Tattoos Can Be Troublesome to Remove

Experts offer tips on picking more easily erased types, locations

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SUNDAY, July 22, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- People pondering a tattoo may want to consider the expense and discomfort of having one removed later on, experts say.

Nearly one out of five people with tattoos do think about having them removed later in life, according to dermatologist Dr. Jeffrey Orringer of the University of Michigan Health System.

"The most common reason would be to remove a name of someone who is no longer involved in the patient's life," Orringer said in a prepared statement.

According to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, people who want to get a tattoo should choose a licensed facility and a tattoo design that is simple and therefore easy to remove. They also advise people to put tattoos on parts of the body that can be covered by clothing in the workplace. Unusual or sensitive locations are more prone to scarring and are also more difficult for tattoo removal.

According to the Michigan experts, people considering tattoo removal should also be aware that:

  • Laser technology can reduce the appearance of tattoos so they are no longer visible, with little or no scarring.
  • It will take more time -- and possibly more money and discomfort -- to remove a tattoo than to get it put on. Often, six to 12 sessions are required to erase all of the ink.
  • Avoid areas of the body where it is more difficult to remove a tattoo, such as ankles, hands and fingers.
  • Simpler tattoos that contain only a few colors are easier to remove.
  • Darker colors are easier to remove than brighter hues. Colors mixed with white are also tough to remove.

Treatment options include lasers, one of the most common of which is the Q-switched, or quality-switched, laser; surgical excision; and dermabrasion, the sanding of the skin.

Laser removal of tattoos creates damage similar to small wounds. There may be crusting or bleeding in the area after treatment, and there are small risks of infection, scarring or discoloration of the skin.

More information

To learn about tattoo removal, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, July 2007

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