Youthful self-expression is one thing, but going against the better judgement of your parentals and getting that blazing flames design that runs up your neck might be a decision you come to regret in later life. If your ink is becoming nothing more of a burden, you can get rid of it; at a price.
Tattoos were meant to be permanent, and even with advances in laser removal, it is not an easy walk-in walk-out pain-free quick fix session. Laser tattoo removal is by far the most common and effective method, and involves the destruction of the ink pigmentation over a few sessions, so that the body can expel the ink by itself.
The first step in getting rid of your ink is to find a reputable dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon who specialises in tattoo removal. You will then have a consultation with said doctor, who will take a detailed report on your medical history, followed by a physical examination to ensure that you are fit for the procedure. Ideal candidates have pale skin and dark tattoos, but any skin type can be treated.
Laser removal won’t be performed on people with infections, immune disorders, HIV patients or those who are prone to keloids or scars. You will also have to wait to have your tattoo removed if you are taking antibiotics and certain antidepressants.
Laser removal uses a special type of Q-switched laser. Depending on the size of the tattoo, you will need anywhere between 2 to 15 sessions to get rid of it. Surprisingly, a session only lasts between 30 to 60 seconds, and there is a general consensus among those who tried it that it feels like a rubber band being snapped repeatedly against your skin. That said, it shouldn’t be more painful than getting the tattoo itself.
The removal cost can vary greatly, again depending on size and the location and reputation of your doctor. A decent indicator is anything between $20 to $80 per square inch, per session, so the removal won’t always come cheap. There are humanitarian clinics who can remove gang related ink for free, but only if you comply with certain requirements.
Recovery and Care
You really don’t need a doctor’s note for a few days in bed; you can return straight back to work after a session, assuming that your job does not involve any strenuous activity. For the next 24 hours, you should keep relatively still. While you are having the tattoo removed, it is vital to keep the area clean, and do not ever pick or scratch at the area, even if it is itchy. You will only be left with worst scaring and infection that is more unsightly than the tattoo you tried to get rid of.
You can apply ice to take the sting out and reduce swelling, but avoid petroleum. This will only trap in heat, which defies the purpose.
But is it safe?
Thanks to technological advances, laser removal offers a very effective solution with little risk, assuming you don’t use the cheapest “backyard specialist” you can find.
However, you need to have realistic expectations. When you have a tattoo removed, you do run a slight risk of:
• Hypopigmentation, if the treated skin is paler than the skin surrounding it, or the other way around.
• The area might be at risk of infection if you don’t take proper care
• Allergic reactions to the anaesthetic
To try and minimise any reaction you might have, the doctor will do a spot test before you start treatment to determine how your skin reacts. If they don’t, insist on it. Also be sure to book your sessions at least six weeks apart, so that your body gets the down time it needs to expel the ink effectively.