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Think Before You Ink

It could be colorful; it could be sexy; it could be unique; it could be romantic; but it could be one of the biggest mistakes a person could ever make. College students might feel that tattoos are a fun and special way to express themselves, but many forget to look at the big picture before getting a tattoo.

Having an ex-girlfriend's name on the arm or going to a big interview in July wearing a long sleeved turtle neck are just a few examples of what seemed to be a good idea during those fun spirited college days.

Some choose to cover the particularly horrific tattoos with even bigger ones. Luckily there have been advancements in laser technology that have made available procedures a safe and satisfying option for tattoo removal.

Ivoire Levan, a junior philosophy major, got her first tattoo when she was 18 and now has eight.

"I regret all of my tattoos," Levan said. "If I wanted to do something in a profession, it is hard to cover them."

Levan got her first tattoo because she was looking for something thrilling and rebellious. She was the first in her family to get one. Already Levan is experiencing problems in the work place because of her tattoos and said her employers encourage her to cover them.

"I have experienced employers judging me for my tattoos," Levan said. "If they didn't like my personality, they would judge me because of my tattoos."

Mike Blunden, a junior undecided major, also has a tattoo that he regrets. He regrets a Star of David made out of thorn branches located on his right chest muscle.

"As a child I followed Judaism with my family," Blunden said. "Now that I am in college, I have gotten further and further away from religion."

Blunden designed the tattoo himself and has two additional tattoos, with his favorite tattoo being Cookie Monster, located above his right shoulder blade.

"He was always my favorite of the Sesame Street characters growing up," Blun
den said. "The artist that did it made it look really realistic, not so much as a cartoon."

Both Blunden and Levan feel that the college atmosphere influences students on getting a tattoo. Both admitted their first tattoos were an act of rebellion; the newfound freedom from parental control, peer pressure and new opportunities for independent adult decision-making all play a role.

Unlike Blunden and Levan, Anastasia Kromer, a sophomore undecided major, does not regret any of her three tattoos, the first of which she got on her 19th birthday.

"I have two nautical stars on my stomach and the Bouncing Souls on my back," Kromer said. "I plan on getting many more (tattoos)."

Heidi Sertch, a tattoo artist at Art-N-Body, located in Williamsville Place Plaza on Sheridan Dr., said that even as a tattoo artist, she'll counsel clients to make sure they won't regret getting the tattoo. She'll even suggest locations where they can hide their tattoos if need be.

"Over time, any tattoo is going to stretch or move with the body," Sertch said.

Sertch also emphasized the permanency of tattoos, even though laser removal procedures are able to help lighten or remove some. She said to never be afraid to say no or to back out of a tattoo before it is too late.

"Be 100 percent sure that is what you want," Sertch said.

According to Sertch, the tattooing process includes a group of needles that puncture the skin to create an image.

"The needles have ink that is injected into the skin," Sertch said. "It goes to the layers of skin that don't shed. Once the needle has penetrated, the markings are permanent."

Karen Archangel is a registered nurse who specializes in the laser technology at the Neiman Center, located on 1140 Youngs Rd., under the supervision of Dr. Joseph Neiman M.D. According to Archangel, the Neiman Center offers free laser consultations, which could let a person know if they are medically eligible and financially ready
for a laser removal procedure.

Archangel said the tattoo needs to be at least one month old. The client has anesthetic options and typically people will chose a numbing cream. The tattooed area is iced after numbing before the laser is applied.

"The laser light goes in and breaks up the tattoo ink," Archangel said. "Over the next month, the ink is dragged away by the immune system."

She further said that every tattoo is different, but most tattoos take eight to ten treatments for removal. Treatments are to be done every four weeks.

Other factors that affect the tattoo removal experience is the location of the tattoo, the health of the person and the color of the tattoo; black tattoos are the easiest to remove, while colored tattoos, such as green and turquoise, are more difficult.

A tattoo located in a thin-skinned area, such as a foot, is hard to remove because they need to be more cautious to prevent damage. The depth of the tattoo also makes a difference in the removal.

"One of the problems is that there is no FDA control on the ink," Archangel said. "You never know what you are dealing with."

Archangel said that tattoo removal can potentially be painful as it causes scabbing and blistering, but clients find it worth the pain.

"It definitely is a great treatment," Archangel said. "The lasers have come a long way."

Post treatment is simple with basic bandaging and antibiotic lotion. It takes about a week to heal after a treatment.

Archangel said that the majority of the cliental are women who are two to three years out of college. A lot of the patients come in for tattoo removal for their weddings.

Prices of tattoo removal range from $150 to over $600 depending on the tattoo. Insurance does not typically cover the cost.

"People should know these factors before getting a tattoo," Archangel said.

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