Lots of people are “thinking ink,” these days, there comes a time in many people’s lives when they end up regretting getting a specific tattoo, whether it is the name of a past lover, gang insignia or just a “really big mistake” in judgment. In fact, while approximately 25% of the US population now sport tattoos, from tiny designs to full sleeves, etc., it is predicted that as much as 50% them will eventually look to have one or more removed. estimated that close to 25% of the U.S. population has some sort of tattoo.
While tattoos were once deemed to be permanent, it is now possible to remove them partially and/or fully with a variety of treatments. Of course, removing tattoos with lasers has always been the most efficient method, especially since the use of Q-switched lasers became commercially available back in the 1990’s. However, those who are reluctant to use them, may turn to other options including salabrasion (scrubbing the skin with salt); dermabrasion; Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) performed at some spas to remove the top layers of skin; cryosurgery and excision (used along with skin grafts for larger designs), as well as a rather gross method of trying to dissolve the ink using injections of wine, lime, garlic or pigeon excrement.
While TCA skin peeling methods have been helpful in removing colors such as blues, oranges, greens and yellows (often more resistant to lasers), Q-switch lasers are better for breaking up the thousands of particles found in dark blue and black tattoos, which are then eliminated by normal body functions. In addition, there are those who claim to have better results removing “bracelet” tattoos around the ankles with TCA procedures for some reason.
Regardless, it is important to realize that in order to get rid of a tattoo, you need to create a “controlled inflammation” on the skin to force the break-up of the ink a allow new cells to form on the epidermis through repetitive treatments, that are generally done once every month and a half to allow the skin to recover somewhat in between sessions. Actually peeling, however, can take up to 2 weeks to start, with another 7 days or so to shed all the dead skin cells.
It is also important to understand that in order for laser tattoo removal to successfully destroy pigments placed into the skin the color of the light must not only penetrate sufficiently deep into the skin to reach the tattoo pigment. For example, green pigments absorb red light. Next, the duration of the pulse energy needs to be kept to nanoseconds; just long enough to fragment it without burning the surrounding tissue or cause scars.