Tattoo Removal

by Amy Pusey
(last updated April 22, 2009)

Tattoos have been a popular means of expression for individuals since at least the Bronze Age, which is over 5,000 years. A popular practice all over the world, it is believed that the modern word tattoo originated from the Tahitian 'tatau,' meaning 'to mark something.' It is no surprise everyone has continued to do just that, from Polynesia to New Zealand, India to Africa, Western Europe to the Americas tattooing often became an important element interwoven into the cultural belief system. While tattoos from the period of the infamous Iceman have been attributed to medical therapy, for conditions like arthritis, modern cultures made spiritual connections, as well as used it to identify the lineage and succession of heirs of nobility.

Unfortunately, the people who did not look at tattoos as works of art and the opportunity to tell a story through their selected piece in hindsight see it as a blazing token of stupidity and regret, and just want it gone. Well, with today's ever-developing technology they are able to have it disappear like a bad dream. Increasingly, women are heading to dermatologists' offices to remove their tattoos because they have become embarrassed by the negative attention they receive. This is not surprising because even though tattoos have become popular with mainstream society, in some regions social stigmas still exist. In addition, recent polls have indicated that up to 83% of individuals are happy with their tats, the remainder are not and would like them removed, but on average only approximately 6% will actually go through with it.

If you have come to the conclusion to get your tattoo removed, you will be pleased to learn there are a few options available to you. It is important to keep in mind that each of these procedures must be performed by, and under the supervision of, a medical professional to ensure effectiveness of the procedure and minimize risk of infection. Here are the latest removal treatments available, beginning with the most popular:

  • Laser Treatments. This process uses a high-intensity light source that when applied to the subject area breaks down the color pigmentation. The darkness and complexity of the tattoo will determine how many treatments will be required. Mild-to-moderate discomfort can be expected post-treatment. Although popular, this is not an inexpensive procedure to select, where sessions may run as high as $1000.
  • Intense Pulsed Light Therapy. Also known as IPL, this procedure also uses an intense light source similar to that used in laser treatments. In this treatment, the skin in the tattooed area essentially uses a burning technique to remove the upper skin surface. The skin will regenerate, and once it has healed after the final course of treatment, the tattoo should be gone or traces of it barely visible. IPL is not as painful as laser therapy, but the cost of the procedure will vary since it is based on the number of light pulses required to remove the tattoo. Typically, the average cost is around $12 per light pulse.
  • Fade Away Creams. Cream-based treatments do not require the use of light-source therapy or abrading the skin. Instead, a chemically-formulated cream is applied to the tattoo continuously for a period of time, and cause the tattoo to slowly fade away. It is important to note that some of these creams can be strong, and may burn the skin, which may then result in scarring. But, it is considerably inexpensive compared to the other treatments, and if you are on a tight budget may be a cost-effective alternative.
  • Dermabrasion. After you have been placed under local anesthesia, the doctor will use a sanding tool to abrade the first few skin layers in order to remove the tattoo. The area will be very sore and red, but healing should complete in 2-3 weeks. Dermatologists indicate that if you are inclined to scarring, then an alternate method should be selected. Like laser treatments, dermabrasion can cost over $1000, especially if it is completed in hospital.
  • Excision. This treatment is actual surgery. It involves a surgeon removing the tattooed skin, and then suturing it closed, if a small area. For larger areas, once the tattoo has been cut out a skin graft taken from another area of your body is then affixed. Since it is an inpatient medical procedure, it will be expensive.

Be thankful you live in modern times with modern technology because one of the earliest forms of tattoo removal was called, Salabrasion, which literally required the skin surface to be rubbed raw using salt and gauze, left to heal for a day, and then repeated the process. Not only was it the most painful procedure, but it also left horrendous scarring. I bet you feel better knowing that is not a treatment option.

If you have decided to proceed with your tattoo removal, one important fact you need to know is that this process is considered cosmetic surgery. 'What does that mean to me,' you ask? It could mean everything because generally it will not be covered by your medical insurance unless your doctor advises it is being removed for health-related reasons. So, in the end, you could be paying for the entire treatment out of your pocket. For those of you electing to proceed, good luck and play it safe by obtaining your final medical advice and treatment from a board-certified dermatological surgeon.

Author Bio

Amy Pusey

With over 18 years experience in operations and human-resource management, Amy Pusey uses her skills in her consulting and freelance writing activities. She is a freelance writer for Tips.net, as well as a resume writer for GreenThumbResumes.com. ...

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