Tattoo Removal

Published: February 17, 2021

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One-quarter of people with tattoos regret getting them, according to a Harris Poll.(1) The poll also sought the reasons people regret getting tattooed. Common reasons include:

  • Too young when they got the tattoo,
  • Personality changes/Doesn’t fit my present lifestyle,
  • Got someone’s name that I’m no longer with,
  • Poorly done/Doesn’t look professional, and
  • Isn’t meaningful.(1)

Dermabrasion and cryosurgery were used in the past for tattoo removal. Today, lasers are widely regarded as the standard for tattoo removal, with a low risk of scarring when performed by an experienced clinician.(2)

When a person gets a tattoo, the pigment of the design is inserted in the dermal layer of the skin. This is done through ruptures in the epidermal layer.(3) For tattoo removal, the laser is absorbed by the tattoo ink. “This high energy causes the tattoo ink to fragment into smaller pigment particles that are then removed by the body's immune system. Whether it's a tiny fish on an ankle or a large design covering half of the back, in most cases laser treatments can remove up to 90 to 95 percent of a tattoo, although multiple sessions will most likely be necessary.”(3)

Laser tattoo removal is considered “somewhat painful,” according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. “Many patients describe it as having a heavy rubber band snapped against their skin repeatedly.”(4) A topical cream or a local injection is often employed during laser tattoo removal, depending on the location of the tattoo and a person’s ability to endure pain.(5)

Clinics often use benzocaine/lidocaine/tetracaine (BLT) to help numb the area of the tattoo. Along with the cream, some clinics also use a device that blows cold air on the skin.(6) A small, single-site study published in a leading dermatology journal found that nitrous oxide is an effective option for reducing pain during the tattoo removal procedure and may especially be useful for large tattoos. However, the use of nitrous oxide increases the time involved in the procedure and requires more patient monitoring.(6)

If you are a medical practice or provider, visit our BLT Topical Ointment page for more information on the product and to set up an online ordering account.


 

(1) Harris Poll, Tattoo Takeover: Three in Ten Americans Have Tattoos, and Most Don’t Stop at Just One, https://theharrispoll.com
(2) Bosworth, T., reviewed by Ho, R. M.D., MEDPAGE TODAY, Advances in Dermatology: Successful Laser Treatment is Detail Dependent, https://www.medpagetoday.com
(3) Fox, J. M.D., Scientific American, How Are Tattoos Removed, https://www.scientificamerican.com
(4) American Society of Plastic Surgeons, Tattoo Removal, https://www.plasticsurgery.org
(5) Cleveland Clinic, Laser Removal of Tattoos, https://my.clevelandclinic.org
(6) Dotinga, R., Dermatology, Nitrous Oxide Linked to Less Pain in Tattoo Removal, https://www.mdedge.com