Considering a Cover up? Here’s What You Need to Know

Dustin Ortel is a skilled laser technician at the Removery’s Buffalo office, and he also runs our mobile unit that travels to 28 different tattoo shops from the northeast to Richmond, Virginia. At these shops, we work hand-in-hand with the artists who do cover ups. (Learn more about getting a cover up and the partners we work with here!)

In his work, Dustin sees many varieties of unwanted tattoos: hate tattoos, prison tattoos, exes’ names, and just flat-out bad work. People often carry a lot of personal shame about them—for instance, he’s worked with bodybuilders who won’t even let their spouse see their body. He relishes getting to help them move forward in life, leaving their shame behind.“I get to be a part of that change, in helping somebody move forward in their life,” he says.

Five things everyone considering a cover up tattoo should know

Here are five things everyone considering a cover up should know, based on Dustin’s wealth of experience.

Tattoo subject matter is key.

“Subject matter is the most important thing when dealing with a cover up,” says Dustin. It determines how many sessions you need to adequately fade the old tattoo.

Getting a geometric design like a mandala, or a delicate, feathery tattoo, requires almost full removal because of the negative space involved, he says. Traditional styles or color realism tend to require fewer sessions.

People often come in wanting to cover up heavy, dark script. “You have to veer toward full removal on that,” Dustin says. He typically consults closely with the tattoo artist who will be doing the client’s cover up to make sure the Removery achieves the appropriate level of fading.

Most tattoo artists love laser removal because it gives them a fresh canvas for the client’s desired design, he notes. “They’re putting their name, their signature, on a new tattoo.”

Healthy skin is vital.

“Healthy skin absolutely matters, always,” Dustin emphasizes. “A healthy immune system matters. This is a detox process—the laser shatters the ink particles down into small pieces, and your body’s white blood cells kick into overdrive to remove your tattoo,” he explains. “The healthier the skin, the better palate we have for laser, as well as the better palate the artist has for the cover up.” They have the clients use Vitamin E to keep their skin healthy throughout the process.

Choose your artist wisely and communicate closely.

Dustin talks with clients about which artist’s style best fits their chosen design. They look at photos together and discuss the artist’s past cover up work. Then, he consults with the artist personally and makes sure the client meets the artist, ideally before beginning the laser sessions. “This is a long-term process. We work with these clients for months and months,” he says. Maintaining good communication between the whole trifecta—the client, artist, and laser technician—ensures great results.

Have realistic expectations.

Dustin is always upfront about how long the process will take and what outcome they can achieve. Five sessions are enough for most subject matter, except for tattoos that include negative space, which can take 8 to 10 sessions. If a client wants a more traditional tattoo, removal usually takes 4 or 5 sessions to break down the heavy lines and desaturate the tattoo enough that it won’t bleed through.

Sessions take place every six weeks, so the laser removal process can take up to 6 months. Then, the client needs to wait at least 12 weeks after the last session to begin the new tattoo.

Most importantly, Dustin says, “they should expect to get the tattoo that they wanted all along.”

Removal can be life-altering.

Watching clients’ journey from feeling embarrassed about an old tattoo to feeling ecstatic about the final outcome is incredible, Dustin says. They’ve removed full chest pieces from people who were ashamed to let anyone see them. “We get to help them move through that process and feel good in their own skin,” he asserts. He loves showing them photos that reveal their transformation through every stage of the process.

Embarking on a tattoo removal journey means taking a big leap, but it’s worth it, Dustin emphasizes.

He took a huge leap himself by delving into the field of tattoo removal in his mid-thirties—and it was entirely worth it. “It was scary, and it was wonderful, and I couldn’t ask for anything more at this point.”

If you’re wondering, “Where can I find an artist who will do a cover up tattoo near me,” Removery can help. Learn more about what we do and our amazing staff and partners here!

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