Proof That Tattoo Removal Isn’t Foolproof—And Can Actually Hurt You


Luckily, I’ve never had to give much thought to tattoo removal. I only have one tattoo and I waited until I was 26 to get it. It’s also on my foot, so I can easily cover it up with shoes or socks if I need to be fancy or professional (That happens rarely in my life, thank god). And after reading the story of Elspeth, a woman who’s been trying in vain for years to have a tattoo removed from her ankle, I am so freaking glad.

Elspeth, who is due to appear on Extreme Beauty Disasters on TLC, says her efforts at tattoo removal have left her scarred and terribly burned. About a tattoo she got when she was a teenager, she said:

“I felt it was tacky, so I started to get it lasered but after a few sessions, it [the tattoo] got really, really bad. It got infected, to the point that skin was dropping off. I really should have gone to the GP but I just trusted this woman. It became a horrible combination of scar, burn, tattoo, everything in one.”

Due to the scarring she acquired from the botched removal, Elspeth is left with a tattoo she doesn’t want, plus the added bonus of painful scarring and unsightly discoloration on her leg. Ugh. Damn, that sucks. It’s also a good lesson for those who think that laser tattoo removal is an easy, get-out-of-jail-free card. If you get a tattoo you don’t like, you can always get it removed, right? Well, wrong! At least sort of wrong. As Elspeth’s story demonstrates, tattoo removal is not always foolproof, not always effective, and sometimes, not even safe.

Kelly Osbourne shared some eek-worthy tattoo removal video a few months ago, so between that and Elspeth’s experience, I feel pretty dang sure I’m not going to get my tattoo removed. Or ever get anymore tattoos that I might someday possibly want to remove by laser. Because ouch and oh my god.

[h/t: Daily Mail]

Photo: Boston Globe via Getty Images

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    • Kaitlin Reilly

      I love tattoos, but I hope that if I decide to remove one of mine in the future that tattoo removal become perfected. (I never plan to, but I guess if I ever had a change of heart or something) This sounds so scary.

    • Disappearing inc.

      There are certainly horror stories from all types of aesthetic procedures from hair removal to tattoo removal. Unfortunately, not every shop provides the best experience or the most qualified staff. But don’t let that deter you from tattoo removal. When done well, it does really work!

      That being said, there are some things you can do to minimize some of the risk:

      1) Check out the reviews online – especially Yelp. Though not every review can be positive for a business, if the majority of them are positive, it can give you a clue.
      2) Check out the Better Business Bureau to see if the business has had complaints.
      3) Check out other sites, like Google businesses, which can, sometimes, have reviews.

      Any reputable tattoo removal operation should give you a free consultation and, during the consultation, you should bring up your concerns. If the consult isn’t free and/or you don’t feel like they spent enough time with you, go elsewhere.

      You should also go to more than one place. Even though I own a Laser Tattoo Removal Studio called Disappearing inc., I encourage people to shop around to find the best fit for them. A place where they feel the most secure and comfortable.

      Don’t give up on tattoo removal! Like anything else, it can be done poorly. But done well it can change how you feel about you body and even your life.

    • Anne Marie Hawkins

      There’s a company called Freedom-2 that has been developing a tattoo ink made of inert plastic beads filled with bio-safe inks; the idea is that if you want your tattoos removed, they use a laser to “pop” the beads and your body naturally processes out the inks. But OTOH you would have to have the presence of mind when you got the tattoo to bet you wouldn’t want it at some point. I’ve had mine for seven years and I still love it, and my best friend is well on her way to being the illustrated lady. (She’s also a respected teacher, so don’t believe the “unemployable” hype.)

      • Heina Dadabhoy

        That’s super creative and cool.

      • Kaitlin Reilly

        That’s such a good idea, I wonder if tattoos will become even more common down the line because of ink like this. While you should go into getting a tattoo with the idea that you’ll love it forever (or at least be able to stand it forever) it’d be nice to have that in the back of your mind.

      • Anne Marie Hawkins

        I was looking it up since I hadn’t heard anything new since they became commercially available in 2009, and it turns out that they only make three colors, but black is the most widely available and it’s the most difficult color to remove with traditional laser treatments. I think that’s pretty cool since even if you want to keep your tattoo for ever, outlining does tend to migrate and with this ink and a fat wad of cash you could possibly get it touched up at some point.

    • Anthony

      Well nothing is fool proof. A local Chicago tattoo removal studio has been pretty honest about this with its customers in the area. Idk if it can actually harm you though.