At least 20% of individuals who get a tattoo have regrets about their decision and at some point want that tattoo gone. Over the years, different methods have been proposed to remove the tattoo. Some home-application and some professional.
Among the home application methods, none has been evaluated to be both safe and effective, and they can vary from strong acids that burn the skin along with the tattoo, and result in significant scarring, as well as lamps and lights, bogus creams, etc.
Professional tattoo removal process started with surgical excision that has become outdated with the advent of lasers for that purpose.
The next wave was lasers. The technology has evolved and improved rapidly over the years. The most successful among these has been “Q-switched lasers”, which delivers a very short and high intensity laser pulse to burst the ink particles in the tattooed into much smaller ones that then are cleared from the area. This method had huge success and started with early generation lasers which had uneven energy delivery to the skin that would sometimes scar, burn and blister the area. This again evolved with improving laser technology and optics. These lasers are very powerful, and can remove (or fade the tattoo depending on the person’s preference) in as few as 4 sessions. The downside with these lasers despite their great success is that there is no prediction as to who would have their tattoo completely gone with 4 treatments. There have been cases that even with more than 15 treatments, a shadow of the original tattoo still remains. Another downside is what can happen with the healthy skin color in and around the tattoo, which at times could cause permanent skin bleaching in the treated area. A third limitation is that not all tattoo colors have been universally responsive to the treatment.
The next wave of tattoo removal lasers, introduced in 2013, was “picosecond” laser technology. By shortening the pulse width of the laser even more, some tattoos that were previously hard to treat, were successfully removed. There was much hype about the success of these newer machines, and almost every laser manufacturer jumped on the band wagon of ” pico second lasers”. Unfortunately, this didn’t prove as effective as expected, and was a very pricy acquisition for clinics that decided to buy such equipment. The result was only marginal improvement over Q-switched lasers for number of treatments needed as well as the variety of colors that could be treated. A major drawback of Picosecond lasers to this date is the HUGE purchase cost of such lasers, that would translate into expensive treatments for the patient.
One common downside for both Q-switched and Picosecond lasers is that neither technology actually removes the ink from the body. With concern for tattoo inks being able to cause health problems, one would preferably want that ink to be removed from the body rather than displaced from the skin. Laser tattoo treatments can also be very painful.
The latest technology that was recently FDA approved and added to the treatment choices, is called “Reverse Therapy”. In this method, a numbing cream is first applied to the tattooed area. After about half an hour, a specialized mechanical device that creates microscopic channels in the overlying skin is applied to create micro-tunnels from the surface of the skin to ink particles. Then a solution is applied to the area that helps with “wicking” the ink out.. This has by far been the best and most successful method for tattoo removal. It can be applied to any skin color, and tattoo color and on any body area. This method has significantly shortened the number of treatments to as few as one! There are still individuals that need more than one treatment, with some needing as many as 5 treatments. Compared to the latest Picosecond lasers, this method is much cheaper for the patient, much more effective, doesn’t cause pigment changes of the healthy skin, much less painful, and removes the tattoo ink completely! This method won’t leave any ink behind to cause health concerns because of the tattoo ink. By far this has been the most successful and best among all tattoo removal methods and will soon outdate anything else before it.
If you have tattoos you don’t care about anymore, see a health care professional who offers a variety of treatments and is familiar with all these different methods to offer the best solution for your concern.