There is a saying in the tattoo world, “The only thing you’ll take with you to your grave are your tattoos,” but this is no longer necessarily the case. With modern technology there are a number of ways to remove these “permanent” markings on the skin, and as the popularity of tattoos continues to explode, so does the birth of the tattoo removal industry. Clinics offering expensive laser removal can be found in most major cities, but the process is generally very expensive -- running into the thousands of dollars for some tattoos -- and for former gang members and trafficking survivors, who are living from hand to mouth, the cost of removal is just not a possibility. Many feel trapped with dangerous tattoos from which they fear they will never be free.

“It is not uncommon for former gang members to be covered in gang tattoos,” says Chris Baker, “they have them over their arms and hands, their faces and necks, and on their legs and backs -- usually in high visibility areas.” It could easily be tens of thousands of dollars for some to have their tattoos removed or covered. These tattoos, can keep them from getting jobs, cause them problems with police, or even cost them their lives. Former gang members have to live in constant fear of retaliation from not only rival gangs, but from members of the own former gang. A face tattoo that was once a badge of honor is now a curse, which might bring about their own death, or the death of their innocent child or loved one. When dealing with gang tattoos Chris generally starts with the ones that are most visible and most likely to cause violence or issues with gaining employment. A visible gang tattoo is a quick way to end a job interview, so generally the first tattoos to go are the ones on the face and hands.

Trafficking survivors also have tattoos in highly visible areas. Each time they look in the mirror they are reminded of the horrors of a life they wish to forget. While their tattoos do not generally cover as large an area as many former gang members, the emotional pain from their branding serves as a daily trigger of the brutality of the life they were trapped in.

As they re-acclimate into society
many survivors are forced to make up lies to answer the endless casual questions about the markings on their bodies. The removal of the tattoo frees them from this awkward necessity.  


When a client comes into the the INK 180 shop Chris walks them through the process. The area is first sanitized, then Chris begins his work with all new medically sealed tattoo materials. He uses a standard shading needle to drawn over the area of the tattoo that is being erased. The needles are the same, but this time they don’t contain any ink -- he is using the tool to simply open up the skin. Chris is careful to remove the top two layers, causing the epidermis to bleed, and thus exposing the ink layer. He then apples an all natural product called Tattoo Vanish to the area. The ointment settles in and begins to literally pull the ink up to the surface of the skin, removing it from the body. After 10 minutes the area is cleaned and bandaged, and the client is sent on their way to heal. The area must be kept dry during the healing process, and as the skin scabs over the product continues to remove the ink.

When the sca
b falls off, many clients will see the ink actually within the scab. The ink has literally been drawn from their body! After the first sessions, as the ink surfaces in the body, for some, it might even appear to make the tattooed area a bit darker or more blurry, but with each continuing session the process of removal will become more and more pronounced. Eventually the sessions will consist of removing ink from the scattered stubborn spots on the skin. The process used by INK 180 works on all colors of ink, and when the process is finished all traces of the former tattoo will be eliminated. 



Of course nothing is truly free, even though the cost is never passed on to the client. Each removal session requires new/sterile tattoo equipment, and at base cost, not counting staff time which is volunteered, the ministry spends approximately $35 dollars for those removal supplies for each session. (Tattoo ink supplies add to the cost for a cover up.) So, using easy math, if a tattoo takes 6 sessions, not counting actual working time, the hard cost of materials run about $210 for that client. 

INK 180 is a not-for-profit, tax deductible ministry, and relies on the generous gifts of everyday people to keep
offering this service to others. If you would like to “do something” about these issues, a good place to start is with an organization that is making a difference.

To find out more about how you can help Chris Baker and INK 180 directly, visit his website:  



The removal process is not immediate, and it takes a number of sessions to see it through. While the actual length of time can vary depending various issues, the average tattoo can be removed in somewhere between 3 to 6 sessions. Still it may take up to 9 or more --  though later sessions are generally focused on stubborn spot area removal. Between each session the skin must scab over and heal completely before a new session can be started again. Some of the issues that affect the time of removal are the aftercare of the client, (they must keep the area dry at all times,) and the actual materials that made the original tattoo. For example, tattoos applied from inside prisons or acquired on the street are often not actually made with ink, but with unconventional materials, for example, melted chess pieces, or ash. These tattoos can be removed as well, but can lengthen the process. On average, each session takes about half an hour.

As the process of getting a tattoo removed is very similar to having one put on, most clients say it feels about the same. The Tattoo Vanish product is saline based and does sting a bit as it is applied to the open skin. As many clients have made a change in their lives, they are often getting the process done “sober” for the first time, and many comment on how much less it hurt when the were getting their original tattoo while under the influence. The location of the tattoo removal can make a big difference in the sensitivity of the body to the process, and of course, all clients have their own pain threshold.


Yes, in fact it is arguably even safer than a laser removal. A laser uses focused light to “bust up” the ink particles, which then scatter into, and stay in the body, while the Tattoo Vanish process was developed to draw the ink out of the skin. A client can actually see the ink in the dried scab after it falls off. The ink is no longer in the body after the process. The product is also all natural, and non-toxic.


Yes. It will take time and dedication on the part of the client, but all of the tattoo can be removed, and each of the sessions will be completed free of charge.

Unlike other methods which might leave a thin discoloring of the tattoo, the method used at the INK 180 shop will completely remove the tattoo if the client sticks with the process and dedicates themselves to the aftercare.


No, many clients love tattoos and choose to have a new art cover their tattoos rather than have their old tattoos removed. Chris is a professional tattoo artist who has done work for various celebrities like, Head from the band Korn, and Tampa Bay offensive guard Garrett Gilkey. Chris often designs coverups with his clients, and performs that tattoo work free of charge as well. (Chris will generally only remove tattoos on faces or hands as they limit job opportunities.) Still, if a tattoo is too dark, even clients choosing to get new ink might need to go through a few removal sessions to lighten an area enough to complete a successful cover up.

About 75% of the work Chris does is offered free of charge, while the remaining 25% of his time is spent on paying clients who are a main source of his income. As a way to help the INK 180 ministry, many regular clients have their tattoo work done by Chris as a way of supporting his ongoing ministry work. If you would like to have a tattoo from INK 180 you can learn more on their website:

Or call to schedule an appointment:

(630) 554-1404







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