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What You Need to Know About Laser Tattoo Removal

By Stephen M. Schleicher, MD, Director, DermDOX Center for Dermatology

Sometimes a tattoo simply outlives its purpose. Many instances come to mind but here is a classic. A twenty year old female has the name Mike within a small heart tattooed on her abdomen. The problem: Mike lasted all of six months and now she is engaged to Paul. Thus the emergency.

Since the only immediate way to remove a tattoo is by surgery, and since Mike (fortunately) has only four letters, I excised (as in cut out) the tattoo leaving a thin line once the stitches were removed. Both the patient and her fiancée left pleased although the odds are probably less than 50-50 that they are still together.

Depending on color the best way to remove a tattoo is with a laser. Pulses of concentrated light pulverize the ink which is then absorbed by the body. Shades of black and red usually respond quite well. The procedure is a bit uncomfortable, likened to the snapping of a rubber band against the skin. Some tattoos fade significantly after two to three treatments whereas others may require several more. Keep in mind that green is a very difficult color to “erase” should a tattoo ever need to be removed.

Many tattoos are sexy, expressive and artistic. Just think twice before you get tattooed.

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