Off Topic

Off Topic – My First Laser Tattoo Removal Session

August 1, 2014

First a disclaimer; this post is clearly not aligned with my normal travel-related ramblings.  With that said, this blog was designed to be a place to share our thoughts and experiences on travelling and life on the road, which means inevitably it may talk about life in general.

With that said, today I undertook my first laser session to get rid of the little tattoo on my wrist.

It’s not particularly big nor offensive, and though I’m well over it, I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I feel strongly enough to hate it.

I’d looked into laser removal in the past (though never particularly seriously) and was put off, mostly by the apparent pain factor.

Funnily enough, it was someone else’s claims of immense pain that got me re-thinking removal (bizarre, I know!)  Someone I’d met in passing told me that laser tattoo removal was worse than childbirth; I found this to be a terrifying concept and one I needed to know more about.

A quick google took me to one of the pages I’d been following since my last investigation, Tattoo Removals.  I had a look over their Facebook reviews and was amazed to find genuine feedback stating that the process was practically pain-free; last I checked, childbirth wasn’t described that way!

Now before I go any further, I should say, I’m in no way affiliated with Tattoo Removals and paid the going rate for my removal (which was $75 for the consultation and $75 for the actual removal) – it’s going to sound like I’m being paid to say what’s about to follow, but I’m just a genuinely happy customer…

A quick chat with the lovely Jess on Facebook and the majority of my fears were put to rest.  She was patient with my questions, knowledgeable and clearly confident in their procedures.

The final selling point for me was the way in which they combine their pain management system (more on that to follow) with a recommended numbing cream and their videos – I couldn’t believe that the process did genuinely seem to be pain free!

With my newfound understanding in mind, I went ahead and (somewhat tentatively) booked through Jess.

As suggested, I popped out to the pharmacy and purchased some Emla cream which I applied in a thick layer an hour before my appointment (you’ll find an instructional video on the Tattoo Removals website & Facebook page, but all you really need to know is to apply it thick enough so that you can’t see the ink through the cream).  I can’t tell you how much of a difference the numbing cream made as I’ve not had the procedure done without it, nor do I intend to (why would you take the risk of it hurting when you don’t need to?).  The cream was $20 for a little tube and all the dressings I’ll need, so in my eyes, was money well spent.

In the case of full disclosure, this scardey cat also popped a Panadol at the same time (again, I’m not sure how much of a difference it would have made, but I figured, the more the merrier!)

Before long it was time to tottle off to Ponsonby (near Auckland city) to meet with Jess and Lisa for my initial appointment.  I’d been told they’d need to do the equivalent of a spot test and because my tattoo was only small, that they’d be able to continue on with my first session right away; be warned that this might be different with a larger removal, but check with the ladies for more info.

After going through my health background and having the process explained to me by Lisa, it was time to get underway… by this stage it’s fair to say I was pretty nervous – after all, someone wouldn’t have described this to me as worse than childbirth without fair cause, surely?

Propped up on their examination table, Lisa put the ‘pain management system’ to work.  This wondrous machine spits out hyper-cooled air (so cold in fact, that my wee hairs iced over before long!).  The air was so cold that it was a little uncomfortable but not a worry – all I had to do was remind myself that it was going to help stop the pain from the laser!

Googles donned by all, Lisa zapped the first spot – it was entirely manageable.  I’m not sure what this other lady was talking about (though as Lisa explained, the studio she went to would have been using an older laser and they wouldn’t have used the pain management system that Tattoo Removals employs).

So the million dollar question, how much did my first session of tattoo removal hurt?  Not much!  A series of small electric shocks would be the best way to describe the sensation.  As you’d expect, it wasn’t particularly pleasant, and some spots were more tender than others, but as it turns out, all my worry was for nothing.

I was started off on half power and the following sessions will get progressively stronger which I suppose means the sensation may change, but based on today, if your concerns of pain are putting you off tattoo removal, don’t let it hold you back!  It was literally all over in 10 seconds and I was surprised to find that I didn’t experience any discomfort in the area once the cooling had stopped either.

If you’ve watched videos of tattoo removal, you’ll have seen how the tattoos turn white right away… don’t be fooled into thinking that the ink’s disappeared, that’s simply a gas reaction that disburses before long – you’ll be left with a relatively normal looking tattoo that shows signs of fading.  This fading will continue significantly over the next six weeks (at which stage I can book in for my next appointment) and to a lesser extent, will continue fading for up to two years.  To help my body expel the ink, I’ve got to get drinking water; possibly the hardest part of this whole process!

I’ve been told that a tattoo like mine (black and 5 years old) may take around 4-6 sessions in total, though every tattoo is different just as every person is so I’ll report back for those of you who are interested in undertaking the process yourselves.

Before, with numbing cream applied and five hours following the laser.


If you’re thinking about getting your tattoo removed then I’d highly recommend Lisa and Jess at Tattoo Removals.  They were both approachable, friendly and highly professional and the procedure itself was a breeze (compared to what I’d been expecting).  Don’t be put off by what you hear about other lasers – team numbing cream with a cooling machine and the modern laser that Tattoo Removals use and you’ll be absolutely fine.

Check them out on the web and on Facebook for more info.

For those of you interested in my progress – I had my last laser session back in July of last year (almost a year ago).  The following photo shows where the tattoo is at now.  It still has a way to go but has made good progress.  If I were home in NZ I’d be continuing on without a doubt but removal in Abu Dhabi is an expensive exercise and from what I can tell, they don’t generally have the same laser or pain management system (and I’m a whimp!)

tattoo removal pain management system



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  • Reply Guy Innes February 9, 2015 at 9:53 pm

    Hi! Could you please tell me how the rest of the sessions have gone? I am about to book tattoo removal with them and am so nervous about the pain and the amount of sessions needed.. Be in touch 🙂

  • Reply Sarah Holland February 25, 2015 at 8:37 am

    Hi Guy, sorry for the delay. They've been going well – I'm noticing a decent amount of fading on the edges which is good… going to take a number of extra sessions (I think I've had 2 or 3 in total now) because mine's quite deep apparently but the cost isn't massive and pain really isn't a factor. Slap some numbing cream on, pop a panadol to be safe and be sure to use Tattoo Removals in Auckland as their numbing machine makes a massive difference – honestly the cooling is almost less comfortable than the actual laser, it's that cold! Are you in Auckland?

  • Reply Carmelo Crouch April 29, 2015 at 9:13 pm

    I have always believed in the myth that a tattoo removal procedure is worse than childbirth. Hahaha! Well, thank you for sharing your experience and giving some recommendations. I’ve read a lot of blogs regarding tattoo removal, and most of them expressed their painful experiences. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your post. It is very helpful and encouraging. Thanks for sharing that, Sarah! All the best to you!

    Carmelo Crouch @ Pasadena Tattoo Removal

  • Reply LUke April 30, 2015 at 9:17 am

    hi Sarah, can you give an update on how it has gone? any recent photos?

    • Reply exploringkiwis January 6, 2016 at 6:43 pm

      Hi Luke, apologies for the delay. From memory I’ve had three sessions now and it’s continued fading nicely. It’s far from gone (I was warned it was relatively deep) but it isn’t as obvious now and in some areas, it has almost disappeared. Unfortunately for my tattoo-removal, we’ve moved to Abu Dhabi, where laser is ridiculously expensive so I’m just going to sit tight until I arrive home in New Zealand. Have you decided to have yours removed?

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