Tattoo Removal

Impact of Tattoo Removal on Mental Health

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Published: 05.15.2023
Updated: 11.01.2023
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Bill Kwan, Dermatologist

Tattoo Removal & Mental Health Q&A with Nikki M. Jovicilo

Satya Counseling website:

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time to shed light on the importance of mental wellbeing. To honor this, we’ve arranged a special Q&A with Nikki M. Jovicilo, a respected figure in the field of mental health counseling. Not only is Nikki a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and the Clinical Director of Satya Counseling, but she is also a Certified DARe provider. Today, we’re diving deep into an intriguing discussion about the psychological aspects of tattoo removal and their profound implications on mental health.

What are some common emotional responses individuals may experience when considering tattoo removal?

“Anxiety and excitement are the most common ones I see, and they are two sides of the same coin. Both mean you care about the outcome.”

How can the decision to remove a tattoo impact a person’s sense of identity and self-image?

“If we get stuck in thinking about regret, it can impact us negatively – calling ourselves “stupid,” or blaming our younger selves for getting the tattoo. It could also impact one positively, as taking charge of one’s own body, or clearing space for new artwork. Sometimes decisions that fit us at one point don’t fit our lives later, and it can be liberating to let go.”

How can therapists support clients who may feel ashamed or embarrassed about their tattoo(s)?

“I’d support a client with flexibility and acceptance. How fast do you have to run to escape your own history? It’s part of you, whether it’s visible or not. Acceptance is willingness to have your experiences and have your feelings about them – it doesn’t mean you like those feelings, and it doesn’t mean you’ll take no steps toward change. You can only create change from where you are right now, not where you wish you were or think you should be.”

How can the process of tattoo removal impact a person’s mental health?

“I’m pro-bodily-autonomy, so generally, I lean toward it having a positive impact when it’s made for one’s own reasons. There are so many things in life we can’t control. We can make decisions about our own bodies and how we adorn them, so it can increase your sense of agency.”

How can tattoos serve as a positive reminder of important milestones or moments in one’s life, even if they are ultimately removed?

“Whatever your tattoos represent to you, that meaning belongs to you forever. No one can take it away from you. You’re still an art collector, and those memories are always yours. Sometimes the removal can be an important milestone as well. For instance, someone may get their favorite whiskey tattooed on their arm. If they give up alcohol because it impacts them negatively, they may want to commemorate their sobriety by removing that image from their body.”

What role can tattoos play in promoting self-confidence and self-love, even if they are not permanent?

“I believe that tattoos are a valuable form of self-expression. When you feel like your authentic self, it’s easier to live in your own skin, however you illustrate it. A tattoo may enhance your self-confidence and self-love because it feels like you, or represents something meaningful to you. Nothing is truly permanent, and you may feel differently about something when you’re older than you did when you got the tattoo. For instance, perhaps someone was affiliated with a hate group, and had Nazi symbols tattooed on them. If they change their views, removing those tattoos can be an act of self-love, as well as an act of love towards their fellow humans. They could feel more confident once those images are removed, as it’s more consistent with their sense of self.”

Tattoos are our history

“Therapists don’t give advice – rather, I’d help the person uncover what’s important to them, so they can make their own choices. The more contact we have with our values, the easier it is to make decisions. I’d want to know what’s important to the person in that context: self-expression, authenticity, beauty, etc. I believe that people who get tattoos are art collectors. Since it’s art that can’t be resold, our capitalist society can look down on them. A person may want to look at their tattoos as their art collection, or experiences they have earned. If a tattoo has faded and they’re disappointed at how the image looks, they may ultimately want to celebrate it as a reminder of impermanence and change, or acceptance of aging. Ultimately, it can be a powerful experience of self-acceptance, to say ‘This is my history, and I fully accept it, as well as how I feel about it.’”it.’”

If you would like to learn more about our Tattoo Removal service, please reach out here.

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Dr. Bill Kwan Dermatologist

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