Although most people consider tattoos to be permanent, it is possible to remove them through medical applications. These procedures, although often considerably more expensive and painful than application, can in many cases completely remove the tattoo. Vibrant colors are more difficult to fully eliminate, but it is possible.

Tattoo removal is typically performed by use of lasers that break down the inks upon reaction. Laser removal often results in scar tissue and requires almost inexorably several repeat treatments, resulting in the broken down ink being absorbed by the skin much in the same way that a sun tan fades.

The pigment of the ink used is a factor in difficulty of removal. Dark colors are much simpler to remove, with black obviously being the easiest, while green and yellow are the most difficult. Some pigments in particular can be a trial because the dye (in the color yellow #7 especially) reportedly can break down into toxic substances when laser removal is used. These toxin can, following their breakdown, travel to the kidney and liver and cause more severe complications.

The type of tattoo can also determine the difficulty of removal. Amateur tattoos are generally easier to remove than professional ones, though both suffer the same risks. It is also worth noting that accidental or traumatic tattoos (those created by debris in an open wound) can suffer the same risk of toxins entering the body, and the added complication of more violent reaction. There is, in fact, a case on record where an accidental tattoo created by imbedded fireworks debris, actually ignited during a laser removal!

Tattoo Laser Removal

(Tattoo Laser Removal)

There are several methods of removal besides laser use, but these have been rendered nearly obsolete because of the risk and pain involved. One such method is dermabrasion, in which the skin is quite literally sanded away. A bit less appealing (believe it or not) is the excision method. This requires that the tattooed area of the dermis is cut away and removed, then the skin be stitched back together. Both methods are exceptionally painful and have been known to cause extreme scarring.

Dermabrasion Tattoo Removal

(Dermabrasion Tattoo Removal)

There are also a wide variety of topical treatments that claim to bring about significant fading of tattoos, but they carry a hefty price tag and can take months to achieve results.

Intense Pulsed Light Therapy is the latest innovation in the field of dermal treatment. A gel is applied over the tattooed area and high-intensity pulses of light are used in place of lasers. This method is said to be more effective and less painful than laser treatments, but comes at a much higher cost.

Given the risks, costs, and pain involved in tattoo removal many people opt for cover-ups instead. The old tattoos are, many times, lightened by way of laser removal techniques before hand and then covered by using darker pigments atop the lighter ones of the old piece.