Is That Tattoo No Longer for You?

Dr. Fiorillo Discusses Tattoo Removal

Don't cry over your tattoos!. Getty Images

Tattoos are awesome, but they aren't necessarily for everyone. It's estimated that 25% of the U.S. population is inked, and at some point, half of that 25% is going to wish that they never got that tattoo. 

For some, a tattoo seems like a great idea at first. Twenty years down the road, you may find yourself wishing that you thought longer and harder about the giant Tweety Bird tattoo on your calf.

Maybe you got your girlfriend's name tattooed across your chest and then found out she was cheating on you. Perhaps the tattoo you love so much changed over the years due to rapid weight gain and/or loss, or a pregnancy stretched that flower, and its vine now resembles an elephant's trunk.

Whatever the case for you may be, not to worry - there are several options for you if you're wishing to remove bad memories or an unattractive tattoo. What you once thought was there permanently doesn't necessarily need to be. Today I'm going to focus on two tattoo removal techniques: laser surgery and surgical excision. 

  • Laser Surgery - Depending on the specific situation, a tattoo can be removed with laser therapy in as little as 2-4 sessions, or as many as 10 or even more. This is the most common procedure performed because no blood is involved and it produces fewer side effects than the other options. Many patients describe this procedure as feeling like a rubber band is snapping against your skin. Laser light is used to break up or decolorize the pigment molecules. The color of the laser light depends, to some extent, on the color of the tattoo. Effectiveness depends on several factors, including the chemical nature of the tattoo ink. Most people undergo this therapy without anesthesia, but that can be adjusted if it becomes too painful for the patient.  
  • Surgical Excision - Surgical excision involves removing a tattoo with a scalpel and stitching the area back up. This treatment, obviously, is only appropriate for tattoos that are small in size. This technique allows for great precision. Side-effects with surgical excision are minimal. However, a raised scar may result at the site of the stitches. Skin discoloration and infection are also possible side-effects. 

    No matter which route you decide to go, make sure you do your research and find a reputable and board-certified cosmetic surgeon to walk you through the process. 

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