Your tattoo was done years ago when it fitted in just right with your lifestyle and personality. But with a change in your personal or professional life, the tattoo is no longer needed. In fact it becomes a cause of embarrassment. Unfortunately, the pigments used in a tattoo are inserted deep into the skin, making it very difficult to remove it.
But, with the help of evolving technology, removal of tattoo is possible, though sometimes not completely. Laser tattoo removal is gaining popularity though it is quite an expensive proposition. But none of the tattoo removal methods can restore your skin to its clear unblemished condition.
Tattoo removal methods
There a number of methods by which a tattoo can be removed. Choosing the right method of tattoo removal must be based on the size of the tattoo, location of the tattoo, its age and skin color. Some of the common methods of tattoo removal are:
Excision: In this method, a local anesthetic is injected in to the body to numb the area, after which the tattoo is removed surgically. The pigmented area is cut away and the edges are sewn together. This method is most suitable when the tattoo is small in size or if the tattoo's penetration is too deep. If the tattoo is too large, a skin graft is necessary. But this would induce two scars and further surgery may be required to minimize the scar.
Dermabrasion: An abrasive instrument is literally rubbed on the surface, which in turn peels the skin. A little amount of bleeding is there and hence, necessary to dress the area well to protect it from infections.
Laser tattoo removal
This is one of the most popular methods for removing tattoos. This is also one of the safest methods as scarring is rare, pain is minimal compared to other methods and chances of infection is also reduced with proper precautions. Laser tattoo removal involves targeting the tattoo with bursts of lights that penetrate below the skin. The tattoo ink absorbs the light and shatters the ink into tiny fragments, which in turn are carried away by the immune system of the body.
The Q-switched Nd; Yag, Q-switched Alexandrite and the Q-switched Ruby are the most frequently used lasers. Q-switched lasers produce very short but intense pulses of light. The laser tattoo removal treatment may last anywhere from 10-30 minutes depending on the tattoo size. More than one session may be required to remove an entire tattoo. The number of session depends on the type, amount and color of the ink used and how deeply it has been injected. There is usually a break of 3 - 4 weeks between each session.
Tattoos that are superficial, where the ink is very close to the surface of the skin are easier to remove. Tattoos done by professionals with consistent depth of ink are easier to remove. An older tattoo is comparatively more difficult to remove than a newer one. Black and other darker inks are easier to remove as compared to lighter colors like yellow or green.
One of the frequently asked questions is whether the process of removing tattoo with lasers is painful. The answer is yes, but milder when compared with other methods. Patients who have undergone laser treatment for tattoo removal compare the sensation to that of small drops of popping grease or the snap of a rubber band on the skin.
The skin feels raw after the procedure, very much like sunburn. Another advantage in the laser method is that, it is performed as an out-patient procedure. Patients are administered local anesthetic which numbs the area around the tattoo. Recovery time is very short and specific instructions regarding care of the area should be taken from the doctor. After the procedure, an antibacterial ointment is applied and the area is dressed up. The treated area may be red for a few weeks and in some cases blisters may also form.
An interesting point to be noted here is that, the real tattoo removal begins after the laser treatment. The laser does not remove anything; it merely disrupts the tattoo pigment. It is the body's own immune system which breaks the pigment down and carries it away, resulting in the fading of the tattoo.
There are no major side effects associated with laser treatment but hyper pigmentation (an abundance of skin color at the treated site) or hypo pigmentation (treated area lacks normal skin color) may occur. There are chances of infection of the site.
In some cases, the tattoo may not be removed completely and the patient may form permanent scars also, though this is rare. Darker tattoos are easier to remove in light skinned people. This is so because, lasers are designed to differentiate between skin pigment and tattoo ink. Also, the best areas from which tattoos can be removed easily are those areas of the body with good circulation, such as arms and chest.
Laser tattoo removal cost
The most important thing here is that, the treatment should be performed by trained medical staff, at a reputable clinic and with well maintained equipment. This improves the success rate of tattoo removal and minimizes the risks for the patient. It is better to consult a tattoo removal specialist who will chart a schedule for your treatment. The cost of laser tattoo removal can range from $250 - $850 per session. You cannot claim medical insurance as tattoo removal is considered cosmetic in nature.
Intense Pulsed Light Therapy
IPL is the latest dermal enhancer currently being used. Instead of laser light, a high intensity light is used. This method is found to be less painful than laser therapy, and more effective, there by reducing the number of sessions. But it is costlier than laser treatment.