Many dermatologists say that complete tattoo removal is either impossible or very difficult because of the many types of ink that may have been used and the different depths in the dermis that the ink penetrates. Even the most precise methods of tattoo removal can leave some scarring, because they attempt to cleanly remove something that was intended to remain forever. That being said, there are still some highly effective methods of tattoo removal that can rid the flesh of unwanted artwork.
Today, laser removal is the most common method of tattoo removal. This method does not “burn off” the tattoo, as is commonly believed, but instead fragments the ink into tiny fragments so the skin can rid itself of the ink on its own. Laser removal is known to be highly effective and causes minimal scarring. On the downside, laser removal can be painful, and it can cost anywhere from $200-$900 per session; larger tattoos will obviously take more sessions to remove.
Intense Pulsed Light Therapy is similar ito laser removal n the way it uses light to fragment the ink, but instead of lasers, it uses high-intensity light pulsed onto a gel which has been applied to the skin. This method is known to be less painful ,but can cost just as much as laser removal, if not more—typically, Intense Pulsed Light Therapy will cost around $10 a pulse. It requires many pulses; the exact number varies with the size of the tattooed area.
A less-expensive and less-painful method comes in the form of tattoo-removal creams. There are many different types of these creams available in stores or on the internet. The effectiveness varies, but several have proven to give some pretty good results.
The method known as excision can be used to surgically remove an entire tattooed area if that area is small. It can be used for larger tattoos, but it must be done in separate stages. After the surgical removal of the tattoo, the skin around the outside is brought together and sutured. This method typically involves local anesthetic, and it will leave a scar.
Dermabrasion is another method of removal where the tattooed flesh is frozen and then “sanded” with an abrasive instrument until the tattoo basically peels off. Salabrasion, one of the earliest forms of tattoo removal, is when a saline solution is injected into the dermis and the area is rubbed with a rough surface to remove the ink. Both these methods, as well as excision, can be uncomfortable, but they can cost much less than laser or pulsed light removal.
For some of these methods (laser removal and Intense Pulsed Light Therapy), the effectiveness somewhat depends on the type of ink that was used. Certain color inks— like white, yellow, and pink— can be more difficult to remove than the typical black ink. In addition, certain types of cosmetic tattoos, such as permanent eyeliner and lip color, are not able to be removed. Depending on the size, area, and type of tattoo that you have, these options can be considered to optimize the time and money required to remove tattoos.
Tattoo removal cream manufacturers sometimes use hydroquinone, a suspected carcinogen, in their products.