Tattoo removal treatment can help you reduce or eliminate the appearance of tattoos you no longer want. This cosmetic service is usually performed by a skin care doctor or dermatologist. Knowing more about tattoo removal and how it works can help you determine whether this treatment is right for you.
All about tattoo removal
Tattoo removal is a cosmetic service that involves removing unwanted tattoos using laser technology, surgery, or dermabrasion, described the University of Utha. Each of these techniques works differently to reduce the appearance of your tattoo or remove it altogether.
Tattoo removal may be ideal for you if you regret getting a particular tattoo or have grown bored with its appearance. You may also want to consider removing a tattoo if it features a misspelled word or if your employer requires its employees to have no tattoos, reports the University of Utah.
Every tattoo removal method comes with its pros and cons and with its risks and benefits. The best way to determine which tattoo removal process is best for you is to meet with a dermatologist or skin care doctor who specializes in this service.
Does tattoo removal work?
Tattoo removal may work for some people but not for others. The FDA says that blue and black tattoos are usually the easiest to remove, while tattoos that are green, red, yellow, or light in color are generally the hardest to remove. Ohio State University (OSU) adds that some tattoos cannot be removed entirely and that those who choose these treatments should have realistic goals and expectations about what they can and cannot do.
Types of tattoo removal
Tattoos can be removed with laser treatment, surgery, or dermabrasion, though laser removal is the most common method, reports OSU. It adds that other tattoo removal methods aren’t used as often and may cause scarring.
Laser tattoo removal is a safe, effective way to remove tattoos, says the FDA. It works by sending pulses of high-intensity laser energy through the skin to target tattoo pigments. These pigments are then broken into small particles that are metabolized or excreted by the body. In some instances, they are transported to and stored in lymph nodes or other tissues, adds the FDA.
Laser tattoo removal usually requires between six and 10 treatment sessions over several months, depending on the size and color of the tattoo. OSU says that treatment with a laser tattoo remover is not recommended for people with an active infection or for pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Surgical removal of a tattoo is also known as excision. This treatment involves cutting into and removing the part of your skin with the tattoo, notes the University of Massachusetts.
During this tattoo removal treatment, your skin care doctor numbs the area using a local anesthetic and surgically removes the tattoo using a scalpel. Afterward, the edges of your skin are brought together and sutured, reports the University of Massachusetts. Any bleeding that occurs is usually minimal and controlled with electrocautery.
The University of Massachusetts adds that larger tattoos may require multiple treatment sessions and that, in some instances, a skin graft may be taken from another part of your body to cover the affected area.
Using dermabrasion to remove a tattoo involves “sanding” down the area of the skin with the tattoo, which causes the skin to peel, says the University of Massachusetts. They note, this allows the tattoo ink to escape the skin and promotes the growth of new, unpigmented skin. Just like with surgical tattoo removal, several dermabrasion treatment sessions may be required to remove larger tattoos.
There are many over-the-counter (OTC) tattoo removal creams available for purchase online. However, none of these products are approved or cleared by the FDA, says the federal agency. There is no existing clinical evidence that shows that these creams work. The FDA adds that many OTC tattoo removal creams and ointments may cause unexpected side effects, including burning, scarring, and changes in skin pigmentation.
Covering it up
Covering up an unwanted tattoo with a new tattoo may be an option for you if you do not want any type of tattoo removal treatment, suggests Flagler College. Tattoo artists can examine your tattoo and recommend new designs that can tastefully cover an unwanted tattoo. Flagler College adds that most people who want to cover up a tattoo usually have to choose a larger tattoo with darker colors to hide the original tattoo.
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Tattoo Removal FAQs
How does tattoo removal work?
The tattoo removal process varies depending on the removal method you choose. Laser tattoo removal uses laser technology to break up tattoo pigments in your skin, while surgical removal involves having a surgeon cut the tattoo out of your skin. Dermabrasion involves sanding away the top layer of skin, reports the FDA. A dermatologist can discuss all your available tattoo removal methods based on the services offered at their clinic.
Is tattoo removal safe?
According to the FDA, laser tattoo removal is a safe, effective method for removing unwanted tattoos. It says common tattoo removal side effects include redness, soreness, and pinpoint bleeding, and suggests discussing any other potential tattoo removal health risks with your dermatologist. Those who have concerns about the laser tattoo removal cancer risk should consult with their skin care doctors about any related risks.
How do lasers help remove tattoos?
Laser devices can remove tattoos by targeting and destroying pigments in the skin. According to the FDA, those pigments are then metabolized or excreted by your body or stored in lymph nodes and other tissues. Darker-colored tattoos are usually easier to remove than lighter-colored tattoos, and several laser treatments may be required to fully remove your tattoo, adds the FDA.
How long will it take to remove my tattoo?
Laser tattoo removal usually requires a total of six to 10 treatment sessions, which are generally spaced four to eight weeks apart to allow for healing between sessions, says OSU. Tattoos removed with surgery or dermabrasion may also require multiple treatment sessions, especially if tattoos are large, says the University of Massachusetts. Your dermatologist can give you a more accurate time frame regarding how long it will take to remove your tattoo.
Does tattoo removal hurt?
The FDA says that tattoo removal may be painful, though it depends on your personal pain threshold. It adds that some people compare the feeling of laser tattoo removal with being spattered with drops of hot bacon grease. Surgical tattoo removal usually involves the use of a local anesthetic to numb the treated area beforehand to reduce any related pain. Your dermatologist can talk to you in more detail about what to expect in terms of pain during your procedure.
Will it leave a scar?
Scarring is a possible side effect of all tattoo removal treatments, including laser treatment, says the FDA and OSU. If your goal is to avoid scarring, you may want to consider getting a cover-up tattoo, which may be able to cover an unwanted tattoo or any residual scarring. Ask your skin care doctor about the potential for scarring after tattoo removal or about other treatments that can resolve scarring.
Can you help me revise a tattoo?
Some tattoo artists will work with you to revise a tattoo, or cover it up completely with another tattoo, says Flagler University. If you want a tattoo revised, visit the original tattoo artist or another artist to discuss your options for revisions or new designs. If you cannot have your tattoo revised as desired, talk to your dermatologist about available tattoo removal treatments.
Where can I get laser tattoo removal near me?
Type “dermatologist near me” into your search engine to access a list of nearby skin care doctors. Better yet, use Solv to access a directory of only the highest-rated dermatologists in your area who offer tattoo removal. Solv makes it convenient for you to find top-rated medical providers in your area and request a same-day or next-day appointment directly from its website.
Solv has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
- Get Rid of Your Unwanted Tattoo
- Tattoo Removal: Options and Results (June 22, 2017)
- What to do if you’re rethinking your body ink (June 25, 2020)
- Tattoo Removal
- Cover-Ups: What’s under your skin (April 25, 2010)
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