Tattoo removal has been in practice for as long as the art of tattooing, itself
In my quest for removal of two rather large tattoos, I came across numerous methods. Some appear extremely painful and others exuberantly expensive.
- Excision - The tattoo is cut away and the skin sewn together or a graft put in its place.
- Dermabrasion - The skin is literally sanded down using a diamond wheel or wire brush. The skin is commonly treated first with a skin refrigerant
- Salabrasion - Similar to dermabrasion, but coarse salt granules are used. Salt is then left on the wound under a dressing for a period of 24 hours.
- Chemical Removal - Injections of various chemicals including tannic acid, silver nitrate and phenol solution.
- Argon Laser - First used in 1979. Results were mixed. Half the patients had residual pigmentation. 21% had hypopigmented scarring. This laser worked best on red and black pigment and was a huge step compared to other methods available at that time.
- Carbon Dioxide Laser - This was tried in 1978, but was found to be highly unstable and likely to scar due to burning.
- Q-Switched Laser - The laser is pulsed at such a rate that it is capable of dissolving the ink without damaging the tissue.
- Q-switched Ruby (red light) - Operates at a frequency of 694 NM. Treats green and other dark colors well. Not effective in the removal of red and yellow inks.
- Q-switched Nd:YAG (infrared and green light) - Operates at a frequency of 1064 NM. Comes with a double switching option where it can also be used at 532 NM. Highly effective in the removal of red ink.
- Q-switched Alexandrite (deep red light) - Operates at a frequency of 755 NM. The last laser to be approved by the FDA, this laser is similar to the ruby, but is capable of reaching further depths while creating less tissue damage. Ineffective on red inks.
After researching for a couple of years and consulting with 3 different clinics, I chose the Q-Switched Laser method for removal. During my consultation a few test spots were done to verify that I did not have any ink containing iron oxide or titanium dioxide as inks with these ingredients were found to be darkened when treated with a laser.
Sessions with the Q-Switched laser last about an hour for 2 large tattoos. Treatments are spaced 6-8 weeks apart to allow for healing of the minor surface irritation and also for the ink to be absorbed by the body's immune system. Number of treatments can vary depending on size and color.
The ink is broken into particles small enough to be absorbed and processed. As this process takes place, the tattoos begin to fade.
I found the process to feel similar to what I imagine a white-hot scalpel would while cutting through flesh. While it was not a pleasant feeling, it dulled after a few moments much like it does when getting tattooed.
Aftercare is not difficult. In the office, they applied Bactriban. Then they bandaged the arms with Telfa and wrapped them with Coban Self-Adherent Wrap. That night, before going to bed, I wrapped them with Vaseline Gauze, a layer of cotton gauze and secured them with Stretch-Net. This was only to keep them safe from bumps in the night. I have since left them unbandaged and continued to apply antibiotic ointment.
I have observed a slight amount of blistering. This is very superficial and I am experiencing no discomfort. The ink is continuing to fade little by little and some itching has begun as a result of healing.
The price I found to vary from state to state. It seems to be cheapest in Florida and California. I assume this is due to the amount of people wanting removal before donning swimwear for the beaches.
The specific pricing for my work is $450.00 per treatment for the first 4 treatments. After the 4th treatment, the cost will be reduced to $385.00 per treatment. Because of the size and amount of color in mine, I will need between 7 and 10 treatments.