This day and age tattoos are quite common. People today generally see them as a piece of body art as well as a form of expression. Gone are the days when tattoos were exclusive to gangsters or bearded biker; you may just as easily see tattoos on your child’s third-grade teacher! However, just as many tattoo enthusiasts as there are, an equal number of people are looking at tattoo removal options. As a dermatologist, Dr. Eric Treiber encounters questions about tattoo removal quite often.
The first thing that Dr. Eric Treiber generally makes patients aware of is that a tattoo’s actual ink isn’t on the skin’s surface like many think, its actually further below, placed along the dermis. The dermis is one of the deeper layers of the skin, mostly made up of connective tissue that builds the skin’s structure.
The dermis is also the layer of the skin where the most visible scars occurs. When the skin is damaged superficially, it can heal quickly without leaving any noticeable marks. However, when layers of connective tissue like the dermis experience trauma, it will always leave a scar. This should be a main consideration when getting a tattoo. When you get it, it should be something you can live with.
Tattoo removal itself is extremely difficult, and almost impossible. Most techniques on the market don’t actually work and the ones that do, tend to leave large, visible scars. Miracle creams or ointments claiming to fade unwanted tattoos will never actually reach the dermis, and won’t have any effect at all. Certain chemical solutions or acid treatments will not work either, and will leave you with much more significant scarring as well as heavy burns.
The only effective procedure available is through the use of lasers. Laser tattoo removal targets pigments, with different lasers targeting different colors of ink. Each laser penetrates the skin’s surface, destroying the ink fragments from below the skin’s surface. The damage this causes your skin, triggers your immune system to come in and repair the area removing the ink pigments on its own. This method leaves the surface of your skin relatively undamaged. Despite the effectiveness of lasers, a shadow is often left behind, as modern ink uses very strong pigments. In addition to a shadow, scarring is almost a guarantee with effective tattoo removal.
Dr. Eric Treiber would recommend that tattoo removal patient’s go into the procedure with the understanding that it will likely take many sessions, and cost thousands. So, before you get that next tattoo, make sure it something you can live with.