One in five people with a tattoo want it removed, according to a survey. Small wonder laser tattoo removal is thriving. And so is sale of tattoo removal cream.
A new wave of tattoo fading ointments has been developed that effectively, gradually fade unwanted ink. So why is laser tattoo removal trendy, when there are so many downsides?
Blasting inked cells with bursts of light does sound space-age. But the fact is, since the mid-1980s dermatologists have been using laser tat removal. Here is what the American Academy of Dermatology says about laser tat removal: "The treatment of tattoos with laser may entirely remove the pigment or only bring fair results. The skin is rarely as perfect as it once was prior to getting the tattoo. It is still time-consuming, expensive, and may leave scars or discolorations."
That's Right. Lasers Leave Scars
Scarring means trading one permanent mark, the tattoo, for another, the scar. Scarring is possible with almost any laser device. It is due to laser heat or later infection. A doctor cannot predict scarring because all skin heals differently. According to a major Chicago Medical Center, scarring may occur even at the hands of the most experienced surgeon.
Laser Complications - A Long List
1. Hyperpigmentation. This means too much skin color. It's more common in laser tat removal on darker skin types. Patients with fresh tans are also more at risk. This laser side effect may require topical skin bleaching therapy. (Ironically, that's what tattoo removal cream is, a topical skin bleaching therapy.)
2. Hypopigmentation. This is an unusual lack of skin color. Lasers attack ink and target melanin, which gives skin its natural color. Without it, white splotches occur.
3. Postoperative blistering. Lasers are supposed to work below the skin surface, blasting deep ink. But blisters are damage to surface skin. During laser tat removal, blistering can happen by accident or when particular types of skin absorb laser energy. Blisters leave scars.
4. Postoperative crusting or lesions. These are temporary complications, but both can leave scars. They also call attention to the tattoo removal process.
5. Bruising. The bursts of laser light pack a punch for some skin types.
The List Goes On:
* Delayed wound healing. The slower a wound heals, the more it scars.
* Darkening of flesh-colored cosmetic tattoos.
* Allergic reactions after laser treatment of tattoos. This has been seen most often in red tattoos.
* Redness and swelling. This can sometimes take months to subside.
Who's Shooting the Laser?
Tattoo artists are offering laser tat removal service themselves. A doctor may charge five-hundred dollars for a session, while a tattoo shop may do it for one-hundred-fifty. It takes repeated sessions.
Dermatologists say the work is safe only when done by a physician. But tattoo artists argue they know how skin, tattoo pigments and lasers interact. Some tattoo artists now find they make more money on removal. The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate who can buy and use tattoo lasers.
There is only one minor side effect of tattoo removal cream. At first, the tattoo gets brighter. This means it is working to raise the ink to the surface, where it will naturally-and compared with lasers-GENTLY fade.