People get tattoos for a number of reasons. Some get ink to remember a person or event that significantly impacted their lives. Others get it to show their devotion to a cause. But there are always some who later regret their decision to tattoo.
Approximately 45 million Americans have at least one tattoo. At a cost ranging from $45 to $150 per hour, tattoos are not a minor investment. If you are one of those who regret a tattoo, you’re not alone. Almost 16 percent of those who have tattoos later decided to cover it up with another tattoo or have it removed. If you fall into the category of wishing you could just make your tattoo go away, you’re in luck. Doctors are becoming more adept at removing tattoos.
Basic Tattoo Removal
Dermatologists or specialists in tattoo removal help patients with unwanted tattoos. While a tattoo is not a disease, dermatologists remove moles and cysts, which mar the skin, so it is a logical extension of their practice to include tattoo removal. In many parts of the country, clinics specializing in tattoo removal alone have arisen to meet consumer needs.
Standard treatment involves repeated visits during which lasers are used to target specific areas of the tattoo and remove it. The process is not painless, but it can be less than the pain of looking at an unwanted tattoo every day.
Conditions of Removal
Some tattoos are easier to remove than others. Obviously the smaller the tattoo, then the easier it is to remove. Certain characteristics can make a tattoo harder to remove.
- Tattoos that are more than 12 inches in diameter or in length. The bigger they are, the harder they are to remove.
- Tattoos with many colors may look incredible, but they are also incredibly difficult to remove. Black and red inks are the easiest to remove. Other inks penetrate the layers of skin differently and are made with other metallic elements, making them more resistant to the laser treatment.
- The newer the tattoo, the easier it’s removed. Buyer’s remorse works to your benefit in ink removal. Once a tattoo is more than 3 years old, it’s more difficult to remove.
- Tattoos on the feet or legs are more difficult to remove than the ones on your arms, back, chest or other areas.
- Smokers have more difficulty with tattoo removal than non-smokers. Researchers found that smoking impairs the body’s ability to heal itself after laser treatments.
Side Effects of Removal
The side effects of ink removal are the same as any other laser procedure. Patients generally experience pain, redness and swelling in the affected area.
As painful as the physical side effects are, the real pain is felt in your wallet. The process can take as many as 10 sessions to remove a tattoo completely, depending on the size of the area. With physician fees of $200 to $600 per session, your wallet takes a huge hit. Unless it’s medically necessary, tattoo removal is not covered by insurance.
While tattoos are still pleasant mementos of your personality or important events in your life, outgrowing a tattoo is a normal part of growing older. You don’t have to live with a tattoo forever, but you do need to decide if the pain and cost are worth it.
This article was written together with Jessica Bosari, a blogger for New Look Laser, a Houston-based laser tattoo removal clinic, is known for offering its clients state-of-the-art advice and help for unwanted tattoos. Make sure you research your options carefully before choosing a tattoo removal clinic.