Laser treatment for tattoo trouble

May 17, 2013

Black tattoo pigment absorbs all laser wavelengths, making it the easiest to treat.
Black tattoo pigment absorbs all laser wavelengths, making it the easiest to treat.

It's easy to understand the impulsive rush of enthusiasm that can send one running to the tattoo parlor. It's also easy to understand how 'life' can intervene in the form of new relationships, new careers and new directions, so that the once glorious tattoo becomes an embarrassment.

The problem is, according to a prominent Detroit plastic surgeon and member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), reporting to CNN, there is such a thing as "tattoo regret." Further, when regret leads to removal, the tab can amount to several thousands of dollars, depending on the size of the 'ink' and its location. Experts say tattoo removal is on the rise.

One of the biggest reasons for tattoo removal is concern about employment, a concern that is amplified in this tight job market. Plastic surgeons and dermatologists are seeing more and more people who want their tattoos removed, frequently because they worry that the tattoos could cause problems with employment.

Other tattoo regrets can come from following fads, such as elaborate designs on the lower back, which were all the rage until they became known as "tramp stamps." Other past fads were barbed wire around men's arms and Chinese letters.

Celebs, such as Johnny Depp, have suffered from tattoo trouble. Depp inked Winona Ryder's name on his shoulder. When they broke up he changed "Winona Forever" into "Wino Forever."
According to ASAPS, laser tattoo removal increased 43 percent from 2011 to 2012. Here's how it works: lasers remove tattoos by breaking up the pigment colors of the tattoo with a high-intensity light beam. Black tattoo pigment absorbs all laser wavelengths, making it the easiest to treat. Each laser targets a specific ink color, so the simpler the tattoo, the easier it's removed.

But it's not so easy. For most tattoos, you need at least three to four treatments, spaced eight weeks apart. Further, because heat is used to destroy the dyes, laser tattoo removal may leave behind scarring, discoloration or an outline of the original design and the treatments can also be painful.

Tattoos may be also responsible for medical problems. According to a 2012 New England Journal of Medicine article, contaminated ink may cause infections of nontuberculous Mycobacteria (NTM), which are extremely difficult to treat. If weeks of antibiotics don't help, then the tattoo must be removed. Allergic reactions or other less serious skin infections are also described in the medical literature.
If you're thinking about getting a tattoo, sleep on it! If you need one removed, contact a board-certified practitioner in an appropriate specialty.


The mission of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASAPS, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to www.surgery.org

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About ASAPS
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.

WE ARE AESTHETICS.

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