Tattoos have been considered to be permanent and that is usually why they are placed on our bodies. For real fans, temporary tattoos are just not good enough. It is the symbol of permanency that makes tattoos both attractive and challenging at the same time. But what happens when one decides that the tattoo is no longer serving its function. Regret sets in and we seek ways to make it go away!
Most people obtain their tattoos in their late teens or early twenties, but even persons in their 70s and 80s have been known to get tattoos. The gender distribution is roughly equal, with slightly more women willing to adorn their bodies than men.
In a recent article, I have discussed the various reasons that poeple tattoo their bodies and these include: status symbols. religious reasons, punishment, symbols of bravery or courage, identification with a unique group, sentimental reasons, cosmetic reasons, and medical reasons, among others. Readers are referred to my previous article titled “Tattoos – the new age phenomenon? "for more details. Over time, these reasons can change, making removal of a tattoo an ever pressing concern. Some of the most common reasons to have a tattoo removed are: “having it too young”, “the fact that it is permanent”, “being marked for life”and “I just don't like it” (HarrisInteractive Feb 12, 2008).
Furthermore, anecdotally speaking, when life circumstances change such as getting older, having a new job, a life changing event (wedding, baby or divorce) or issues with changing clothing styles, people wish to have their tattoo altered or removed all together.
Ever since tattoos have been adorning human bodies, there have been efforts made to remove them. This has been performed with a multitude of tools including covering them up, mechanical techniques, as well as the latest laser treatments.
Covering up your tattoo
Covering up an unwanted tattoo is probably the first method that anyone wishing to have a tattoo removed should consider. The simplest covering up technique includes applying make-up over the tattoo, making it blend with the surrounding skin. Another technique that is frequently used is covering the unwanted tattoo with a more elaborate and desirable one. Tattoo artists can make the old tattoo virtually disappear with the new design and camouflage. This technique depends on the size and the color scheme of the original tattoo and the skill and expertise of the tattoo artist. Generally speaking, darker ink tones must be used to "cover-up" the old tattoo.
Mechanical methods of tattoo removal
Mechanical methods of tattoo removal were the most common techniques prior to the invention of lasers. These mechanical methods include dermabrasion, cryosurgery as well as surgical excision, among others.
1. Dermabrasion - Prior to the invention of microdermabrasion, the original dermabrasion was practiced by dermatologists and plastic surgeons. The level of dermabrasion was at least into the papillary dermis making the skin bleed and requiring prolonged healing. There was a lot of skill needed to perform this procedure correctly. Despite excellent care and attention, the scarring as well as hypo- and hyperpigmentation was frequent. In addition, the removal of pigment was not uniform leading to frequent irregularities.
2. Cryosurgery – As the name implies, this method of tattoo removal uses extreme cold to try to produce controlled injury. The idea was to treat the overlying skin as well as the tattoo with the application of liquid nitrogen. The resulting scar, as is the case with dermabrasion, and partial or total tattoo destruction was designed to mask the offending tattoo pigment. As can be expected, scarring as well as hypo- and hyperpigmentation was frequent.
3. Surgical excision – Surgical excision is a sure way of removing a tattoo but at the cost of a guaranteed scar. This could be accomplished via one or more surgical excisions as, in some cases, the tattoo is just too big to be successfully excised with only one procedure. The resulting scar can, on some occasions, become hypertrophic (thick, tender and itchy) necessitating further treatment.
What are the side effects of mechanical tattoo removal?
Unlike laser technologies (discussed later), mechanical tattoo removal techniques are somewhat unpredictable. The most common side effects include unpredictable results and healing resulting in scarring, keloids, prolonged pain and redness, abnormal discoloration (hypo- or hyperpigmentation). Furthermore, uneven pigment removal can result in a rather disfiguring appearance to the skin. Despite the frequent challenges of mechanical tattoo removal, these are still viable options in some circumstances, such as tattoos involving darkly pigmented skin.
Laser Tattoo Removal (Please click here)
The information provided on this website is for Canadian patients only and is meant for information and education that is based on experience and research.