How to Remove Unwanted Tattoos

Nearly 20 percent of people with tattoos want them removed

You were young (and foolish) and you wanted a tattoo to prove your independence or to make a statement. Now you're older (hopefully wiser too) and think about removing them, so you won't have to explain to your children what's with the naked lady on your arm.

Many people decide to have a tattoo as a symbol of initiation, be it in an organized group, like the army or a gang or to prove something to the world. Most tattoos have a story behind them and when people want to put that story behind them, they want to remove the picture, too.

Laser technology is now making it easier to remove most tattoos, but it can still be a painful and costly process. Jeffrey Orringer, M.D., is an assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Michigan Health System and he says nearly 20 percent of people with tattoos are seriously considering having them removed.

"Some patients tell me that having it removed with a laser is somewhat more uncomfortable than acquiring it in the first place," he notes.

The newest applications use a laser to remove the ink from under the skin. The process is not so complex, but it hurts like hell and can take up to 12 treatment sessions in order to clear most tattoos.

The physician chooses certain wavelengths of laser and then shines them on the skin of the patient. Each wavelength targets an ink shade under the skin that heats up when it absorbs the amplified light, making the small ink droplets "pop like popcorn - but on a microscopic basis," as Orringer explains.

The body reacts to the treatment by sending white blood cells that eat up the altered ink, thus lightening the tattoo. While older and simpler tattoos, like those that are made up of simpler colors, are easier and cheaper to remove, the most complex ones are hard and very expensive to remove and make the patient seriously considering completely giving up this procedure.

In fact, the total cost of removing a complex tattoo can reach a few thousand dollars, in addition to being really painful to remove, so next time you wanna get a tattoo, think about what explanation you will give to your children, if the pain and the money don't scare you out of it.

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