Tattoos are everywhere.  Good tattoos, bad tattoos, artistic tattoos, basic tattoos, meaningful tattoos, spur of the moment, “what was I thinking” tattoos…my point is, is they’re out there.  About 23% of Americans have at least one, and that number climbs to closer to 40% in the age range of 18 to 29.  That’s a lot of ink.  And for good reason! Tattoo can be a gorgeous and intricate art form, and to commit to a permanent design on our skin really adds a depth of meaning to something already important to us.

But (you knew there was a “but” coming)…permanent?  Oops.  Lately that barbed wire around your upper arm that you got back when you were an edgy 19 year old, or your husband’s name gotten before that cheating bastard broke your heart may be seeming a little unwelcome.  Or maybe the colors now look funny, or you just aren’t into yin yangs as much as you used to be.  Whatever the reason, you’re regretting that tattoo.  The most common solution used to be tattooing over the no longer wanted image.  Remember Johnny Depp’s “Winona Forever” ink that he had transformed into “Wino Forever”?  But what if you don’t have another design in mind, or just want that area clear?  Laser was always given as a super expensive, painful, and uncommon option.  Nowadays though, this has changed.  Lasers have gotten more precise, more affordable, and the technology keeps getting better each day.

The way lasers work is by breaking up the pigment color with a high intensity light beam.   As effective as laser tattoo removal is, there are always a few things to consider.  Age of the tattoo, color (both tattoo pigment color and skin color), size, and how the tattoo was applied (was it professional or a more amateur job?) are all factors.   For example, black pigment completely absorbs all laser wavelengths, so that’s the easiest color to treat, with red being a close second.  Another example?  While a professionally done tattoo tends to have a better appearance, the ink usually goes in deeper and more evenly, so an amateur tattoo may sometimes be easier to remove.  These are issues that our nurse practitioners will determine at your free consultation for the tattoo removal.

I recently had the opportunity to assist on a tattoo removal for one of our patients.  This was his second treatment (another thing to remember is that one session will not be sufficient for removal-it usually takes at least 6 appointments to achieve optimal results), and he was ready to go.  This is definitely not a painless procedure, but we try to make our clients as comfortable as possible.  This particular client has told us multiple times that any discomfort is completely worth it for these results!  You are welcome to take a Tylenol (but no aspirin or ibuprofen) beforehand.  The area was numbed up (we use both topical and/or injection), and we use a small portable cool air unit to “blow” on the treated skin. It was fascinating to watch-as the laser targeted the area, I could actually see the skin change, and the pigment shift in color.  After we finished, we applied Vaseline, then a bandage over it.  He was cautioned to keep the area covered and clean, and if going outside, to apply sunscreen (and in fact, keep it out of sun before and after for at least 12 hours).  Erica, the NP I was assisting, also made sure that he had her cell phone number in case he needed to call with any problems or concerns.

While the decision to get a tattoo shouldn’t be made lightly, it is definitely reassuring to know that it doesn’t have to be a permanent reminder of a mistake.  At Innovative Aesthetics, we have your back (or your arm, your hip, your ankle…take your pick!), and will get you back to being as comfortable as possible in your skin.