Tattoos are intended to be permanent as the ink is applied under the first layer of skin, but there are some circumstances when you might want a tattoo removed. Maybe you have a painful reminder of the past or have outgrown something you got when you were young and want it off your body. New and improved technology has made effective removal a reality, but it isn’t a decision you should make without being informed. Consider the various tattoo removal options available to you and decide which one is appropriate for your situation.
Laser tattoo removalis the most common option. It works by using a very concentrated light that breaks up the particles from the ink into much smaller fragments, allowing your immune system to eliminate them. The laser rays need to be specific to the pigments of the ink. It is more effective for removing dark inks such as blacks or blues but has difficulty with targeting lighter colors or pastels. Older tattoos are easier than new ones to remove due to the age of the ink and natural factors that may have lightened your tattoo such as long sun exposure.
The process requires several treatments, with approximately seven weeks between treatments. Your tattoo should get lighter over time and best results are seen about eight weeks after the last treatment. The number of sessions you’ll need will depend on the colors and size of your tattoo. It is an uncomfortable process and most patients use a topical anesthetic to make it a bit less painful. Ice can be applied after to ease discomfort. The pain has been compared to snapping a rubber band against your skin repeatedly. Overall cost depends on how many sessions are needed to remove the tattoo. Scarring and lighter or darker pigmentation of the area where the tattoo was are potential side effects.
While laser removal is by far the most effective method, certain pigments such as shades of green and white don’t respond well to lasers and need alternative methods for removal. Dermabrasion uses a rough-edged wheel to “sand” down the upper layers of the skin. It causes the skin to bleed and the damaged skin is replaced by new skin growth. A local anesthetic is used to numb the skin and the doctor removes the upper layers of the skin, covering the area with gauze after. It is an outpatient procedure that requires multiple visits to the doctor afterward to check on progress. Side effects can include redness, scarring, swelling, or increased color in your skin tone. It is typically only effective for small tattoos.
A tattoo can have special meaning, be a beautiful work of art or show off parts of your personality. Unfortunately for some, they can also be a mistake that was done without proper consideration, no longer fits their interests, or can be tied to painful memories. Know that there are options for removal to make the tattoo a thing of the past so you can move on and enjoy the look of your de-inked skin.