The cute little butterfly your mom was never supposed to see or the amateur mistake of your ex-boyfriend’s name on your… uhm, let’s go with shoulder. Some of our little mishaps we encountered in the past are a bit more permanent than others, thus to erase the evidence, somewhat clever people have come up a solution (It’s not a time machine although that would have been nice).
Tattoos have become a mainstream culture and I’m pretty sure they can be found on almost every third person in a room. Now imagine my surprise when read that almost 50% of the population decide to get their tattoos removed, this according to a tattoo physician specialising in removing tattoos in Amerca.
Defining a tattoo
I’m pretty sure we’re not all idiots but just for interest sake, a tattoo is a permanent mark made when a pigment is inserted into the dermal layer of the skins top layer. Dermatological surgeons can never guarantee complete removal so don’t throw a hissy fit when the blast from the past doesn’t completely disappear, remember tattoos are meant to be permanent hence the term “think before you ink”
Several methods have been tried and some people even swear by special remedies, ointments and creams, the most ridiculous method I’ve heard of was one where you have to put hot condensed milk on your tattoo in my opinion it’s just a perfectly good waste of condensed milk.
Before Laser removal was so popular removing a tattoo was an even bigger deal and the procedure involved one or more of the following:
Dermabrasion: Simple really, the skin would be sanded to remove the surface and middle layers which would usually leave patients with an uncomfortable and painful red mark. Yikes!
Cryosurger: This is where the area is frozen prior to removal.
Excision: The Dermatologic surgeon removes the tattoo with a scalpel and then has to close the wound with stitches. When larger tattoos are involved a skin graft from another part of the body is necessary.
Because these procedures are so abrasive, they are not physician’s first choice, they left horrible scars and marks on patients that were even more unsatisfying than the tattoo itself. Laser tattoo removal is by far the most preferred procedure if not the only method used today because it can eliminate tattoos with minimal side effects
Laser tattoo removal
Depending on certain factors the number of treatments will vary from two to more sessions but according to the American Academy of Dermatology the procedure can eliminate tattoos with minimal or even no scaring. There are three types of lasers used and the type of laser used depends on the tattoos pigment colours and are known as Q-switching, which refers to the laser’s short, high-energy pulses
- the Q-switched Ruby,
- the Q-switched Alexandrite,
- the Q-switched Nd: (The newest system in this class of lasers, mostly used for removing reds, blues and blacks).
How it works: The laser removes tattoos by breaking up the pigment colours of the tattoo with a high-intensity beam through short pulses. The beams pass harmlessly through the top layers of the skin and are selectively absorbed by the tattoo pigment. The tattoo will then break up into smaller particles which will then be removed by the body’s immune system. The laser selectively targets the pigment of the tattoo without damaging the top layer of your skin.
What will happen during the procedure: The Patient will have to wear protective eye shields and then the most effective energy for the treatment is determined by testing the laser on the required area. Most patients describe the sensation of each pulse to that of little grease splatter (the kind you feel when making bacon) or being snapped by a rubber band.
An icepack is applied after treatment and the patient will be asked to apply an antibiotic ointment on the area for about two to three weeks until the tissue heals.
Factors that need to be considered
Things that might influence the removal of tattoos can vary from size to colour to the location on your body. Older tattoos are easier removed compared to newer tattoos and tattoos done by an experienced professional will also take a little less effort since the pigment was evenly injected in the same level of skin
Yellow and green are the hardest colours to remove whilst blue and black are much easier compared to other colours. Sometimes it can be hard for physicians to remove the tattoo completely because they can’t determine which of the 100 tattoo inks available today are used.
You have to accept the fact that the affected area won’t necessarily always look like its original state, science can only do so much. Treated areas can lack normal skin colour or otherwise known as hypopigmentation (your skin will almost look like a healed second degree burn wound). Other side effects include infection of the area, lack of complete pigment removal and a chance of permanent scaring.
This is a lengthy procedure and an expensive one at that which is why you need to really consider removing your tattoo or getting it in the first place because it’s much more expensive to have it removed than to have it put on. Being spontaneous is always fun, but make sure you have your rational BFF by your side!