For Those With Ink Regrets, Tattoo Removal Isn't A Perfect Process

We all do things we regret. However, when a bad decision results in a tattoo, undoing what's designed to be a lifelong image can be difficult -- and painful.

Tattoos may not always be permanent, says Dr. Benjamin Rosenberg, but their removal is no guarantee.
Tattoos may not always be permanent, says Dr. Benjamin Rosenberg, but their removal is no guarantee. Photo Credit: Contributed

Tattoos have become increasingly popular and acceptable in today's society: some 30 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo. "However, with age and lifestyle changes, many of these people – up to 25 percent -- admit they now regret the skin art," said Dr. Benjamin Rosenberg, a dermatologist at CareMount Medical. In fact, the demand for tattoo removal has become an emerging trend.

Although tattoo removal processes have become more effective and advanced, no method is perfect. However, certain treatments do work better than others.

"If you already have a tattoo and are trying to get rid of it, don’t be sold on using home removal kits and topical creams marketed as inexpensive solutions," said Rosenberg. "It's also important not to have a procedure performed at a spa or tattoo shop where removal procedures are performed by non-certified personnel." To avoid scarring and burns, he recommends contacting a dermatologist to review your options.

In the majority cases, laser techniques will remove unwanted tattoos with few side effects. The high-intensity beam of light emitted by lasers can break up the pigment colors in the skin and return it to a normal state. However, the laser method is not perfect. "Treatment results will vary depending on the size, pigmentation, age and location of a tattoo," said Rosenberg. "Blue and black pigmentation in a tattoo respond much better to laser treatment than other colors." In fact, a recent study showed that after multiple treatments, only 3/4 of patients effectively had their tattoos removed via lasers.

Even after a successful treatment, patients who undergo the most comprehensive and careful tattoo-removal procedure may still be left with an area of skin that is paler or darker than the surrounding skin. Although this discoloration may fade over time, it can be a permanent mark.

For those who are considering getting a tattoo, but aren't fully committed, Rosenberg said the choice is clear. "If you are considering a tattoo, my best advice is don’t," said Rosenberg.

For more information on tattoo removal or other skin care treatment, click here.

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