Nov 05, 2019

Tattoos…Till Death Do We Part—Or Not

Tattoo regret fuels reversal trend

By Eileen Spatz

Well it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, getting that Technicolor “body art” sleeve engulfing the entire arm back in the early aughts. After all, how better to tell the world the essence of who you are, your personal story, than to permanently emblazon myriad images on your skin?

Millennials jump-started the tattoo trend in a big way, almost as a rite of passage, about a decade ago. Young people might have enthusiastically jumped into a tattoo artist’s chair with a cool design in hand, or may have stumbled into a tattoo parlor while still under the influence. Some approached body art with great reverence, desiring to make a soulful statement for the world to see. Whatever the motivation, getting a tattoo had a nice long run among the millennial generation, resulting in about 45% of these young adults sporting body art.

While the tattoo trend has been a thing for about fifteen years now, increasing numbers of folks with tattoo regret are lining up at the dermatologist office to have them removed. In fact, tattoo removal is a booming segment of the aesthetic care industry, with double-digit increases year over year for about five years running. In fact, revenue from tattoo removal hit $82 million in 2018.

The reasons to have a tattoo removed are varied. Some people just grow out of their body art—it no longer expresses who they are now. Some remove tattoos for job-related reasons, as some employers may require them to be covered up and other employers simply reject the candidate sporting a neck tattoo. Some people want to erase an old lover’s name from their body, while others simply want a clean slate so they can re-tattoo a new image onto their body.

Removing That Tat

The good news for those seeking to lose their tattoo is that tattoo-removing technology has advanced. According to Dr. Kelly Stankiewicz, a dermatologist practicing in Park City, Utah, “Now we have the picosecond laser technology, which is more effective for removing tattoos. They have more wavelengths, which allows them to treat a wider range of colors.”

Former tattoo removal technology often resulted in blotchy and uneven skin tones, and ink removal was not always complete. Dr. Stankiewicz lauds the new technology, as tattoo removal now requires fewer sessions and leaves a nicer result. With the evolution of laser technology, the lasers now deliver pulses at a picosecond and have a broader range of wavelengths, allowing doctors to treat a larger area and reduce the number of treatments. The new lasers also work more effectively to remove bold colors, which are more difficult to erase versus black ink.

Tattoo removal is still no walk in the park, however. Dr. Stankiewicz reminds us that tattoo removal is a painful procedure, aided by injected anesthesia, topical numbing, and cold rollers to reduce discomfort. An average of 4-6 laser treatments will usually do the trick, although each tattoo is unique so there is no way to know in advance. Even a doctor will hesitate to predict the exact number of sessions required. The good news is that, with the new picosecond technology and diligent post-treatment care, there is virtually no visible sign of the tattoo once the process is complete.

It is critical to have a tattoo removed by a board-certified dermatologist, such as Dr. Stankiewicz. A dermatologist has the expertise to use laser technology, as well as the medical training to help prevent infection and scarring.

Tattoo Removal Cost…Is It Worth It?

Deciding to have a tattoo removed is a major commitment, both in time and treasure. Each session will last about 30-minutes, with multiple sessions required to get the job done. On average, each tattoo removal session costs approximately $400 for a small area to $1,000 for a larger tattoo. Repeat, each session. But for someone committed to eliminating the tattoo, the results using the new picosecond laser technology are well worth it. As Dr. Stankiewicz proclaims, “It can be life-changing.”

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