I Got a Tattoo Years Ago: Now I Don’t Want It Anymore

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Dermatologist Dr. John Troccoli with Advanced Dermatology PC offers tips on speeding up tattoo removal process when undergoing laser treatment.

Dr. John Troccoli

The latest tattoo removal treatments can erase embarrassing or stress-provoking tattoos.

With about half of the 40 million Americans who have tattoos regretting their initial decision to “ink” their skin, tattoo removal has become an increasingly common choice. But even while undergoing the latest laser removal techniques – the most common way to erase a tattoo – those with unwanted “tats” can take several extra steps to speed the path to clearer skin, according to John Troccoli, MD, of Advanced Dermatology P.C.

“Tattoos and skin art have been around for more than 5,000 years and used as a way to declare love, religious beliefs and social status, among other reasons,” Dr. Troccoli explains. “But time and circumstances have a way of changing many people’s minds about tattoos, and what seemed like a good idea at 17 or 25 may not feel right anymore at 40 or 60. Luckily, the latest tattoo removal treatments can erase embarrassing or stress-provoking tattoos, and proactive steps can help.”

Lasers Used for Most Tattoo Removal
While some tattoos are removed by excision – cutting them off – or skin abrasion methods, laser removal is considered the leading technique because of its precision and efficiency, Dr. Troccoli says. Only recently, however, have laser techniques been perfected for tattoo removal despite their use for this since the late 1980s.

How do lasers work to take off tats? By emitting a concentrated beam of light, lasers essentially disrupt the ink colors in the skin and break them down into small fragments, Dr. Troccoli explains. Dark inks, like black or blue, are more easily removed since they absorb the most light; light-colored inks such as yellow or violet may prove more resistant. Higher-quality ink – like that often used by professional tattoo artists – may also be harder to get rid of.

Some ink may flake off the skin, while much will be absorbed into the bloodstream, where the body’s immune system will remove it, Dr. Troccoli notes.    

“Ironically, the cheaper the tattoo, the easier it may be to remove,” he says. “Most tattoos can be removed in 6-8 treatments, though some may take up to 12 treatments. In quick sessions lasting up to 45 minutes, laser pulses can be tailored to each person’s tattoo and skin tone. Some compare the laser sensations to a hot rubber band snapping on the skin – certainly not much worse than how it felt to get the tattoo in the first place.”

Tips to Make Tattoos Disappear Faster
Tattoo removal patients don’t just have to rely on laser technology to erase or fade their inked skin. There’s much they can do to help speed the process and minimize scarring, Dr. Troccoli says. He offers these tips to make regretful tattoos disappear faster and more completely:

  •     Embrace exercise: While the laser breaks up tattoo pigment in your skin, it’s your body that does the work of flushing ink out of the body – and exercise boosts circulation, achieving this faster. “Regular exercise is one of the best ways to help your tattoo fade and heal,” he says.
  •     Wear sun protection: Avoid excess sun exposure on the tattooed area or its immediate margins, as this will enhance a dermatologist’s ability to increase laser intensity without worrying about darkening or lightening surrounding skin. “Either wear sunscreen or keep the area covered when outdoors,” Dr. Troccoli advises.
  •     Savor your shut-eye: Since your immune system is working to remove broken-up ink from your body after laser treatments, regular, deep sleep helps keep your immune system on track, he says.
  •     Eat right: Similarly, consuming healthy foods – and fewer fast and highly processed foods – also keeps the immune system working optimally, helping with pigment flush-out.
  •     Butts out: “Here’s yet another reason not to start smoking, or to quit: Nicotine slows blood circulation, which in turn will slow down the body’s ability to get rid of ink,” Dr. Troccoli says.

Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey) is one of the leading dermatology centers in the nation, offering highly experienced physicians in the fields of cosmetic and laser dermatology as well as plastic surgery and state-of-the-art medical technologies. http://www.advanceddermatologypc.com.

John Troccoli, M.D., is a board certified dermatologist and tattoo removal specialist at Advanced Dermatology P.C.

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