DIY Tattoo Removal can cause permanant skin damage
Susan Kim, Stephanie Graham
1 in 8 tattooed Americans now regrets getting inked. When Kristen Hoster got her tattoo, she thought it would be a part of her life forever. She describes, "It's of a Hello Kitty cupcake with purple flames and peppermints."
Now that Kristen is in the food industry, she says her tattoo is serving up stress.
"I had to wear long sleeves, even in the Summer," she laments.
Kristen is part of a growing number of Americans opting for tattoo removal -- a long, often difficult process. So some are going the do-it-yourself route. Many doctors are very concerned and strongly advise against it. That's because tattoo ink is embedded deep in the skin.
Dr. Michael Byun is a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. He says, "People think that you can actually remove the outside skin and thus the color will leave the body. That's a very difficult, dangerous thought process."
Online, there are graphic videos devoted to self-removal. Some people use safety pins or pens to try and 'poke' the pigment out. Others try self-removal gels and creams, but there's no evidence that they really work.
Dermatologist Amy Derick says, "A lot of products have chemicals or ingredients that are irritating to the skin with the hope that the immune system will fight off the pigment that remains."
For some, DIY treatments can cause serious side effects, like infection, scarring, burning, rashes, and skin discoloration. Dr. Byun explains, "That compounds the removal issues when they come in seeking the medical treatment."
Laser surgery is considered the gold standard for tattoo removal, and is cleared by the FDA.
"The reason why we use a tattoo removal laser is to remove the ink slowly so that the skin looks pretty much normal when the treatments are completed," Dr. Derick points out.
It's important to find a qualified and board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon. After 6 months of laser treatment, Kristen's tattoo is 50% gone. Her advice -- think before you ink. "Don't rush it. Make sure that it's what you want."
Even with laser surgery, complete removal without scarring isn't always possible. Successful treatment depends on the size, color, location, and age of your tattoo.