Sometimes, life changes necessitate the removal of a tattoo, which can be an expensive, painful, and lengthy process. If you have a tattoo that you regret, there are a number of tattoo removal options to consider. As is the case with most medical procedures, you should consult a specialist who can help you pick out the method that is right for you. Patients should be aware that no removal technique will restore your skin to its former state, and that it is therefore crucial to think before you ink.
One of the most common techniques is laser surgery. Laser tattoo removal removes a tattoo by targeting the ink with bursts of light that will break it up. Once broken up under the skin, the ink will be expressed by the immune system. Laser surgery does not remove tattoos in one sitting, however; large, full color work may take over ten treatments to remove. The long term effects of repeated laser treatments can include serious scarring, which makes this option most effective for small tattoos in dark ink. Laser surgery for tattoos in light inks can be very expensive and require many sittings.
Another option is surgical excision, which involves physically cutting out the tattoo and suturing the wound shut. Larger tattoos will require a skin graft from another area of your body. While surgical excision will remove all trace of the ink, it will also leave a scar. Usually, a local anesthetic is used, and bleeding is controlled with an electrocautery tool.
Tattoo removal can also be accomplished by dermabrasion, a technique in which the skin is frozen and then abraded or sanded. This technique removes the top layer of skin along with the layer in which the ink has settled, and healing times will vary depending on how big the tattoo was. It also requires the use of specialized dressings until the skin has grown back over the site.
After a removal procedure, patients are instructed to avoid sunlight and excessive water. In most cases, sunscreen should be worn at the site of the tattoo as well, as the skin there will be more delicate and therefore susceptible to sunburn. Follow-up visits are also often required to make sure that the wound has healed properly.
For young people and former gang members, there are programs to help pay for the tattoo removal process. Most social service agencies can refer interested parties to a removal assistance program. Other individuals should be prepared to pay a large price tag for removing a tattoo. In some cases, the removal procedure can add up to many times the original cost of the tattoo.