Are you a little fuzzy about the details of that great birthday party / reunion you went to five or ten years ago? One glance down at the “souvenir” on your ankle or shoulder reminds you that “a good time was had by all”. Tattoos are not always a bad idea. I have seen some breathtaking artwork by some fabulous tattoo artists. Occasionally, however many of us have gotten a little ink that we would like to erase. (Note to self— most name tattoos last longer than the relationship). That is when tatoo removal saves the day.
Attempts at tattoo removal have been going on since about two weeks after the first tattoo was ever done. Many techniques have been tried, most of which were ineffective but some were very harmful and left terrible scarring. With laser technology, we now have machines that are designed just for tattoo removal. They are safe and effective when used by qualified professionals. Because the use of lasers is still relatively new, so are the laws that govern their use. Most state boards have laws that are specific about who may own or operate a laser. Unfortunately, even some medical professionals are unclear about those laws. In North Carolina only licensed medical professionals (MD, PA, NP) can operate a tattoo removal laser.
A laser is a very expensive investment and they are often sold by companies that market them to physicians as “multi-use”, meaning they can be used for several types of procedures. Be sure that any laser treatment you have is with a laser that is designed specifically for that procedure. The best laser for tattoo removal is a Q-switched laser. A laser can be very dangerous in the wrong hands. Be sure that your provider is qualified and experienced in that procedure before you agree to treatment.
When done properly, tattoo removal is not very painful and should leave no scars. Most tattoos require five to seven treatments for removal. These treatments are usually done four to six weeks apart. Complete removal may not always be possible, but many tattoos are not visible at all after laser treatment. A cover up tattoo is much more easily done after the first tattoo is mostly removed. Small areas are much easier to work with than large tattoos. A larger tattoo may be removed in sections. Black ink is the easiest to remove.
Pregnant or nursing women should not receive laser of any kind. Dark black skin is at greatest risk for trauma and possible scarring because of the heat involved with laser. Anyone with chronic herpetic outbreaks should be treated with preventative medication before each laser.
Growing respect and acceptance of an individual’s right to get a tattoo has improved over the last twenty years, however some agencies like corporate employment and our military still have strict standards about the visibility of tattoos.
Whether your reason for tattoo removal has to do with your job, your relationship status, or your foggy memory of that party ten years ago; it is good to know that there are options. Some souvenirs are worth keeping…….and some are not.
—-by Mary Lee Cudd, P.A.