Dyed until you die? Tattoos may be permanent, but with modern technology almost all can be broken down or removed in some way. So there’s no need to keep your Hell’s Angels motif into your retirement years and if that Chinese symbol doesn’t say quite what you thought it did, help is at hand for your beautiful skin.
There are a few different options when it comes to stripping off those tatts. There are lotions and potions on the market that claim to be able to fade the ink away, but if you’re serious about wiping the slate clean, your main options are excision, dermabrasion, Rejuvi cream and laser treatment.
If you only had a wee daisy on your hip or a teeny skull on your neck, you might be a good candidate for one of the least expensive options – excision. This is a small surgical procedure to cut away the tattoo and sew up the surrounding skin, leaving you with a fine scar. Any colour of tattoo can be removed in this way, but is only suitable for very small ones. The surgery is only a minor operation, requiring local anaesthetic and if you’re lucky, you could be in and out of the clinic in as little as 30-60 minutes.
This is a method of removing the coloured skin by applying chemicals which break the skin down and then rubbing away the layers of skin that contain the ink using a hand-held sanding tool. This process can be painful (though local anaesthetic is used) and although it will whip away the ink, about 10% off people find they are left with scar tissue in the area treated. The scraping treatment is done just the once, and then the skin scabs over to heal. New skin will then grow underneath the scab and although this new skin isn’t normally completely seamless with the surrounding skin, it is often hard to see the exact area that was scraped away. It normally takes 2-3 weeks for the area to heal and the skin will continue to improve in texture over the course of about 6 months.
Though it is more invasive than laser treatment, some practitioners argue that with dermabrasion, you are less likely to be left with a shadow of the tattoo you once had.
Rejuvi tattoo removal cream works by attaching itself to the ink trapped in the skin and drawing it out to the surface of the skin in the form of a scab. This can be effective in as little as one treatment, but the harsh chemicals involved mean that it can sometimes lead to scarring. Recently, the treatment has been improved by using a special gun, similar to the gun your tattooist used to decorate you in the first place. The gun injects the cream directly into the pigment, beneath the upper layers of skin meaning that the cream is more effective and much less likely to leave a scar. Good news for a smooth, clean end result.
If you have a large or particularly deep tattoo, you might need a number of treatments at six week intervals. It's also important not to pick the scab or get it wet, so you'll have to skip the sauna sessions for a while.
By far the most popular method of tattoo removal these days, Laser treatment uses intense pulsed light which passes through the skin, but is absorbed by the ink. The ink is broken down by the laser into smaller molecules, which can be absorbed by the body and disposed of. The laser treatment works best on black, red and blue ink, but the technology is developing all the time and can be effective on a whole range of colours.
Even though the treatment doesn’t actually damage your skin, it’s worth being warned that your skin may feel as though it’s burning or stinging a bit during treatment. Each treatment can take just a few minutes, to about half an hour depending on the size of the tattoo and to completely fade the design away and return your skin to its healthy, natural state you will need between 5 to 20 treatments over a period of weeks or months.
The main attraction of laser treatment is that it can eventually leave your skin as good as new, being one of the least likely treatments to scar.
Getting rid of an embarrassing or ugly tattoo takes time and costs money, but if you’re stuck with an ex-girlfriend’s name on your chest or you no longer think Iron Maiden are worth a large patch of your thigh then it’s a small price to pay to get your natural, naked skin back.