Christopher King sits in the waiting room at Your Best Skin in Auburn. King, an inmate at the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center in Belfast, said he woke up one morning following a night of partying with three tattoos. “What did I do?” said King, who is having the tattoos removed by Your Best Skin owner Pat Donahue. The night of drinking was before King was incarcerated. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Christopher King has walked around for years with the reminder of a night gone very wrong.

“It was a bad party night — I let some inexperienced person handle a tattoo gun,” said King, 32. “I was shocked when I woke up with bandages all over me and started peeling them off. ‘What did I do?'”

He had three new tattoos, including sizable scrolls across his arm and chest and a tight knot of squiggles inside his left forearm.

That was his last night of drinking, King said.

On Wednesday, he sat in Pat Donahue’s lobby ready to make it right.

After delivering more than 1,000 babies as a midwife and eight years as a family nurse practitioner, Donahue opened Your Best Skin on Center Street in 2012 offering services including Botox, hydro-facials and tattoo removal.

Pat Donahue and Christopher King decide which tattoo to begin removing at Your Best Skin in Auburn. King, an inmate at the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center in Belfast, made the trip to see Donahue, who volunteers the service to prerelease inmates. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

For six years, she’s been visited once a month by the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center, volunteering to remove prerelease inmates’ regretted ink.

She’s helped 100 men with teardrops, gang signs, bold neck tattoos and Chinese characters that “a lot of them don’t even know what they mean.”

Donahue isn’t shy about telling them it hurts. But at least it’s quick.

After two men went before him Wednesday, King was up.

“You ready? Did you hear them all screaming?” she teased.

Kate Young, the center’s resource coordinator, often drives them. The vehicle can fit six and the signup sheet usually fills up quickly, she said.

“It’s an awesome service that she provides for our guys,” Young said. “I’ve seen a whole gamut of reasons. For the people that either have past relationships that they want to move on from and having that daily reminder off their person, and then the people who feel like their more inappropriate tattoos might be holding them back from gainful employment, or the type of employment that they want to pursue. Just having them actively working towards getting them removed (can help them feel) like there’s promise and hope ahead.”

It often takes between six and 16 visits, four to six weeks apart, to completely remove a tattoo, depending upon color and location.

Randy Millay is having his ex-girlfriend’s name removed from his arm at Your Best Skin in Auburn. This is his fifth visit in the removal process. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The closer to the heart, the better the blood flow and the easier to remove, Donahue said. “Black is the easiest color to remove; turquoise is the hardest.”

Donahue, originally from Caribou, got involved with the center after simply being called and asked. Up to 32 men live there. They come from a mix of state and county facilities and typically have six to 18 months left on their sentences.

“For me, it was for them to be able to get a job, to sort of stop the getting out, getting back in (cycle),” Donahue said. “When you get out and you have a prison history, good luck trying to find a job, and then we expect them not to go back. And then if you have facial or super visible tattoos,” it can be even harder.

Randy Millay, 52, of Machias, was there this week for his fifth visit, working to remove a tattoo he got decades ago of a rose and a girlfriend’s name. They’ve long broken up. She’s a Portland business lawyer now.

“I kept saying for years, ‘I’m going to have it removed,'” he said.

Millay might get the spot covered over at some point, but “if I do, it won’t be a name.”

Donahue is friendly and jokes with them, he said. She’s one of those people who “they don’t hold us to where we’ve been and what we’ve done.”

An inmate who declined to give his name was in this week for his second visit, getting his ex-wife’s name removed from his forearm.

“You don’t look old enough to have an ex-wife,” Donahue said.

“I know,” he agreed.

As he lay in a hospital-style bed, she cooled his forearm with a 40-degree burst of air to reduce blistering later.

Then, it was time for the laser and its rapid-fire pops and snaps. He winced but didn’t stop her, and 38 seconds later, the session was over.

“This is the most painful thing I do,” Donahue said.

For something like age spots, the same laser “feels like an elastic hitting you,” she said. For tattoos, it has to penetrate deeper. “The ink is exploding, that’s what hurts.”

King, of Swanville, said he felt like an employer’s first impression could be affected by the mess of squiggles on his arm and a homemade tattoo on his other forearm with his grandfather’s initials and birth and death date. He had Donahue laser both.

The sensation was “kind of like splattering grease on you,” King said.

He was all smiles, though. He’ll keep coming back.

Pat Donahue uses a laser to begin removing a tattoo from Christopher King’s arm at Your Best Skin in Auburn. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.