Tattoos may be relatively permanent, but ever since the early days of body art, people have tried to remove tattoos they no longer want. Today, technology has advanced to where removal is relatively painless and produces good results for most patients. The process, however, can take many months before satisfactory results are achieved. Despite these drawbacks, tattoo removal has come a very long way over the years. So how has the process evolved over time?
Tattoos have been around since ancient times, although their purposes have changed over the centuries. In the past, indelible body markings were often used to denote cultural meanings and status in society or in a particular organization. Now, their primary use is aesthetic, but there will always be some tattoo regret that may prompt removal. Here are some examples of treatments (mostly unsuccessful and/or dangerous) that have been attempted in the past.
Covering It Up
This method is still used today for large or stubborn tattoos that are difficult to get rid of entirely. While it does not solve the problem of the tattoo itself, this method can be used to have something less regrettable placed over the area.
Various Benign Substances
While not effective for their intended purpose, many relatively harmless substances have been used in the past to try to fade or eliminate tattoos. These methods may not have worked, but at least they did not result in pain and scarring or disfigurement! Some substances that were thought to help get rid of tattoos included:
- Lemon Juice
- Bird Feces
Because tattoo ink is only a few layers deep in the skin, typically, removing the portion of skin with the ink on it is an effective method for removing tattoos. This method has been used in the past, but it involves many serious drawbacks.
First, the pain of removing a large piece of skin like this is extremely painful, and can result in infection. Second, massive scarring tends to occur following excision, even with skin grafts. Fortunately, there are safer alternatives today.
Not as drastic as excision, but still prone to scarring, abrasion of the skin with a variety of tools (such as wire) was thought in the past to help draw the ink out. Unfortunately, abrasion had many of the same drawbacks as excision, including pain, scarring, and possible infection.
Some have tried using strong acids to burn off the skin in the tattooed area. This acid is controlled during the process to try to prevent extensive scarring by only removing certain layers of skin, but it was a dangerous and painful tattoo removal technique, often resulting in infection.
For the past few decades, laser tattoo removal has been the only accepted, safe method for reducing the appearance of tattoos. The process can take many months to complete, as removal requires several short sessions, with a few months in between treatments. The treatments are very safe, with minimal risk of scarring when performed by a qualified professional, and the discomfort is tolerable, with most patients describing the sensation as similar to a series of rubber band snaps.
The laser works to break up the ink in the tattoo, which is then absorbed by the skin over time. Basic, small tattoos are obviously much easier to remove than large, brightly colored body art, and some inks are especially resistant to the laser. In some cases, a method known as R-20 can be used to treat the tattoo several times in the same day, but this depends on the tattoo type, skin color, and other factors.
See an Expert
Unfortunately, laser tattoo removal is often not as regulated as it should be, and some technicians have inadequate training to give patients safe, effective treatments. It is best to go to a plastic surgeon whospecializes in laser treatmentsto help ensure you will get the best results possible and avoid complications such as scarring or infections. If you are looking for a board certified surgeon and tattoo removal expert, come to New England Tattoo Removal and meet with acclaimed plastic surgeon Dr. Stuart Bentkover. Dr. Bentkover is skilled and experienced with laser treatments, and can make improvements to most tattoos. If you would like to speak with Dr. Benkover about your options, call Bentkover Facial Plastic Surgery & Laser Center in Worcester(508-363-6500) or Stoneham(617-247-0033), MA, to schedule your consultation.