On the witness stand, 6ix9ine said he thought he might be free as early as 2020, because he was a cooperating witness. Having likely angered Nine Trey gang members who might seek revenge, one of the most likely options for 6ix9ine is to enter the witness protection program. And if he does enter the program, he would need to take drastic measures to conceal his identity, including removing the recognizable tattoos that cover his face, neck, arms, and abdomen.
According to Kelly Rheel, founder and owner of Flash Lab Laser Suite in New York City, 6ix9ine’s best option is to undergo PicoSure laser tattoo removal, which has been labeled by experts as the most advanced and effective laser treatment available today. The laser targets unwanted ink, turning them into dust-like particles that can then be eliminated from the skin without damaging surrounding tissue.
To put it lightly, there is nothing glamorous about this procedure. For 6ix9ine especially, this process could be expensive, painful, and time-consuming.
"You're looking at a year-long process, minimum," Rheel says. "That's why a witness protection program for this gentleman might be a little tricky, unless he gets a really good concealer. Plenty of dancers and models get really great makeup that covers up their tattoos while they're undergoing removal."
Rheel explains that the removal process is uncomfortable and 6ix9ine would see cosmetic side effects. "It's going to look like he's got the plague," she says. "You look like you're infected. You're red, you're itchy, inflamed, blistered. Lasers are no joke."
Rheel gave Complex her expert opinion on how long 6ix9ine’s tattoo removal would take, what he would look like, and a rough estimate of how much it would cost. The interview, lightly edited for clarity and length, is below.
In your opinion, is PicoSure technology the best option for 6ix9ine to remove his tattoos?
Yes. The good thing that he has going for him is that they are all dark tattoos. I do see some color. He does have some ambers. That rose, it's possible. You would be hard-pressed to find technicians or laser providers that carry the hand piece for amber colors. The tattoos that are easiest to remove are black, and that's just because of the way the technology works. The laser is attracted to pigment, and the darker the pigment, the easier it is to hone in on that pigment and blast it apart. I'm not saying that he can't get the green and the rose removed, but you just have to find the right person. It's tough to find people who do. I don't know anyone who carries it, and I know a lot of laser providers. But it's out there. These black tattoos, those are super easy. And his skin, he's a skin type four. So that means that I can use higher settings on him, which would garner a quicker result.
How long would it take? Tattoo removal usually takes multiple treatments.
Oh my goodness, so many! And it varies so much from client to client. When we first started doing tattoo removal about three years ago, I made the mistake of saying six sessions is about average for a package. Then, after doing so many tattoos, you just cannot predict. So at this point, I just tell clients at least six sessions.
How long would this take for 6ix9ine?
You're looking at a year-long process, minimum. That's why a witness protection program for this gentleman might be a little tricky, unless he gets a really good concealer. Plenty of dancers and models get really great makeup that covers up their tattoos while they're undergoing removal.
As he went through this process (and after), how would he look?
It's a crazy process. A normal reaction after having undergone a singular tattoo removal treatment is blistering, bleeding, itchiness, redness. It's going to look like he's got the plague. You look like you're infected. You're red, you're itchy, inflamed, blistered. Lasers are no joke.
this guy would have to come in over a number of treatments. $100,000 is not obscene.
Is this procedure painful?
Yeah. Lasers, in general, can be pretty intense. But as far as lasers go, this one really takes the cake. You’ve got to want to get these removed, because it's not a fun process. We numb you for up to 45 minutes, but even after doing that, you're still going to feel it. It's annoying. It's kind of hot for a couple of days, and then once you get those blisters, you’ve got to be careful. You don't want to pop them. They can cause infection. Yeah, this guy's in trouble.
The tattoos on his stomach can easily be concealed, but the tattoos on his face need to be removed immediately. Are there any challenges?
Because they're on his face, sometimes you get a ghost tattoo that's left behind. It's called hypo-pigmentation, and it's where your skin loses its natural melanin. It turns whiter than the base color. So sometimes this is risky on the older technologies, and even occasionally on the new technologies. The 69 on his forehead is what I would be most concerned about. He could end up with just a very faint, lighter 69. There are things that we can do to facilitate the regeneration of cells so that everything evens out. Sometimes we pair tattoo removal treatments with a resurfacing treatment to make sure that if any skin damage arises, we're able to get at it real quick and start regenerating new cells.
What would the healing process look like for him? How long would it take to fully recover?
Here's how it works: We initiate a process of breaking down the ink into particles that your body can easily absorb, and then your body does the heavy lifting. I just start the process, and then I leave it up to your lymphatic system. The reason you want to be on the Pico is because it breaks the ink into much smaller particles than previous technologies. When you've got these teeny tiny sand-like particles, your lymphatic system can easily remove it from your body, making it so that your treatments might be seven instead of 25. So a course of seven treatments is going to be 42. We're looking at 42 weeks, because we can do your treatments every six weeks. And that's on the quick end.
What is he looking at in terms of cost?
That varies from practitioner to practitioner, but where we usually end up is $100 per square inch per treatment. The funny thing is that the reason we don't make tons of money on tattoo removal is because people don't want to come in and remove sleeves or giant back pieces. This guy would pay my rent for the year. I mean, my God. For him, just to get rid of this 69: I'm thinking this is three inches down, two inches across on both sides. So you're looking at 10 inches. [That’s] $1,000 a treatment just to get rid of the six-nine. This little clown face: See now, with that, I couldn't do the red, but the black I could do, and I would probably charge $200 for that. Then this neck piece, that would be the moneymaker. I would charge $1,500, at least, per treatment, and he might need 10 treatments.
So it could cost him over $100,000 when you factor in the rest of his body?
Well, let's see. Fifteen hundred dollars times 15. You're looking at $22,000 just for [his face and neck region]. This guy’s easily $100,000. I mean, they're all over his hands. I'm looking at his abdomen. They're all over his arms, too. All these little 69s on the arms aren’t easy, either. I'd go blind after doing one session. It would have to be so meticulous and so concentrated. That's a lot of work on my end. We would spend two hours, I would think. Also, I'd have to break this up because it's intense. People can't sit through a two-hour tattoo removal session. So this guy would have to come in over a number of treatments. One hundred thousand dollars is not obscene. It's not out of the realm of possibility for something like this. But let's say we even wanted to add on the laser resurfacing, that would help regenerate the cells to eliminate that ghost tattoo. You're talking another $50,000.
It would be extremely costly. And at the end, you would not be guaranteed to be able to disguise yourself fully, because you might have ghosts tattoos and white marks where these larger pieces were. Our goal is always to make it look like you never had anything there. But I tell every tattoo client who comes in here: Chances are there's going to be some kind of remnants of the ink that you had. And not even if it's the ink, but if it's just a tissue change.
So the moral of story is...
Be very careful about choosing your tattoos.