Regrettable marks

A local woman’s cautionary tale of two tattoos—and their removal

Aurora Beaudry.

Aurora Beaudry.

Photo by Howard Hardee

A reason for pause:

For a graphic look at the full tattoo-removal procedure, check out Aurora Beaudry’s public Facebook album at

In her youth, Aurora Beaudry was prone to acting on a whim. In 1983, she was living in the Central Valley town of Lemoore, planning an extended trip to Venezuela. Upon meeting a young man, however, her plans changed. At 18 years old, she followed him to Chico, where they got married and had two children—a son and a daughter.

Just prior to meeting her future husband, though, she made another snap decision that would follow her into adulthood. She accompanied her older sister to a tattoo shop and, on impulse, picked out “something cute” from the designs on the wall and had it permanently inked on her pelvis.

“I always thought my sister was super cool; she’s seven years older than me,” Beaudry said during a recent interview. “I decided to get [the tattoo] then and there, thinking that I would be super cool, too.”

It would take more than a decade for her to regret the tattoo—a blue-and-green ocean scene complete with sea horse, blowfish, seaweed and a treasure chest. By then, she had also gotten the name of her husband, Jerry, tattooed on her backside just below the waistline. The couple divorced in 1999, and Beaudry, sticking with the ocean theme, covered “Jerry” with a sea turtle.

She wouldn’t truly despise the tattoos until several years later, when she first visited a clothing-optional naturist resort in the Sacramento area with her current husband. For Beaudry, it was a pivotal experience she described as “the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.” After grappling with body-image issues since adolescence, bearing all in the company of both friends and strangers was a release. “It made me feel so much better, so much more accepting of myself,” she said. “It just changed me.”

When Aurora Beaudry was first interviewed for this story, she had two tattoos—one of an ocean scene, the other of her ex-husband’s name covered up by a sea turtle.

Photo by Howard Hardee

As she began returning to the naturist resort, she developed a higher respect for her body, she said. In her eyes, the decades-old tattoos had become “ugly graffiti.”

While Beaudry acknowledged that tattoos can have artistic value or be of profound personal significance, hers were not; they were generic. “My tattoos meant nothing to me,” she said.

So, about a year ago, Beaudry began looking into how to get rid of them.

Tattoos were, in a generation past, symbols of rebellion; now they’re very much mainstream. The tattoo industry generates $2.3 billion annually in the U.S. alone, according to business publication Inc. Magazine, while a 2012 study conducted by the American Medical Association’s Archives of Dermatology estimated that 1 in 5 college-age Americans has at least one tattoo.

For those who want their tattoos removed, laser treatment has become the standard procedure, but it can take up to 15 sessions to entirely break the ink down (it’s then removed over time by the body’s lymphatic system), and success varies depending on tattoo color and size and whether the individual is a smoker.

Indeed, Beaudry considered laser removal, but was told during a consultation that the procedure doesn’t work well for dark ink (which hers was). She subsequently opted for a series of surgeries with Dr. Daniel Thomas, a local plastic surgeon. Over the course of 10 months, Beaudry underwent six surgeries—three for each tattoo—during which eye-shaped incisions were made and the skin drawn together. The surgeries were spaced months apart to allow her skin to regain elasticity.

This February, Beaudry had her sixth surgery to remove the ink.

Photo by Howard Hardee

As Beaudry was administered numbing shots before each procedure, she said, the process was pain-free, although she did get slightly squeamish at one point.

“When [Dr. Thomas] was cutting the one in front, I was watching and started to feel a little light-headed,” she said. “I didn’t feel it, but I saw my fat and muscle right there. That stuff’s supposed to stay on the inside!”

The final procedure was completed in February.

When Beaudry looks at her body in the mirror now, it’s no longer marred by silly sea creatures. The scars in their place will fade significantly with time, she said, but she won’t mind if they’re always there. “I’d rather have the scars than the ink,” she said.

So, does she believe her experience serves as a cautionary tale for young people who might spontaneously get tattoos that don’t hold much meaning? Attempting to impart any such wisdom on her own daughter—who has a full sleeve and tattoos all down her back—was a lost cause, Beaudry said.

“You’re so smart when you’re young; I thought so, anyway,” she said. “But I really didn’t have a clue. If only you could see what it will look like when you’re 30, 40, 50 or 60. Before I had them removed, I remember thinking, ‘I wonder what these are going to look like when I’m getting a bath in a convalescent home.’”

She suggested trying a temporary henna tattoo, which can remain for up to two weeks, before committing for life.

“My niece has a good saying: Why put bumper stickers on a Ferrari? My Ferrari days are over,” she laughed, “but I’d like to think I’m a classic Chevelle, at least.”