment but it might not mean what it did at the time they were inked. 

If you’re someone who now regrets a tattoo there are numerous options on what you can do:

The simplest option is the cover-up tattoo; which is exactly what it sounds like: getting a new tattoo to cover the one you no longer wish to see. However, when it comes to the cover-up there are things you need to consider: tattoo placement, color and size. In order to cover a previous tattoo the new one needs to be bigger and darker, so if you have a tattoo that has a lot of solid black a cover-up may not be the best option. Along with size, something to consider is where the tattoo is placed. If it is a smaller area like the ankle or wrist it may not be that easy to cover with a new tattoo, logistically. One way to guarantee a good cover-up is to allow the previous tattoo time to fade. The lighter the ink, the easier it is to cover. Also, make sure you know the artist you’re going to see and their abilities when it comes to cover-ups. Make sure they feel comfortable doing it and don’t just slap something over the old tattoo. Although a cover-up may be the easier option you may not end up with the best result; that’s when we start to consider tattoo removal.

When it comes to tattoo removal there’s actually more than one kind. People are most familiar with laser removal, for it’s typically the most effective, but there's other options. One method of tattoo removal is dermabrasion, which is basically sanding down the area of the skin that contains the tattoo. Using a rapidly rotating device, a dermatologic surgeon removes the surface and middle layers of the tattoo. This procedure is painful and because of this, is typically performed with either a local, regional or even a general anesthetic. It can also cause an immense amount of scarring and should be done by a well-researched trained professional. Similar to laser removal, dermabrasion would require multiple sessions to fully remove the tattoo. 

Laser removal, though most painful, is definitely the most effective. The way it works is the laser breaks up the tattoo’s ink particles which will then be absorbed by the body’s white blood cells. Depending on the tattoo design, size and color, it may take 1-10 laser sessions; sometimes, even more, to remove all of the ink. Some colors are harder to remove than others and may not be able to be completely removed. These colors include reds and pinks; which means your tattoo may not be fully removed with this option. There also needs to be a six-week time period between each laser session to allow the wounds to heal; which means this option can’t get rid of the tattoo overnight, but it may give you the best results.

The final option, that I wouldn’t recommend, but does exist, is surgical excision, which simply involves cutting out the skin that contains the tattoo. Ouch! This technique is best used for small tattoos and may not be practical for very large tattoos. The skin surrounding the tattoo is then brought together and closed; which will definitely leave a scar. 

If you’re considering tattoo removal some of the best people to talk to are plastic surgeons and tattoo artists. Some tattoo shops actually offer forms of tattoo removal which after you hear about every option may work best for you. 

Tattoos are permanent and that needs to be in the back of your mind when getting one. However, if you no longer love a tattoo you once did, there are various options on how to move forward. Simple options like the cover-up tattoo need to be just as thought out as any other tattoo because you don’t want to have to get back to square one. If the cover-up doesn’t seem like it would work lasers are always around; but remember if a tattoo hurt when you got it, it will hurt even more to remove.