I once *almost* convinced a friend to get a tattoo of a frog riding a unicycle with the words “dat boi needs therapy”, which only goes to show that we all make mistakes. I should have followed through with convincing him (my mistake), making him the owner of the world’s worst tattoo (his mistake). The reason I’m telling you this story is because maybe you actually have the world’s worst tattoo and are looking to get it lasered off. Well, I’m halfway through tattoo removal and am here to tell you all about it.

The tattoo I’m removing is a little semi colon, inked on a whim one day and which now only serves to remind me of a time I’d rather forget. (A story for another day.)

I’d been thinking about getting it lasered off for a while when Next Level Clinic reached out and asked if I’d like to try it for a story. Tattoo removal is on the rise – unsurprising, when you think about how popular tattoos are and how quickly trends move. In fact, the global industry is expected to grow almost 20% by 2027, reaching a global value of almost USD $800 million. That’s a lot of bank to be made from poor decisions.

So does it hurt? How long does it take? And can you really erase all your sins with a few rounds of laser treatment?

First, the pain. I’m very sorry to say that all the rumours you’ve heard are true. Tattoo laser removal hurts much, much more than having one inked in the first place, and that’s even with numbing cream. At least, that’s my experience so far. Maybe I’m a huge baby. But it seems to be a rumour for a reason, and that reason is “ouch”.

Next Level Clinic, located in Sydney’s CBD, uses a Discovery Pico Laser Machine, which uses sound waves to literally shatter the tattoo ink but leave the surrounding tissue unharmed. Your body will then flush out the ink via the lymphatic system, meaning it’s worth your time to learn how to do a lymphatic drainage massage yourself at home.

It kind of feels like someone’s snapping a rubber band at your skin REALLY hard. Photo: Supplied.

The process itself takes about five minutes (dependant on the size of your tattoo, of course), but the best part is what happens before that point. While you wait for the numbing cream to do its thing, you’ll be treated (!!!) to a light therapy facial (like “a Red Bull for your skin”) and a head, neck and shoulder massage. That’s because Next Level Clinic is owned by the same people who run the men’s salon Face of Man just upstairs, so they’ve spruced up the clinical procedure with a little indulgence. Honestly, it’s these massages that keep me coming back. (And, of course, the fact that my tattoo is only half faded so far.)

Once you’re done, you’ll be given a little aftercare kit, including an ointment to put on your tatt each day to help break it up. My tattoo is so small there’s not a lot of downtime, but for larger ones I imagine you’ll be pretty wrecked afterwards.

Obviously, each tattoo is a different beast to remove. Tattoos on your hands, wrists and feet are the hardest, as is the colour red. The number of treatments will also vary based on how the tatt was inked in the first place. But usually, you’re looking at six to 12 sessions, taking place six to eight weeks apart.

If you’re in Sydney and thinking about tattoo removal, you can get a quote online (for free!) or go into the Next Level Clinic for $50, which then comes off your total cost.

Good luck, and remember: no ragrets.