It’s a common problem – at the time the idea of getting a tattoo was a good one, but as the years have passed, you begin to question whether you still do want the tattoo to be a part of you. Luckily, there are a myriad of techniques which can be used to remove the tattoo. So what options do you have?
Laser Tattoo Removals
Laser treatments are probably the most popular way to get rid of tattoos. With laser tattoo removals, pulses of laser break up the tattoo pigment in the skin. Your immune system then removes the pigment from your system. There are three main types of laser used in laser tattoo removal – Q-switched Nd: Yag, Q-switched Alexandrite, and the Q-switched Ruby.
Q-Switching refers to the pulses of the laser – in this case, they are short and of high-intensity. The type of laser used will depend on the predominant colours of the tattoo. Sometimes several treatments are needed before the tattoo is completely removed. It should be noted that the lasers may damage your skin meaning you may end up with some blisters and swelling, and you may be left with scarring.
Intense Pulsed Light Therapy
IPL uses pulses of light (note: not a laser) to target the tattoo pigment present in the skin. The wavelength used varies between 400 and 1200 nanometers. Once the pigment has been dislodged, your immune system will naturally carry the pigment away. Although this is a less painful experience, some people with dark skin may suffer from hypo- or hyper-pigmentation after treatment.
Tattoo excision involves cutting the area of skin out. The area of skin to be removed will be numbed with a general anaesthetic before being removed. The skin will then be stiched together. If the tattoo being removed is particularly large, several operations will be done over a long period of time .
Alternatively, if a large tattoo is being removed, the surgeon may opt for a tissue expander technique – a balloon is placed underneath the skin to the side of the tattoo and is gradually inflated over a number of weeks. The skin stretches to accommodate the balloon. When the skin has ‘stretched’ enough, the whole tattoo can be cut out and the skin stitched together easily.
This is quite a painful option – the top layer of the skin is abraded away, removing all the tattoo pigment with it. The skin will be red and raw for several days after the procedure and may take several months to fully heal.
Salabrasion involves injecting a salt solution into the tattoo to remove the pigmentation. It is commonly used in conjunction with dermabrasion however the technique itself has fallen out of favour recently and is not used much.
Tattoo Removal Creams
There are tattoo removal creams on the market which can fade the colour of the tattoo. However, care must be taken to ensure that the chemicals in the products are safe – always do your research and make sure you pick a respectable brand.
It is important to note that with any of these techniques, the skin may not go back to the original state it was in before the tattoo was placed on the skin. All removal techniques carry their own risks and some removals may results in scars, infection or wounds. In general terms, the smaller the tattoo, the better the result will be. Also, if the tattoo is fairly new, it should be easier to remove.