Tattoos have fascinated mankind from all cultures and strata of society for centuries. From the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman cultures to the modern Era, tattoos have been used to enhance beauty, demonstrate uniqueness, signify belonging, and sometimes to identify, shame, or punish.
Nearly a quarter of young to middle-aged adults in the United States have at least one tattoo. Results from an online survey group, Harris Interactive, showed a rise in US adult tattoo prevalence from 16% in 2003 to 21% in 2012. In India too, this fascination has caught up and more and more people are getting tattooed.
As more tattoos are being acquired, increasing numbers of people are also seeking their removal. Reasons for tattoo removal include new jobs or careers such as the army, airline industry, the need to portray a certain image at work or in new social circles, marriage or parental pressure and new, negative feelings towards old tattoos. Unfortunately, the removal of tattoos is generally far more costly and time-consuming than acquiring them.
The science behind a tattoo
Tattoos are created by the introduction of pigment into the dermal skin layer and can be either cosmetic or be the result of accidents and trauma. Tattoos can broadly be divided into professional, amateur, cosmetic, traumatic, or medical tattoos. Professional tattoos are applied with a tattoo machine into the deeper layer of the dermis and are applied to be permanent in nature. They generally require repeated treatments to remove.
Amateur tattoos are usually smaller, lighter in color and applied more superficially using handheld needles or homemade machines, which render them easier to remove. Cosmetic tattoos are often referred to as permanent makeup and are increasingly popular. Permanent eyeliners, eyebrows, and lip liners are commonly applied using the process of micropigmentation to save time and enhance facial features. They are also used to hide blemishes.
The inks used often contain pigments that are red, brown, white, or flesh colored; inks containing titanium dioxide and iron oxide are difficult to remove. Traumatic tattoos are deposited in the skin following abrasion, laceration, or explosive injuries. Such pressurized penetration of dark particles into the deep dermis gives rise to black or blue tattoos, depending on the depth of the pigment.
How does laser tattoo removal work?
Lasers work by demolishing the tattoo particles which then get removed by circulation. There are three methods of doing this:
- Conventional method where Q Nd Yag laser is used over 8-12 sessions every 4-8 weeks
- R20 method where Q Nd Yag laser is used over 3-4 sessions
- COmbining Erb Yag laser with Q nd Yag laser for faster clearance
Treatments are safe and effective, but regular follow-up is needed
Tattoo removal is usually done by laser as all other methods resting in scar. Q Switched ND Yag lasers are the preferred lasers for this process. Rarely for a small scar, a surgery to excise the tattoo can be performed to give quick results.