As novelist David Foster Wallace once famously said, "'Act in Haste, Repent at Leisure' would seem to have been almost custom-designed for the case of tattoos." If you're now regretting a youthful or spur of the moment tattoo, you may be wondering about your tattoo removal options. Although technology has led to several types of highly effective tattoo removal, the odds of success in your specific case may vary based on a variety of factors. Read on to learn more about the tattoo removal treatments available, as well as the circumstances that may affect the outcome of your treatment.
What are your tattoo removal options?
The most popular way to remove tattoos is through use of laser treatment. During this treatment, an ultra high-powered laser sends beams of light to the layers of your skin containing the tattoo ink. This ink is then broken into tiny fragments, which are later shed in the outer layers of skin or absorbed and excreted by your own body. You'll generally need several laser treatments over the course of a few months to fully remove the tattoo.
Another option is tattoo removal creme. Although dark or large tattoos may not be suitable for this treatment, daily use of this creme for an extended period of time can fade or minimize the appearance of a tattoo.
One of the most extreme options is excision -- removal of the skin containing the tattoo and the use of a donor skin graft (or skin from another part of the body) to fill in the area where the tattoo used to be. Because of advances in laser treatment, this option is now rarely used.
What are some factors that may affect the success of tattoo removal?
The right treatment for you largely depends on the size, body location, and color of your tattoo. For instance, if your tattoo is in a visible or sensitive place, you'll want treatment that offers the least scarring possible; if your tattoo uses large amounts of black ink, you'll need a process that can specifically target this color.
Color of tattoo
Good news -- if your tattoo is composed of only one color (even black), there are lasers available to help remove it. Various frequencies of laser light have been effective against black, gray, green, red, and blue ink.
If your tattoo is multi-colored, your dermatologist will probably need to use lasers with varying wavelengths to target the different colors of ink. This can affect both the cost and the number of treatments required to completely fade your tattoo. You may have better luck if you use a tattoo removal creme to target all the ink before seeking laser removal of multi-colored ink.
Body location of tattoo
If your tattoo is in a sensitive area, laser treatment may be painful -- you may want to start the process with a tattoo removal creme instead. On the other hand, if your tattoo is in an area that rarely receives sunlight, laser treatment will likely be the most effective option due to the reduced pigmentation and sun damage to this skin.
Color of your skin
In general, the lighter your natural skin tone (and the fewer freckles you have), the easier it is to remove a tattoo. The same laser frequencies that target ink removal can trigger melanin production in the surrounding skin -- and the darker your natural skin tone, the more melanin it can produce. In some cases, the laser will remove the ink itself, but you'll be left with a slightly darker than skin tone outline of the exact tattoo pattern. This scarring can often be reduced through diligent application of Vitamin E creme and other healing agents.
If your skin is quite dark and your tattoo is multi-colored, a tattoo removal creme may be the best option for full, scar-free removal of the tattoo. In extreme cases, excision may be the only option that will completely remove all traces of the tattoo.