Many people love their tattoos and are proud to show them off. Others, due to new relationships, family situations or career aspirations or other reasons, find themselves regretting the decision to get one or more tattoos.
If you're one of these people, you're not alone. The American Academy of Dermatologists estimates that 20% of adults with tattoos would like to get one or more of them removed. Other estimates are as high as 50%.
Until recently there were several methods for removing tattoos, none of them particularly appealing. Some of the more unpleasant approaches included sand abrasion – literally sandpapering the skin, and incisions – surgically removing the tattooed portion of the skin. Fortunately, over the recent past, laser and light pulse removal technologies have evolved in their effectiveness to a point where they have replaced most other methods.
Tattoos are meant to be permanent – so it's no wonder that they are difficult to remove. Even the most effective laser removal methods will leave a slight scar or discoloration of the skin where the Tattoo once appeared, although in most cases this will become invisible after a year or so.
What you need to know:
Laser and light removal systems use a focused laser or light pulse directed at the color pigment of the tattoo which lies below the surface of the skin. Different laser frequencies will be used for different colors. Once the pigment is broken up this way, the body then re-absorbs the ink particles and they are expelled harmlessly.
Tattoo laser removal can be costly. A large, colorful tattoo can cost several thousand dollars to remove. Smaller tattoos are less and many dermatologists offer financing to help with the cost.
Depending on the size and colors of the tattoo, up to 10 sessions may be required to complete the removal process. The process is broken up in order to allow the skin to heal between sessions.
Laser removal can be painful; however, your dermatologist can provide skin anesthetic to alleviate the discomfort.
Several companies also advertise tattoo removal crèmes and balms that can be applied at home. The benefit of these is that they don't require multiple visits to the dermatologist and their cost is significantly lower that laser and light treatments.
The downside is that there is little scientific evidence for their effectiveness, and even when they do achieve some reported fading of the tattoo, it generally takes many months. If you opt to try one of these fading crèmes, our recommendation is to ensure that the product has a money back guarantee in the event you are not satisfied with the results.