Tattoos always seem like a good idea at the time, but over time they may make you feel embarrassed. Thankfully, there are ways to get rid of tattoos that you no longer want.
Laser removal is the most common way to remove a tattoo, and it offers the best results with minimal side effects. Other tattoo removal methods include dermabrasion and chemical peels.
Unlike laser tattoo removal, dermabrasion is an abrasive treatment that scrapes the top layers of skin to reach deeper pigment. It is a very painful procedure that leaves the skin raw, vulnerable and open for infection. It can also cause permanent scarring and discolouration of the skin, burning, itching and scabbing.
The treatment is typically done using local, regional or general anesthesia, depending on the size of the tattoo and the extent of dermabrasion required to remove it. Other abrasive treatments include salabrasion, which uses coarse salt crystals to abrade the skin surface, and cryotherapy, or freezing the skin with liquid nitrogen.
Although microdermabrasion can improve the appearance of some acne scars and fine lines and wrinkles, it is ineffective on deeper wrinkles, surgical scars, severe pigmentation or deep discolouration. It also does not treat the underlying issue of loose skin.
Salabrasion is similar to dermabrasion and works in the same way by scraping the top layer of skin. But, instead of reducing wrinkles and blemishes this treatment is used to remove tattoo ink from the skin. This isn’t the most effective method for tattoo removal but it is less expensive and more convenient than surgical procedures or sanding down the tattoo using an electric sander.
It can be performed in a dermatology clinic under strict sterilization and anaesthetic. It is not a safe method for home use as it can lead to hyper and hypo-pigmentation, scarring, weeping and extreme pain.
This technique involves rubbing salt on the tattoo in an attempt to break down the ink pigments. Cheap table salt is usually all that is required for this procedure and it can work. However, this method is time-consuming and can take several treatments before achieving results. It can also cause hypo and hyper-pigmentation, scarring, weeping, severe pain, infection and changes in skin texture.
Saline and glycolic acid tattoo removal is a popular option for permanent makeup (pMU) artists that do not have access to laser treatment. They involve opening the skin and applying an acid to create a scab which will then bond with the ink particles and take them away from the skin. While this will fade a tattoo significantly it is not a solution to actually remove the tattoo. The skin will need to heal and the scabs are not a good place for ink to hide and can cause significant scarring, itching, and pigmentation changes.
Acid injections are another method that has been tried for tattoo removal, but it has serious health implications. The corrosive acids used can leave the skin discolored and can result in severe burns. The wounds created will take a long time to heal and the risk of infection is high. The body’s natural immune system will take over and eventually make that tattoo a memory.
Tattoos are meant to be permanent, but they don’t always stay that way. Complete removal is difficult, however, and scarring is likely to remain.
Laser therapy, which uses high-intensity pulsed laser beams that are absorbed by the pigment colors in the tattoo ink and broken down into smaller cells, is often the best treatment.
Other treatments for tattoo removal include dermabrasion, which sands down the skin to remove layers that contain ink particles, and chemical peels with trichloroacetic acid. However, these methods aren’t as common because they don’t produce the same results and can cause significant scarring.
Tattoo removal is a fairly painful process, but it’s also relatively safe if performed by a physician or surgery center that specializes in the procedure. The treated skin may swell, bruise, or blister, but these issues should fade within a week. A topical antibiotic ointment or cream and a bandage should be applied to the treated area after each session, and the skin should be protected from sunlight to avoid scarring.