by Dawn Cragg MBE. CIDESCO, CIBTAC, CPCP, BASC Expert Witness
Tattooing has been around since for centuries. It was Queen Cleopatra from ancient Egypt who had her eyeliner performed in this way, trying out a variety of black substances and various methods of implantation. Nowadays the popularity of tattoos is escalating on an extraordinary scale, so when this happens there are bound to be some regrets, which is why the tattoo removal industry is very much on the increase.
Firstly, the tattoos that are normally there for life, and for which there is rarely any request for their removal, fit into the following categories:-
1) The birth, or sadly the death of a child. It is quite usual to have the child's name and date of birth often tattooed on the forearm. Sometimes it can be another close relative or a close friend.
2) A commemorate experience. For example, the name of a holiday resort , perhaps where a honeymoon was spent, or the name of a country far away where they were reunited with relatives that they had not seen for many years, or maybe not at all. The name of a family pet is another common reason for a tattoo.
3) Reaching a milestone in one's life, such as reaching a certain age, or having successfully fulfilled a dream, attending a live performance of their favourite rock star perhaps.
4) The pink ribbon associated with cancer survivors, or to commemorate the loss of a family or friend through cancer. There are other coloured ribbons which hold some significance to a trauma in a person’s life, or that of family or a close friend. These include yellow, blue, red, green, black and purple to name just a few. I haven’t gone into detail as each of these have several different meanings. There are many other colours that are of significance to some people and which reflect the relevant trauma in their lives.
5) To make others aware that you are part of group, sect, or gang. Tear-drops below the eye for example can have several different connotations depending on which eye it is under, whether or not the tattoo is an outline or filled in, etc. These are frequently associated with prison life. Most recipients of these tattoos would not wish to have them removed as it gives them a feeling of power and status.
So the list above gives an idea of why people want to have a tattoo which they are very happy to keep.
Now we will address the issue of tattoos that people
DO want removing, and why.
1) The name of an ex-partner. Not a very good start to a new relationship! These tattoos are usually found on the arms, but can vary from the shoulder, to anywhere along the arm, including the wrist and backs the hands. As an example, a lady in America had a canary tattooed on her left breast. She was a 34a bra size at the time. A few years later and after having several children, and gaining weight, she increased to a 44f. The canary then looked more like an ostrich! Her marrige broke up, and she wished to join a dating site, but wanted the “ostrich” removed before signing up. No-one would do it.
2) Cosmetic tattooing, also called permanent makeup, semi-permanent makeup and micropigmentation. Clients request removal for this type of tattoo because either the workmanship is poor, the tattoo has changed colour, the style is no longer in date, or maybe their partner doesn't like it. It might also be that since they had their eyebrows tattooed the client changed their hair colour from black to light blonde, or even that they have gone white. Therefore the eyebrows, as tattooed originally, will be too dark.
3) Having children can make people regret their own tattoos, because they don't want their children to suffer the same social stigma as they may have done. Maybe they feel that they are being judged as parents and that this may reflect on how their children are treated at school.
4) Not all employers will accept visible tattoos, and if someone wants a job badly enough, they will try find a method of having it removed. This is likely to be the case where an employee holds an executive position within the company, or even the receptionist whose job it is greet dignitaries and members of the public throughout the day.
5) A tattoo has been misspelled, not very creative, the outline if there is one is blurred, or it looks very amateurish.
6) The tattoo has faded and become blurry.
7) Wanting to look unblemished.
8) The design that seemed like a good idea when younger may look foolish on an older person.
9) It holds memories that are best forgotten.
10) It attracts people that would not be good to associate with.
A tattoo should be considered a lifetime commitment. There are several methods of removal but all run the risk of scarring, or of creating a ‘reverse’ tattoo. In other words, the removal causes a blanching of the skin. In such cases medical tattooing may then be required to match the surrounding area. This camouflage is achieved by creating the illusion of freckles and thread veins where appropriate.
Other methods of removal include a saline solution and a chemical gel.
Sometimes a client is persuaded to have a ‘cover-up’,which usually means a skin-tone pigment tattooed over the original, the results of which are not always aesthetically pleasing to the eye. It should be remembered that what goes on last will wear off first. Therefore this should be considered as a continuing process rather than a one-off procedure.
An Asian skin has an increased risk of keloid scarring, which is raised scar tissue over a healed wound. This skin type can also turn darker when subjected to trauma, such as the insertion of a needle during a tattoo. This could be permanent, or may only last for a few weeks. For these reasons, a tattoo removal by any means is not advisable.
To conclude, the caution here is:-‘Think before you Ink’
Dawn Cragg MBE
CIBTAC, CPCP, BASC Expert Witness