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Undo the ink

Kiss that tramp stamp goodbye

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It's inevitable. Human nature dictates that we'll try unwise things from time to time, make mistakes or make decisions that we regret later. Some of these bad decisions can be forgotten as swiftly as a fading thought. Others aren't so easy to forget — like a tattoo.

As a clinical assistant at the Dermatology and Laser Center of Charleston in West Ashley, April Gaylen has seen her fair share of folks who need to have their tattoos removed, and their bad decisions erased — particularly young professionals who have discovered that their tramp stamps and barbed wired biceps aren't as popular in the workplace as they were in college. But now it's her turn to lose a tat.

Gaylen's tattoo is a little souvenir from a road trip over a decade ago. She'd driven to California and back with friends, stopping at places like Vegas and Tijuana. While out West she'd dropped into San Diego and got some ink — a solid jet black tribal design on the right side of her upper back.

Now that she's 33, she wants to stop hiding her back and start wearing low-cut dresses. "I'd always heard horror stories about tattoo removals," she says, "but it's not bad. They rub on the topical cream and you're supposed to sit for 30 minutes while it numbs the area. It's not as uncomfortable as I expected."

Then the laser comes out. And for two minutes, the hot, stinging beam hits the skin and starts to break up the ink. Not surprisingly, some patients find the process to be rather painful. But not Gaylen. "It didn't really bother me."

After her first try, she's opted to go without the cream. The laser work is more painful for some people than others, depending on the placement of the art, the sensitivity of their skin, and the amount of detail and color that has to be eradicated. Since Gaylen's tattoo is simple and plain black, she has less to worry about.

After several treatments, Gaylen says her tat had been reduced to a faint outline.

Gaylen feels lucky to have her job and the opportunity to get her treatment in-house. At last she can consider wearing open backed outfits again. "I'm excited just to see what will happen," she beams. "I'm just lucky to have gotten this job."

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