The first tattoo is thought to be over five thousand years old. Of course, since then the process of tattooing has changed as has the popularity if the art. People see tattoos in different ways. Some view them as a form of permanent artistic expression. Others use a tattoo to commemorate something important or special to them such as the birth of a child or the death of a loved on. There are others who view them as a mistake by a young person that they now want removed by any means possible.
Tattoo “mistakes” can happen for a variety of reasons. The first of which is age. Throughout most of the United States, someone must be at least eighteen to get a tattoo. Gone are the days where a parent can consent to the process for someone who is younger. Many an eighteen-year-old drops into their local tattoo parlor on or around their birthday to have that tattoo inked that mom and dad said they couldn’t get. Often, several years and a little growing up later, the witty saying on your arm or the cartoon character on your ankle just don’t seem to belong there. Another reason for tattoo regret comes with having names tattooed on your body. In the moment having your boyfriends or girlfriend (or husband or wife’s) name emblazoned across your shoulder sounded like a great idea; a declaration of your undying love. Flash forward a few years when forever has become never and that tattoo just must go away. Additionally, people want to get tattoos removed for employment reasons, social reasons, personal reasons or, in some cases because they want to make space for something new or bigger that their existing tattoo is inhibiting.
Tattoo removal process
There are various tattoo removal processes and the success of the removal depends on the quality of the ink used and the colors of ink used. Two of the most common processes are Dermabrasion and Laser tattoo removal. Dermabrasion is a process by which the skin is scraped, or a rotary abrasive tool is used to sand off layers of the skin. This process is designed to wear off the tattoo through the destruction of the outer layer of skin.
A more well known (and likely less unpleasant) method of tattoo removal is laser tattoo removal. Laser tattoo removal uses a laser to break up the tattoo ink that is within the skin. Depending on the color of the ink, a different wavelength is used. The focus of the laser makes it possible to destroy the tattoo without destroying the surrounding skin. Laser tattoo removal usually requires a series of treatments with time for healing in between. As compared to dermabrasion or other tattoo removal methods, laser tattoo removal is safe, effective and relatively painless; especially when compared to the process of getting the tattoo in the first place.
Pros and cons of laser removal
The laser removal process is safe and highly effective. However, there are pros and cons associated with the process. Below we go over the good and the bad associated with this process.
The procedure is relatively painless
The level of pain you will experience during the removal process is largely dependent on your threshold for pain. Although, if you made it through getting the actual tattoo the removal process is likely to be tolerable. Some people find the process much more unpleasant than others. This is not to say you will not feel anything at all; indeed, you will feel a small amount of discomfort. The laser removal process involves an intense beam of light passing through the portion of your body where the unwanted tattoo is. The laser breaks down the tattoo color by color. During the laser process you will feel some discomfort, but it should not be unbearable. This is the greatest advantage of laser tattoo removal over other methods that are more harsh or invasive. Some people have described the sensation as getting snapped by a rubber band and others as the feeling of oil from a frying pan hitting your skin.
The process is non-invasive
Another significant advantage of laser tattoo removal is that it is not a surgical procedure. There is no incision, excision (tissue removal) and no blood will be involved. This means the process can be done in an outpatient setting in a facility where they have trained specialist in laser tattoo removal. It does not require a hospital stay, surgical preparation procedures or a lengthy recovery. Best of all, you can return to your normal daily routine as soon as your appointment is over should you wish.
The success rate is high
Laser tattoo removal has been reported to have a very high success rate of removing tattoos of any kind. This was not always the case. Early laser equipment struggled to remove light colors and therefore some tattoos could not be fully removed. Over time, equipment and techniques have advanced. Now, any color tattoo can be removed completely and permanently. It is important to note that results may not be visible immediately. The tattoo is not likely to go away immediately after your first treatment however, with time and the correct number of treatments it will fade permanently.
The skin will get irritated
Due to the intense beam of light passing through the same area of your skin several times over, it is likely your skin will turn red and get inflamed. After treatment it is likely to be sensitive to the touch and may present with small white blisters that will go away in a few days. If you have a pre-existing skin condition or very sensitive skin, you may want to consult with your dermatologist before undergoing laser tattoo removal just to be sure the process will not have an abnormally negative effect on your skin.
The risk of infection
Although the risk is minimal, there is a risk of infection associated with the laser tattoo removal process. This is due to the inflammation of the skin after the procedure. As noted above, the skin will commonly turn blistery, itchy and white after the treatment and during the healing process. The desire to itch or process of itching can open the healing skin up to potential infection. These chances can be reduced by keeping the healing skin hydrated with ointment.
It can be costly
Your original tattoo was expensive-often costing hundreds of dollars depending on its size and the time it took to get your ink done. Laser tattoo removal can also be somewhat costly. However, for some the cost is relative when compared to the cost of keeping a tattoo they are no longer comfortable having.
Skin pigmentation may change
Another rare side effect of the laser removal process is pigmentation change. This happens when the skin pigment reacts to the laser beam and results in an uneven skin color. Again, this does not happen with frequency.
If you have a tattoo you have considered having removed laser tattoo removal is likely the safest and most effective option, you can consider. It is also the least painful. At Solara Skin & Laser Center we have trained specialists who can help you learn about and understand the laser tattoo removal process. They will discuss the treatment plan and talk about how many sessions may be necessary to completely remove your unwanted ink. If you are considering having a tattoo removed contact us at Solara Skin and Laser Center for a consultation.