First Person Singular: Marina McDowell, 25, Arlington, laser technician/tattoo removal, Zapatat


“Everything changes,” says laser technician Marina McDowell, who specializes in tattoo removal. “That is life. People’s preferences, tastes change.” (Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
October 17, 2012

There are several reasons people get their tattoos removed: Someone is joining the military or changing professions, or someone is having a child and they really don’t want the children to see the tattoo and have questions about it. Of course, there are personal reasons. Everything changes. That is life. People’s preferences, tastes change. You change, your fashion changes, your ideas change. If you created some change in your life, you may want your body to reflect that.

In some ways, it is like getting a tattoo. Once the person makes that decision to do it, they just want to get it done — now. The most common question is: “Does it hurt as much as getting a tattoo?” The answer is: “It varies.” But here is the thing — and this is what makes people feel so much better — it is so quick. It will be over before you know it. For the average tattoo, I will be done in 30 seconds [for the first visit].

I don’t see any tattoos, regardless of what they represent, as a mistake. They get there for a reason. No certain body part is taboo. If that’s where you want your tattoo, that’s where you want it. Skin is skin. We don’t talk about “tramp stamps” or any of that kind of language. You are there to help them, not judge them.

Skin is something you can study every day of your life and keep learning. To be good, you have to do your research, study and learn every day. You are working with live tissue — not a stone, or a piece of wood, where you could just do whatever you want with it.

I’ve been thinking about getting a tattoo for a while now but still haven’t got to it. People ask me this question pretty much every day: Am I not getting one because I see so many people who want theirs removed? Surprisingly, I see so many beautiful, pretty-much masterpieces it’s art to me at this point. It actually makes me want to get one even more. There is obviously a reason that someone doesn’t want that tattoo anymore. That doesn’t make the tattoo any less beautiful; it just makes my job necessary.


McDowell says: “I don’t see any tattoos, regardless of what they represent, as a mistake. They get there for a reason.” (Matt McClain/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

A balance between the external and internal is so important. Although my work is with the external, I do see change internally. When you like how you look, that confidence can extend to how you feel. But, just as importantly, when you are confident, you are beautiful. External beauty isn’t the answer to the question — it never is that one-sided. Balance is the answer in this situation, as it is in everything.

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