Tattooing the skin has been a form of expression for thousands of years – either as a mark of passage, a sign of royalty or simply to decorate the body. Tattoos are a part of American mainstream and it is estimated that 10 million Americans have at least one tattoo. On average, people tend to get their first tattoo in their teens or early twenties. Given that, it’s a reasonable assumption that a large number of people have ‘tattoo remorse’ and they regret the tattoo for one reason or another. In a survey of patients who had removed their tattoos, the most common reasons for regret were:
- They obtained their tattoos too young
- Tattoo was no longer appropriate
- Tattoo was embarrassing
- Tattoo was hard to hide or cover up at work
- They longer liked the tattoo
While life’s circumstances change, tattoos are a permanent reminder of the past. . In one of the most well-known cases of tattoo remorse – Angelina Jolie had a prominently placed tattoo to honor her husband at the time, actor Billy Bob Thornton (they were married from 2000-2003). After the failure of that relationship Jolie claimed that she was not happy with her tattoo and that it was one of her biggest regrets.
She is not alone. About 50% of those who have a tattoo, eventually regret having it and seek to have it removed – it’s big business!
Removing Tattoos with Laser
Until recently tattoo removal meant, that while the tattoo would disappear, the process would leave a scar. However, recent advances in laser technology, not only make it a safer, more effective option, it has become the gold standard for removing tattoos.
Lasers work by directing energy toward ink in the skin with highly concentrated colored light beams. These laser beams break up ink particles into tiny fragments which are later flushed or cleared away by the body’s natural process. The laser selectively targets the pigment of the tattoo without damaging the surrounding skin. The procedure requires no incisions, however with deeper penetration of the skin by the laser, some pain and blistering can occur. Finally, though laser technology is more advanced and refined, the risk of scarring is always present with multiple treatments.
Can Laser Remove My Tattoo?
Not all tattoos can be removed. Tattoos are designed to be permanent, and with recent ink technology and professional tattoo artists improving their skills, tattoos done in the last decade are very difficult to remove Newer tattoos are typically more difficult to remove. Complete removal of a tattoo is based on several factors – the size, location, application, age, and colors of the tattoo, as well as the health of the individual and their ability to heal.
Those with fair skin and tattoos on the arms, legs, chest, or buttocks are the best candidates for removal. For those with darker skin, or tattoos on the ankles or fingers or (areas where there is less body fat), are the most difficult to remove. A thorough examination by a tattoo removal specialist can better determine the potential for success in your case.
How Long does Laser Removal Take?
Tattoo removal by laser does not usually take more than a few minutes, however, that will depend on the tattoo, and multiple sessions may be required to remove most tattoos. The multiple sessions are usually split over 4-8 week periods, depending on the size and complexity of the tattoo.
After each laser treatment, ice is immediately placed on the tattoo to minimize swelling. After about 30 minutes, a topical antibiotic ointment is placed on the tattoo followed by a sterile dressing. The skin site should be left dry for a few days and should be cared for like sunburned skin.
For more information on laser tattoo removal, and to find a Laser Removal facility near you, visit Tattoohealth.org.