With the American version of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ movie hitting our cinemas, tattoos might become even more popular than they are already. However, it is not uncommon for women to get a tattoo thinking this is the best thing ever, but then regretting it later. Maybe even assuming that if they don’t like it any longer in the future, they could always have it lasered away. Well, let me tell you, tattoo removal is not an easy option, even with the most advanced lasers. Apart from the fact that any laser treatment is rather expensive, there are often many treatment sessions needed to gradually fade an unwanted tattoo. And sometimes, depending on the exact ink colour, the tattoo might not even go completely, but leave a shadow behind for good.
What is laser treatment anyway? ‘Laser’ is an acronym for ‘light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation’. So lasers are sources of high intensity light with a single wavelength, i.e. monochromatic. The aim of laser treatment is to destroy a target structure (e.g. pigment) with heat, while ideally not harming any surrounding tissue, as thermal damage of surrounding tissue might result in scaring. That means that different types of lasers have to be used to treat different problems – there unfortunately isn’t one for all. If you want to treat a vascular birth mark such as a port wine stain for example, you need a laser wavelength, which is predominantly absorbed by haemoglobin in our blood vessels, while treating unwanted hair requires a laser wavelength, which is absorbed by the pigment in the hair. For tattoo removal on the other hand, the appropriate laser light will target the ink pigment used. The altered ink pigment is then removed from the skin by a certain type of scavenging cells called macrophages. The exact choice of laser for tattoo removal depends on the colour, depth and chemical nature of the tattoo ink. Yellow, orange and green ink colours are generally the most tricky to remove. And as with all laser treatments, textural skin changes and scars may occur if you are unlucky.
Now, how about this – why don’t you get temporary tattoo (say for a party or so), which lasts a few days to avoid regrets later? I have recently seen a temporary tattoo kit containing a variety of easy to apply tats in Boots and thought to myself that more people should use these instead of going straight for the ‘real stuff’. And the best thing about these zero commitment tattoos? Removal requires no lasers!