Clean Canvas / Bethany Cirlin

7 years ago by

Photos Erik Melvin
Words Anna Gray

Do you have tattoos? If you do, have you ever had a change of heart and considered having them removed? I have eight tattoos, they’re all small and easy to hide if I want to, so no regrets on my end. But there are tattoo mistakes out there, there are plenty…and it turns out removing them is now as much of a trend as getting them. Laser removal is a painful and arduous 2 year long (!!) process. We chatted with Bethany Cirlin, owner of Clean Canvas More Art, a New York tattoo removal center, about removal pros, cons, and emotions.

What inspired you to become a professional remover of tattoos? How long have you been doing it?
I have been specializing in tattoo removal for 9 years now. I never imagined that I would end up removing tattoos for a living after getting a college degree in communications but after dabbling in a few other careers I found my passion.

I had been hanging around a lot of tattooers, working in various shops over the years. I was doing makeup tattoos for about a decade (permanent cosmetics). Before social media, artists had physical portfolios that you would travel to come check out. Once social came into the picture, the tattoo underground became the trend. Everyone knew about artists and everyone was getting tattoos. Once they went mainstream, laser inevitably followed. It’s the only way to get rid of unwanted ink!

I’ve heard different colored inks respond to lasers differently. What color is hardest to remove?
Until recently blue and green ink were more difficult colors to remove. In 2012, the first major change came within the tattoo removal industry when a new technology called Picoseconds was introduced to the public. This technology has made blues/greens easier to remove. White (or any color with a lot of white in it) is now the most difficult color to remove because it’s saturated in titanium dioxide.

Is removal very painful? More or less than getting a tattoo?
Tattoo removal is very painful but very fast. We offer numbing cream and use a special machine called a chiller to make the treatments more tolerable. The average laser treatment takes 1-3 minutes.

What’s the weirdest tattoo you’ve ever had to remove?
I had a young girl, barely 21, who had gotten 3 different guys’ names tattooed on her… I wasn’t even done with the removal of one name before she got the next one tattooed!

What have you learned about what makes a good tattoo versus one that someone would want to remove?
As cliché as it sounds, cheap tattoos are never good. Good tattoos are never cheap. If you want a tattoo that you will want to keep, invest in a great artist.

tattoo removal garance dore photo

What body part(s) are notoriously difficult to a remove tattoo from?
The further away from your heart the more difficult to remove. A tattoo on the foot will take longer to remove than a tattoo on the hand. It’s all about blood flow and circulation.

Are there any conditions in which you would refuse to remove a tattoo?
If a potential client is prone to keloids (when a body heals from injury with raised scars), pregnant, breastfeeding, on Accutane or any other antibiotic, I don’t laser them.

Why do most people get tattoos removed? Is there any sort of common theme that stands out?
Lightening tattoos is a new phenomenon. The person has run out of room and wants new tattoo work so they lighten or remove tattoos they are not totally satisfied with to make space for new ink.

And of course there’s always the ex’s name…

Can you share the most touching story you’ve experienced with a client?
I offer free tattoo removal for anyone who has gotten radiation mapping. When you have cancer, they often use small dot tattoos to mark the path of radiation. I will laser these off for free. There’s not a dry eye in the room during these treatments. It’s a final “fuck you” to cancer! I love being able to be a part of it!

What’s the most rewarding part of what you do? The most challenging?
I love what I do. Deciding to get laser tattoo removal is a huge decision. It affects how you see yourself. Helping people change how they see themselves is powerful. Since tattoo removal is a process that can take two years, I form a bond with my clients.


Thank you Bethany! Clean Canvas More Art | 36 Rivington St. New York, NY 10002


Add yours
  • C’est étrange de dire “moi” puis de signer The Studio…

  • Hi Cecile, our friend Anna wrote this interview, whose byline you can find in the top credits of the post! x Natalie

  • Quel coeur! Je n’avais jamais percuté que ces repères de radiothérapie sont tatoués. ..personnellement j’ai cinq tatouages enfin quatre car après un beau ratage j’en ai fait couvrir un. J’ai commencé à 40 ans!!!ça m’a pris 20 ans pour me décider et deux ans après aucun regret ils me racontent ils font partie de mon histoire. J’en suis fière

  • I very much enjoyed this piece. Thank you Studio!

  • I would never ever remove a tattoo of mine. Even the tribal one I had when I was 18. They are all part of me, they represent me at that time when I had them done. Even if at the present moment I’m different, and that idea/meaning doesn’t belong to me anymore, it’s still me. To me a tattoo is like a scar, but more beautiful. It’s a sign. I don’t want to loose my past, I want to stay in the present reading the signs of what I’ve experienced so far.

  • Superbe comme toujours !
    Kiss, Léa

  • Superbe comme toujours
    Kiss, Léa

  • Loved this one! very interesting, never imagined the details of tattoo removal, will think about my next one a little bit deeper, thanks!!

  • Bethany is awesome!! She did four treatments on a tattoo on my upper back and now I’m getting the cover up done over at Saved. I was very hesitant to start, since it is a long-ish process and not cheap. But it is so, so liberating to get rid of an ugly tattoo! I’m really grateful for her expertise. Hopefully I won’t have to use her again, though! Lol. :)

  • le dioxyde de titane est suspecté d’être ultra cancérigène…

  • le dioxyde de titane est soupçonné d’être ultra cancérigène…

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