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Talking Tattoos & Removal with Brittany, Our Philadelphia Laser Tech

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Published: 04.06.2023
Updated: 02.06.2024

Brittany is a Removery laser tech in our Center City Philadelphia tattoo removal studio and has a unique perspective on the work she does. In addition to being a laser tech, for the last 8 years she’s also been on the other end of the laser as a client. She uses that experience to relate with clients and educate them about the process.

Interview with Philadelphia, PA’s Studio Laser Tech Brittany

When did you start getting tattooed and what was the attraction to tattoos?

I don’t advise anyone to start at 16, but after begging my dad for a memorial tattoo for my mom, he finally gave in. A few of my friends had tattooed parents and they helped me create an idea to represent my mom. As I answer this question, I can’t help but to roll my eyes at what sounds like a tragic comedy.

The day comes and I hand the tattoo artist a shaky sketch of two zodiac signs in a Venn diagram that is somehow supposed to tell a story that my mom and I are the same person. The artist took my sketch, changed nothing, created the stencil of that little disaster, and proceeded to blow out every line in the tattoo.

A few years later I attempted to have this tragedy of a tattoo covered by very light grey wash flowers. This whole abomination underwent multiple laser tattoo removal treatments and I’m currently having an entire back piece done that will cover the faded, angsty teenage tattoo I once had.

What made you investigate laser tattoo removal and what’s the journey been like?

To best answer this question, I think explaining more of my tattoo decisions and the outcomes from them are needed.

By 18 my ability to continue making phenomenal tattoo decisions continued. While I was working as a cashier, a mid-20-something artist who worked at a nearby street shop hit on me, likely because I had visible tattoos on my arms. Before I could blink, I was off getting more tattoos.

First, he did a sun and moon on my left shoulder blade, shaped like a Yin and Yang. I woke up the next morning and the tattoo was gone. Poor application of the tattoo along with some antibiotics I was taking likely caused all the ink to fall out. No problem, I can have him redo the tattoo.

Somehow, he talked me into doing an underwater scene instead, in full color, and I’m pretty sure he had never done color tattoo work before. It was awful.

Really hating the way this tattoo looked, I simply followed what I’d previously done last time I had a tattoo I didn’t like, get it covered. Again.

I found a reputable tattoo artist who had a solid portfolio, and he did a wonderful drawing of a whimsical bird flying with flowers around it. The drawing looked amazing, but because it was a cover-up, over some questionable tattoo skills from the first artist, the whole piece ended up a dark, murky mess. I lived with this for years.

Several years later I found myself in another tattoo shop, only this time to accompany my friend who had booked an appointment with Nick Panzer. While Nick was getting setup for my friend’s tattoo, his co-worker Benji Harris asked what the story was with my shoulder tattoo, and who did it. Embarrassed, I just told him that I knew it was ugly and hated it.

My friend ended up with an amazing tattoo from Nick, and I had perused Benji’s portfolio while I was there which led to me booking an appointment for, big surprise, a cover-up tattoo. A few months later I returned, Benji started that cover-up, I started to book more appointments with him continued to get amazing tattoos.

I ended up transitioning from client to his assistant in 2014, and around the same time met Mike Panic, who was doing laser tattoo removal in what is now the Allentown, PA studio. Through his friendship and education, I began fading old, unfinished, and unwanted tattoos. Mike helped remove some of the stigma associated with tattoo removal, guiding me to understand how fading for cover-ups would reduce the compromise in new artwork and showed us what was possible. I knew this was for me because I had been through too many murky, mediocre cover-ups. That’s where my laser tattoo removal process started.

What’s the most painful place you’ve been tattooed, and how does that compare to laser tattoo removal?

This is a hard one to answer, because none of it is terribly fun, but here goes. Top 3 most painful tattoos:

  • Side of my neck
  • Behind my knee
  • Palm of my hand

Would I do it all over again? Yes.

Have I? Yes.

Being tattooed and going through removal is somewhat location dependent and one’s mindset and mood also play a role. On any given day, either process can be tolerable, or could be spicy.

Full backpiece / cover-up in progress, by Benji Harris

Tattoo removal has a slight advantage, because it’s extremely quick. By the time you’re able to comprehend what is happening, the treatment is over.

With the advancements in laser technology that I’ve personally experienced as a client over all these years, the pain has decreased. Present day laser removal is easier than getting tattooed in hard places.

How does it feel being tattooed where you’ve had laser tattoo removal treatments?

TI’ve felt no difference in any of the cover-up tattoos I’ve sat through, over areas that have been lasered. These include numerous pieces of my sleeve and three larger tattoos on my back.

There also used to be a tattoo under my chin that’s now gone.

How did you transition from client to laser tech?

For years Mike had asked me to join his team, but I had a career in the service industry here in Philadelphia and was managing a few dozen people, I enjoyed the work, hated the hours. Mike knew this, and geographically it didn’t work for either of us, but the idea stayed in the back of my brain for when the stars aligned.

In my downtime I did research for schools and courses on how to become a laser tech but couldn’t financially commit to doing it, or without a solid job offering that didn’t require relocation.

In the late summer of 2022, I was presented with a career opportunity at Removery, where they invest heavily in education and their employees. I haven’t looked back since.

Being on the other end of the laser is empowering, I can stretch my legs with the knowledge I’ve learned and educate clients, as I was always interested in how or why things worked. It’s an amazing feeling, being able to explain to clients what exactly is going on, what to expect, and why things happen the way they do. It’s very rewarding.

Having gone through such extensive tattoo removal, does that make your job easier as a laser tech for Removery?

It gives me an advantage in being able to relate with the feelings clients go through, from the pre-laser jitters before the first treatment to the patience it takes to achieve full removal. I think for the clients I treat, the empathy I can show because I’ve been in the chair allows them to trust in me and the process that much more.

What’s your advice to someone who is thinking about starting tattoo removal or fading?

I can’t stress the importance enough of education when it comes to body modifications; Be it the application or removal of tattoos.

Specifically talking about cover-up tattoos, my advice is to do a few laser tattoo removal treatments to lighten the old tattoo first. Sometimes, a straight cover-up isn’t the best choice, my own experiences are my teaching tools.

Laser tattoo removal is a process, not an instant fix, but it’s beneficial to get the best possible cover up. I’m walking proof of exactly this mantra.

When Brittany is not working, getting her own tattoos removed or new tattoos put on, she loves spending time with her senior German Shepard she recently adopted named Jack.

Jack.

Carmen VanderHeiden Brodie Carmen Brodie VP Clinical Operations

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