Tattoos are ubiquitous – on arms, backs, necks , legs of many young and not so young people. It is trendy for professional athletes, rock stars and some Hollywood types to sport very visible tattoos. My advice to young people: if you know you will be an NBA star or a rock star, then that visible tattoo will not likely stand in your way in the job market. Otherwise, be very careful about where you put that tattoo and what it represents. The skull and crossbones on your upper back might make you feel tough and rebellious at age 17, but how will it look with your wedding dress? For more about tattoo risks and regrets click here
Tattoo removal by laser is expensive and can take up to 10 visits. The tattoo that cost $200 to apply will likely cost $400 to removal x 5-10 treatments, depending on the location and color. Black or red ink can be removed almost completely with laser treatment. Colors such as purple and blue may be difficult or impossible to completely remove. Tattoos on the legs are more difficult to removal as are tattoos on darker pigmented skin. The latter may heal as a patch of lighter skin.
There have been several hopeful new laser treatments. Rox Anderson, MD and a team of researchers at Harvard came up with a new technique : instead of treating tattoos with a single pass of the laser, they treated a small series of patients with 4 passes done 20 minutes apart. This new technique, using existing technology, was more effective than single pass treatment in removing tattoos in a signle session with no risk of scarring. A new tattoo removal laser with a shorter pulse, the pico-second 755 nm Alexandrite laser, has been successful in treating multicolor tattoos including blue and green ink in 1-2 treatment sessions. In a recent study 2/3 of the participants had nearly 100% clearance in 1-2 sessions.
Despite these promising breakthroughs, it is important to “think before you ink” Are you going to love that tattoo in 10, 20 or 30 years? And, is the $1000 or more cost of tattoo removal going to be easy on your budget?