MD- Dermatology & Venereology,Leprosy , International Fellowship in Dermatology, MBBS
There are so many reasons people get inked. For some, a tattoo is a form of expression for others, a reminder of incidents and people. Since a tattoo is permanent, it needs to be carefully thought about. Today, you may think having your girlfriend's name inked onto your skin is a way of declaring your love, but what if tomorrow, you break up. Ex-lover's name is probably the most common tattoos that people ask to be removed. Yes, tattoos can be removed, but it isn't as easy as it sounds.
What makes a tattoo permanent is the depth the ink permeates to. Unlike, writing on your skin with a pen, ink in a permanent tattoo is placed in the dermis. This layer of skin lies below the epidermis and cannot be easily accessed. Thus, using a cream or ointment will not help you remove a permanent tattoo. It may help bleach the pigment slightly, but will scar your skin, leaving the area looking worse than it was before. Using an acid to remove tattoos is also not advisable as this will scar the skin.
The only way to effectively remove a tattoo without scarring is with laser treatment. The laser penetrates the skin and breaks up the ink particles. This makes the body's immune system recognize the ink as alien elements and removes them through the lymphatic system. This leaves the rest of your skin undamaged. Laser treatment to remove a tattoo is not a one time procedure and may need to be repeated a number of times depending on the number of colours, size of tattoo and quality of ink used.
A single laser cannot be used to treat all the colours in your tattoo. Lasers of different wavelengths are used to remove different colours. Thus, more the number of colours in a tattoo, the longer it will take to be removed. In some cases, even with laser treatment, the tattoo cannot be completely removed and a shadow may remain. Fluorescent colours are the most difficult to remove. Contrary to popular belief, black and red pigments are the easiest to remove.
Laser treatment can also be used for any skin colour, though it may take a few extra sessions to remove tattoos from a dark skin. The location of your tattoos also plays a great role in determining how easy it will be to remove. The closer the tattoo is to your heart, the better the results.
In most cases, removing a tattoo takes 5-12 laser treatment sessions. This can take from 6 to 12 months as the dermatologist will probably ask you to wait a month between sittings. Each laser treatment session is expensive and hence, removing a tattoo is much more expensive than getting one.