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The cutting-edge PicoSure tattoo removal machine, as seen inside Wise Choice Tattoo Removal.EXPAND
The cutting-edge PicoSure tattoo removal machine, as seen inside Wise Choice Tattoo Removal.
Lauren Antonoff

Friday the 13th Tattoo Horror Stories From Wise Choice Tattoo Removal

Friday the 13th is a holy day for tattoo collectors, one when studios all around Denver, and across the country, offer deals on new ink. But sometimes Freaky Friday is also a day of atonement, one where tattoos are not added, but taken away.

Today, September 13, Wise Choice Tattoo Removal, a new business opened by Christie Carlin in May of 2019, is offering this service at a discounted rate. Carlin, a longtime tattoo enthusiast, understands what it's like to live with unsatisfactory ink. 

"I've had fourteen or fifteen of my own removed," she says. For Carlin, tattoo removal is simply a part of the tattoo industry. "Some tattoo artists don't like me," she says. "But sometimes cover-ups don't work."

Today Carlin set out to give her clients the gift of new skin, beginning with a majorly discounted first treatment. Her tattoo removal services, usually priced at $50 per square inch, were offered at a special Friday the 13th rate of $13 per square inch, $23 per two square inches, $33 dollars per three square inches, up to a maximum discount of $63 per six square inches. For clients who are interested in erasing old ink, she's offering 50 percent off for first-time customers through the month of September.

The first in a series of laser treatments that will remove Erin Barnes's "tramp stamp."EXPAND
The first in a series of laser treatments that will remove Erin Barnes's "tramp stamp."
Lauren Antonoff

"I'm getting my tramp stamp removed!" exclaims Erin Barnes, Carlin's first appointment of the day. The brown crescent moon inked across Barnes's lower back is artwork she's worn for seventeen years. It's a tattoo that both she and her sister have, inspired by a vacation they took to Tahiti, where they came to appreciate tribal Tahitian artwork — but the design is something Barnes no longer wants to bear.

"We had a really good time," she says, "and I actually want to be covered in tattoos," but this tattoo no longer makes the cut. Though next up on Barnes's wish list is a sound wave of her daughter's first breath. "I love my daughter," she says.

Tracey Gibbs Bode's diamond-turned-kite finger tattoo.EXPAND
Tracey Gibbs Bode's diamond-turned-kite finger tattoo.
Lauren Antonoff

Carlin's next appointment, Tracey Gibbs Bode, points to the tattoo on her hand and says, "I just feel so super trashy with it." On her middle finger, she bears what looks vaguely like a pointy sperm. "Well, it was a diamond, but then I got it covered up to look like a kite, but that was also a bad idea," she explains. "I just shouldn't have let a beginner tattoo my hand."

That mistake, what was once a $20 to $40 tattoo, has now cost Bode over $400 to cover up and begin removing. But it hasn't soured her taste for the art of ink.

"We live in Greeley, and my husband and I were thinking of getting a Friday the 13th tattoo while we're down here," she says.

The removal of Nikki Esposito's candy corn embellishments.EXPAND
The removal of Nikki Esposito's candy corn embellishments.
Lauren Antonoff

Nikki Esposito, the third appointment of the day, is having the sparkles around her candy-corn tattoo removed.

"It was actually a Friday the 13th tattoo," she says. "This is my Halloween candy tattoo leg, and I planned to get the stars and dots filled in after all the artwork," but the artist who gave her the candy corn offered to give her a few stars and dots along with his piece, in an offer to give her "her money's worth." But "then he added some color without asking," which is why Esposito is having the work removed.

"I hear that all the time — that artists just don't listen," Carlin says.

Christie Carlin in her newly opened Wise Choice Tattoo Removal studio.EXPAND
Christie Carlin in her newly opened Wise Choice Tattoo Removal studio.
Lauren Antonoff

Carlin has seen and heard her share of tattoo horror stories. One man who came in to get an engagement ring-finger tattoo removed, broke down in her office because it was in the same building that he used to visit for marriage counseling.

"Ring-finger tattoos and names are definitely the number one," Carlin says of the tattoos that people ask to have removed.

She's even removed the name of an ex-girlfriend from a penis, per the customer's new girlfriend's request.

Carlin credits human impulse and bad decision-making with the fact that she will always be in business. But "this is what I was meant to do," she says. And although bad decisions keep people walking through her door, Carlin has a few suggestions for any would-be tattoo-getters.

"If you get a bad vibe from a studio, go somewhere else." Plus, "physical pain can be a lot easier to deal with than emotional pain. Sometimes people, myself included, get tattoos after a death or tragedy." But she urges people to think through these impulsive coping skills and think about a tattoo. "Think about it for at least a year. Then maybe, if you still want it after a year, you're more likely to want it forever."

But on the flip side, she also believes that the process of going through tattoo removal "helps people make better, wiser choices in the future." After all, "it's painful and expensive."

Have a tattoo that you didn't thoroughly think through? Visit Wise Choice Tattoo Removal, 190 East Ninth Avenue, Suite 220, before the end of September and take advantage of Carlin's limited-time offer. Call 303-921-5393 for more information.

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