Fashion Quarterly editor Sally-Ann Mullin turns back the clock with a high-tech tattoo removal.
The tattoo was done when I was 20. I’d just learned my mother was being treated for her second bout of cancer, and I was feeling frightened and lost. I was worried I could lose my best friend, and with her in Taranaki and me in Auckland, she felt so far away.
Yearning for something that signified how much she means to me, I decided a tattoo of her name, Philomena, would be the perfect visual reminder to ensure this incredible woman was always at the forefront of my mind — ironic, given she’s not a fan of tattoos generally, and specifically not on her only daughter. Nevertheless, not one to shy away from taking extreme measures in any area of my life, I decided to get my inaugural tattoo. Two inches wide in a masculine cursive font with drop shadows, it would span my entire décolletage.
Getting the tattoo
With a plan to do it once and do it well, I waited months for an appointment with Dean Sacred, arguably New Zealand’s most talented tattoo artist. I booked several hours of his time to execute this substantial chest piece, but after all that waiting, I began to lose my bravado, and when I arrived at his studio, I freaked out. I remember his justifiable disdain when I sheepishly informed him that I wanted to revise the design drawn up for me months prior. But not wanting to give up this golden appointment, I made the split-second decision to have him tattoo my mother’s name on my wrist instead.
I recall thinking, when he asked what font I wanted, that I’d never even heard the word ‘font’ before. My response? “Just a cool one.” I chose a fairly generic-looking option with flourishes on the ‘h’ and ‘l’, and thought, ‘That’ll do.’
A change in mind
Initially, I did like my tattoo, but then life happened. I changed and grew, found a career, and my personal style evolved. I no longer felt connected to it and I hated it when people asked me about it, especially the time someone genuinely wondered if it was a tribute to Phil Collins.
“Initially, I did like my tattoo, but then my style evolved and I no longer felt connected to it”
The problem wasn’t what my tattoo stood for — I still adore my mother and she’s everything I aspire to be — but it has always felt like too intimate an insight into my psyche. People are naturally inquisitive and I knew I’d forever be asked about it.
Watch Sally-Ann’s journey with Caci Clinic
Removing the tattoo
I was aware there were options available for tattoo removal, but they’d always sounded expensive and painful, with varied results. So I’d come to the conclusion that it was just something I’d have to live with — and I’d made peace with that. Until recently, that is, when I learned that Auckland’s Sacred Laser had acquired the very best of lasers. I was ready to say goodbye to my tattoo.
The high-tech Cynosure MedLite C6 and Asclepion lasers are some of the most efficient in the world and have the ability to remove any colour of ink, even stubborn blue, orange and green. After an extensive consultation, I was informed that because my tattoo is on a limb where there’s less blood flow, it might take a few more sessions to remove it than it would if it was elsewhere on my body, but that I’d see fading from the first session.
The treatment was conducted in a room not unlike that of a premium beauty spa. My therapist began by blasting -30ºC air onto the area to numb the skin, and the subsequent lasering did hurt a bit (a bit like being flicked over and over with a rubber band), but for anyone who’s had a Brazilian or a vampire facial, or given birth, it’s not such big deal. Plus, with such a small area to treat, the whole thing took under a minute, total. I spent the other 14 minutes of my session chatting to the lovely therapist Marion-Rose Jarman.
Sacred Laser therapist Marion-Rose Jarman blasts Sally-Ann’s wrist with freezing air, then begins the erasure. The broken-down pigment is drained away by the body’s lymphatic system.
Post-treatment, my skin appeared white and frosted, but later came to resemble bad sunburn. There was some blistering, tenderness and pinpoint bleeding, but only for a day or so afterwards.
After five treatments, five weeks apart, I’ve seen a significant reduction in the depth and colour of my tattoo; it now resembles a light pencil drawing. Marion promises that after 12 or so treatments (at $90 per visit), it’ll be gone without a trace.