Tattoo Cover-Up

This is a picture of my first tattoo, a Guns N’ Roses tribute tatt. I’m afraid this is a poor representation. This picture was taken about 5 laser treatments into the process of fading it. The greens, the reds, the black were all once strongly defined. And that image is not out of focus either. Lasers busted up the ink and made the image faded as well as fuzzy.

GN'R Tatt Laser Treated

I got my band tattoo at age 21 and I took care of it. I got it done right the first time so I never needed touch-ups; I used Aquaphor and other lotions meticulously to keep my ink fresh. Tattooed skin needs moisturizer, I cannot stress this enough. A tattoo is an investment, not to mention a visual representation of you, so it’s in your best interest to take care of it.

A cover-up is a testament to my having learned a few things since my first tattoo. The music of Guns N’ Roses helped me through some of the worst times of my life, it made sense to me to declare to the world that I was a fan – to show my immense appreciation for their influence in my life. I learned that as time went by, my once heart-felt tattoo didn’t hold the same meaning. However, there was no way I could foresee that at age 21. And that’s fine.

I have come to understand, the best kind of tattoo is a display that you would like to see on your body everyday, and not something that is so specific it runs the jeopardy of losing its meaning over time.
Here’s a short list of specific tattoo concepts people often regret:
– Anyone’s name
– Dates
– Tribute names / concepts (bands, musicians, actors, etc.)
– Negative ideologies (racist tatts, gang tatts, etc.)

There are more, as you might imagine, but those listed above are what tattoo artists and laser clinicians alike agree come up the most in terms of client regrets. Artists are often paid to cover them up, or the laser clinicians are often paid to erase them.

As I got older, I felt less of a need to tell the world of my dedication to a band. It’s such a strange and personal thing. To feel something so strongly that one day you sit down and literally pay someone to “stitch” your skin. Then so many years later you look at you tattoo and think, ‘Gee, I just don’t need that anymore.’ The most important aspect to the band is the music and I have that. There is no love lost where the music is concerned. My Twitter handle is a combination of my favorite influences FFS. I know what GN’R’s music did for me, I’m not trying to erase the memories or the influence, I just don’t need the physical representation anymore. The thanks is there, tattoo or no, just like for any fan.

And by the way, this isn’t an opinion piece. I’m not looking for your approval or otherwise in my taste of music. I am trying to impress upon readers that familiar feeling of kinship to something you could only be the recipient of. You’re a fan at most, an audience member at best. Despite the lack of proximity to what inspires you, you develop a strong feeling even so, and beyond all comprehension, you dedicate a piece of skin to it. It’s a strange thing, man. It’s a strange fuckin’ thing. And deeply personal. I recall in my college years people rudely demanding that I explain myself and my tattoo. I only humored those with an explanation who bothered to ask nicely, all else got a head shake and a “fuck off.”

I did seriously consider complete removal for there is a genuine concern that no matter how much I may like a new tattoo piece, there is always that chance I will tire of it so many years down the road too. But my inner self detested the thought of a blank page. I want something there. I want a form of expression. I like the idea of something being there more than the idea of totally blank skin. I’ll take the chance as I generally enjoy looking down and seeing something that’s completely and totally mine, and not like anybody else.

This led me to covering up my old tattoo. I would choose a new tatt and this time work with the principal of stitching permanent art rather than a “dedication” concept, although in total honesty, I seriously thought about a David Bowie tribute tatt. But no! Stay the course woman! Because I kept my GN’R tattoo in excellent condition, I was advised to lift it via laser treatments.

I can only speak of the laser treatments provided by Eraser Clinic, here in Austin, Texas. I chose them because they use the most advanced laser technology. They can remove all colors – ALL – and in half as many session (or less) than other laser treatment facilities that use older laser tech. With only 5 treatments, Eraser Clinic managed to lift a lot. My sessions cost $125 per treatment, at a pace of 10-12 weeks apart.

What it was like

  • Ever thwack yourself with a line trimmer doing yard work? That’s exactly what a laser sensation is like but I would say the pain is several degrees less and is very specific to the spot that’s being treated.
  • It’s quick. Laser treatments for my tatt took all of 10 minutes per session.
  • Because it is a laser, the effect produces heat, so every few seconds the technician will use a rapid cooling hose to cool down and numb the area.
  • For 3 days post treatment, you wear a basic bandage that requires changing once a day. You gently clean the area, reapply the gel, or Aquaphor, and apply a fresh bandage.
  • After 3 days, you can take the bandage off and watch the tattoo fade.
  • Depending on the skin, there may be reactionary bumping and scabbing. That’s normal. If you’ve ever had a bug bite you can handle it.

So…I’m guessing there are folks out there who’ve never had the experience before and are thinking, ‘It’s pain isn’t it!? It’s all pain!?’ No. It’s really not all that. True, it does depend on the location of the tattoo, but the general rule is wherever the skin receives the least day-to-day exposure is the most sensitive. I don’t recommend your first tattoo to be on your inner thigh or top of your foot. My rose cover-up cost $150.

I received my first tattoo from Atomic Tattoo, Austin, Texas.
My cover-up was done by Mom’s Tattoo (Austin), specifically by artist Jordan, cover-up extraordinaire. Thanks, Jordan.

Here is the outline of the new tattoo over the old.20170528_132013

What it was like
*The rose cover-up tatt felt exactly like my GN’R tatt so I’m generalizing from both experiences.*

  • You feel the needle, at first. Visually, I think of a sewing machine. A needle moves up and down quickly, but with less power. This is also why I call the process “stitching.”
  • After seconds to a few minutes, I, personally, stop feeling the very specific needle penetrating movements. Instead, the vibrations of the needling gun take over. I feel a series of minor vibrations – that’s it. This sensation goes on for a while until…
  • Your skin starts getting fed up. Depending on the time your tatt takes (many people get their designs broken up into multiple sessions depending on the size, cost, and level of pain endurance) eventually your skin gets tired. There will be blood. And THAT is when you actually feel the needle. The skin isn’t bouncing back and begins to tear a bit. Tearing is normal, especially as the artist has to go back into places for shading or coloring.
  • Both tatts took about 90-110 minutes. For me, that 90 minute mark is when I really start feeling the needle. Here’s a pic of the bandage where you can see some standard bleeding. (Yes, I am aware of what it looks like. Don’t be a little bitch.)

And here is the rose cover-up. This is only 3 days after the actual stitching. There is still redness that will continue to reduce over the next week. It is a black and flesh tattoo, with just traces of white for highlighting purposes. Again, the red will fade out (the skin is still healing) and is not part of the finished tatt.


What I really appreciate about my cover-up, and the level of skill behind it, is that Jordan, my artist, was able to give me a black and flesh tatt despite it being a cover-up. I thought I was going to have use color, but no. When the redness is completely gone, I’ll be left with an image that looks natural to my body, like it had always been there, and that’s the goal.

I’ll update with another image in a couple of weeks.

I hope you enjoyed this piece.
Austin, Texas