Tattoo removal often starts with either a referral from your regular doctor to a medical spa professional or an initial consultation with a specialist in this type of skin treatment. One thing you definitely don’t want to do is attempt any type of self-treatment for tattoo removal with heating wire hangers or other means. Such methods often result in scarring and infection. The process of removing a tattoo is different for each situation and involves some important considerations.
Reasons to Have a Tattoo Removed
Regretting the decision to get a certain tattoo in the first place is one of the most common reasons for tattoo removal. It’s also possible to change your mind about a tattoo years later or no longer see the significance in it. Some people have an allergic reaction to the ink that was used to create the tattoo.
Sometimes an allergic reaction develops later or becomes a problem due to another health issue affecting the skin. Some tattoos may also be in locations that can’t be easily concealed in the workplace or there may be a desire to replace an older tattoo with a different one.
Factors Affecting Tattoo Removal
No one tattoo is the same, and removal is not always the best option. The inks that were used to make a tattoo pierce the skin at different depths, meaning that the resulting design is often embedded into multiple layers of skin. Newer inks tend to be more difficult to remove than inks that were used for older tattoos.
The specific colors of your tattoo will also determine the difficulty of the removal process. Black and dark blues, for instance, tend to be easier to remove while green and yellow ink usually requires more sessions for successful removal. If there are an assortment of colors and textures within your tattoo, it may take several sessions to effectively remove it. Tattoo removal may not be recommended if you have:
- Certain autoimmune conditions
- Diabetes that’s not under control
- Severe acne or a similar skin condition
- Skin pigmentation problems
Tattoo Removal Options
The most common type of tattoo removal, laser treatment, is often effective at removing different types of ink. However, several treatments may be necessary for more complex designs. Certain colors, such as lighter shades of blue, are often difficult to remove with laser treatment alone and may require a combination of removal methods.
Laser removal may benefit some patients who have tried other treatments without success prior to considering laser removal. In some cases, surgery (excision) may be necessary to remove layers of skin for tattoos that are especially deep within the skin. Dermabrasion, a process where chemicals are used to remove the skin, is sometimes recommended as a removal option.
Preparing for Tattoo Removal
The area where the tattoo is located is typically cleaned to remove anything that may interfere with the removal process, including soap residue and other materials often applied to skin. If you are having laser removal, a test is usually done on a small area of skin to test your reaction to the laser. Regardless of the treatment option that’s best for your situation, removal of a tattoo is an outpatient treatment.
Recovering from Tattoo Removal
Follow post-care instructions to minimize the risk of infection as you heal. Mild soap and warm water can be used to clean the site of the removed tattoo at least twice a day. While there may be some discomfort during the actual procedure, it usually goes away soon after a session is completed. You may be given a topical antibiotic to apply to your skin after you wash the affected area to minimize discomfort.
Do not attempt to remove any blisters or scabs as this may result in infection, since your skin is already in the process of healing. Other types of topical creams may provide relief from discomfort or prevent itching and similar irritations. If you do experience any reactions you weren’t told to expect, contact your medical spa professional.
Approximately 25 percent of the population has at least one tattoo, and about half of those who have one may choose to have it removed at some point, according to some estimates. When you’re sure you want a tattoo removed, have the area evaluated to determine what procedures will likely be effective for you. Keep in mind that tattoo removal isn’t guaranteed. It’s certainly worth discussing your options and getting answers to your questions to determine if you wish to proceed with the best option for you.