Tattoos are often a sign of self-expression and are meant to be permanent. Ink is injected below the top layer of skin so that it stays in place, and advances in technology have made colors more fade-resistant. Yet, there may be a point when you decide you no longer want the tattoo and wonder what options you have for removal. Fortunately, there are ways to minimize or eliminate the appearance of body ink.
Common Reasons for Tattoo Removal
There are countless reasons why you may have selected a certain tattoo. Perhaps it was an image or name that was personal to you. Maybe it was cultural or even an impulse decision. For every reason someone gets a tattoo, there is a reason they may want it removed. Common reasons include:
- The appearance has changed over time due to fading or skin stretching.
- Life changes have made it less meaningful.
- It no longer fits with the image you want to portray.
No matter the reason, if you decide that your tattoo no longer serves you well, there are ways to remove it.
Types of Tattoo Removal
The most common method for removing a tattoo is with a laser, but this technique can still leave a ghost image of the tattoo behind, never truly eliminating its appearance. For complete tattoo removal, a more effective method is to surgically remove the section of skin that is inked and suture the area back together.
Laser Tattoo Removal
Many professionals use different lasers to break down the ink particles and stimulate the body to flush them away. As the ink dissolves, the image begins to fade. Dark colors such as black, brown, and certain blues or greens can be harder to remove and may require several treatments with the laser.
This can become quite expensive, especially with large tattoos, and still may leave a ghost image of the tattoo. A laser can alter the skin’s pigmentation, which can affect the color of individuals with darker skin.
Surgical Tattoo Removal
The only way to fully remove a tattoo is through surgery. Rather than trying to break down and fade the ink, it is physically removed. Your surgeon will carefully cut away the skin containing the tattoo and suture the area back together, leaving a thin scar instead. This is an effective method for removing an unwanted tattoo without having to worry about the lingering appearance of dark-colored ink or a faded outline.
Depending on the size or location of the tattoo, a skin expander may be used to stretch surrounding skin and then pull it over the area where the tattoo was removed. Your surgeon may also use a skin graft, which involves taking a thin layer of skin from another area of your body, such as your thigh, and replacing the skin that was removed.
Surgical tattoo removal can cost less than laser removal because it is often performed during a single procedure rather than multiple sessions. Larger tattoos, on the other hand, are often removed in sections requiring more than one surgery. However, unlike laser treatment, it will leave a small scar behind, although an experienced surgeon will strive to make it as inconspicuous as possible. But once the tattoo is removed, the results are permanent.
What is Recovery After Surgical Tattoo Removal Like?
Following surgery, you will have stitches to hold the skin together while it heals. You should apply Aquaphor® to keep the skin hydrated and reduce the risk of infection. Keeping the gauze in place will protect your incision and prevent rubbing. You should change the dressing and gently clean the site at least once per day, or as directed by your surgeon. An over-the-counter pain reliever is often sufficient to manage any swelling or discomfort.
If your tattoo is small and in a convenient location, you will be able to resume your normal activities almost immediately. Be careful to keep the site dry and not put any tension on your stitches. If the tattoo was larger or near a joint, you might need to take it easy for a few days so that the incision can heal properly, allowing you to move more comfortably.
Which Option is Right for You?
An experienced board-certified plastic surgeon like Dr. Kaweski can help you determine which tattoo removal option is a good fit for you. They will review your medical history, assess your needs and goals, and help you make an informed decision. There are multiple factors that can impact the effectiveness of laser removal and may make surgical removal a more desirable choice.
Contact our office in the San Diego area for more information on our Tattoo removal services at (619) 464-9876.