Regretting the misspelled quote on your forearm? Or the brand logo you got on a dare? Or the ex’s name your current love isn’t so thrilled about?
As tattoos become more common, so does tattoo regret. Even ink you once thought you’d be happy with forever can lose its shine as time wears on. You may find that your tattoos have a negative effect on your job hunt or aren’t aging as well as you’d hoped. Perhaps you’ve just grown tired of them and are looking for a change. Regardless of your reasons for considering tattoo removal, making the permanent impermanent is not a simple task.
A search for tattoo removal online can return a paralyzing number of options. Though you may be tempted to choose whichever seems quickest or cheapest, what matters most is whether the treatment is safe and effective. Tattoo removal performed by a qualified professional using an FDA-approved method provides the best results in both regards.
In recent years, dozens of tattoo removal creams have appeared on the market. These promise to miraculously erase unwanted ink without harming the skin or breaking the bank. It’s an attractive promise on the surface, but tattoo removal creams are ineffective, unregulated and unsafe.
Laser tattoo removal, like the PicoSure treatment offered at Dermacare Laser and Skin Care Clinics, is a safe, thorough and effective choice that works with your body’s processes to eliminate tattoo ink naturally over time. To understand why this is the best option for removal, you must first understand what makes tattoos a permanent prospect.
The Science Of Tattooing
Tattoos are meant to last a lifetime. Artists ensure their designs can go the distance by using a machine to inject ink below the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis, and into its second later, the dermis. Because this process damages the skin, the body responds by unleashing white blood cells tasked with eliminating potentially harmful foreign particles. But there’s a problem: tattoo pigment particles are too large for white blood cells to handle, so they remain in place despite your body’s attempts to rid itself of the invading ink.
For tattoo removal to be effective, it must penetrate below the first layer of the skin – without causing damage – and break down these pigment particles so your body can do what it’s naturally designed to.
The Cream Conundrum
Tattoo removal creams market themselves as a convenient, painless and affordable solution to unwanted ink. They’re easily purchased over-the-counter at pharmacies, department stores and online retailers. They are applied topically, requiring no specialized skills or knowledge for use. If it sounds too good to be true, there’s a reason.
These products typically don’t claim to remove tattoos entirely. At most, they promise to fade a tattoo so it becomes less noticeable, and they may leave a distorted or discolored version in its place. Scarring and other serious side effects may also occur. Each brand contains different ingredients and carries different risks, but the most common active ingredients are trichloroacetic acid (TCA) and hydroquinone.
Trichloroacetic acid is a peeling agent that causes the skin to shed by chemically burning away its outer layer. Though this ingredient can be used by healthcare professionals in some skin treatments, it can be dangerous if used at home without supervision. Unregulated trichloroacetic acid creams have a high chance of causing scarring and often result in uneven tattoo fading. Other possible side effects include rashes, inflammation and permanent skin discoloration.
Hydroquinone-based creams impede the body’s production of melanin. This results in lighter skin pigmentation and is used by professionals to treat blemishes like liver spots and other irregular pigmentation in the epidermis. The same process is purported to fade tattoos. While hydroquinone creams are a less damaging alternative to trichloroacetic acid creams, they are equally ineffective, as they only work on the surface of the skin, and not the tattoo itself.
In both cases, the effects of the creams are too superficial to alter tattoo pigment in a significant way. These products remain in the epidermis and cannot reach a condition, including tattoos, that occurs in a lower layer of the skin. The FDA has not yet approved or cleared any do-it-yourself tattoo removal creams, due to both their lack of efficacy and their potential to cause significant side effects.
The Laser Advantage
Laser tattoo removal uses concentrated beams of laser energy to target tattoo pigment deep in the dermis. When the beam connects with the pigment particles, it shatters them into smaller pieces so they can be removed naturally by the white blood cells of the body’s immune system. Different ink shades respond to different light wavelengths, so multiple wavelengths may be used to ensure removal of as much of the tattoo as possible. The process is performed over a series of sessions, producing gradual improvement until the tattoo becomes nearly undetectable.
Lasers have largely replaced other tattoo removal treatments because they have proven to be the safest and most effective method. Side effects associated with laser tattoo removal include tenderness in the treatment area, blistering or swelling of the skin, hyperpigmentation or lightening of the skin and scarring. When performed by a qualified provider, these risks are relatively rare and most are short-lived.
The Pico laser is the next generation of laser tattoo removal technology. It has been FDA-approved for the removal of body ink and offers numerous advantages over other removal methods. Its benefits include:
- Rapid-fire pulses of energy that shatter ink pigments more effectively
- Reduced pain during and after the procedure
- Effective on more challenging ink colors like red, orange, yellow, and white inks
- Fewer sessions required to achieve desired results
- May eliminate tattoos that could not be removed using other devices
On average, a tattoo treated with the Pico laser will see maximum improvement after three to five treatments, each spaced six to eight weeks apart. Treatment sessions may be as short as 15 minutes, depending on the size of the tattoo being removed, and you will be able to return to your daily routine immediately.
Curious to know more about laser tattoo removal treatment at Dermacare Laser and Skin Care Clinics? Our team offers complimentary consultations to answer questions and provide an accurate price quote based on your specific tattoo removal needs. Contact our office in Rancho Bernardo at 858-487-3376 or in Carlsbad at 760-448-8100 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Birchall and his team today.