If “Linda” is tattooed on your arm inside a big red heart, and your wife’s name is Cathy, it’s probably time to get that tattoo removed. Tattoos are meant to be permanent, so the ink of a tattoo isn’t just sitting on the surface of the skin, waiting to be erased or scrubbed off. Instead, tattoo ink is buried deep inside the second layer of skin, the dermis.
In order to remove a tattoo, dermatologists can use a laser to break the ink into tiny particles. These particles will eventually be absorbed and excreted or stored elsewhere in the body. Ink absorption from one removal treatment can take up to six to eight weeks. Because of this, it takes time to see how much of the tattoo has been removed after each individual treatment.
Each color of ink can require multiple removal treatments. Usually 6 to 8 separate treatments are required to erase a single tattoo.
Color is created by the reflection of different wavelengths of light. The lasers that break down tattoo ink have to correspond to the color of the ink. For this reason, each separate color of the tattoo may require a different laser to break it down. One laser is not going to work for all colors.
As a result of the complexity of the procedure, the need for multiple lasers and the number of treatments required, tattoo removal is significantly more expensive than the process of getting a tattoo.
Currently there are no FDA approved tattoo removal creams of ointments. Dermabrasion, or “sanding or grinding” the skin, is another process that can be used for tattoo removal. However, dermabrasion is more invasive than laser removal. It takes longer to heal and also requires multiple treatments to be successful.