So I recently came across this article about laser tattoo removal. I never knew much about it, just had heard that it was expensive and painful and relatively ineffective. I also for some reason had it in my head that it caused fairly severe scarring, that may have been worse than the original tattoo itself. In short, I thought it wasn't a viable option with all things considered. The article gives an overview of how tattoos are applied and how the removal process works.
Tattoos, as we all know, are generally regarded as permanent. Tattoo ink consists of a pigment that is suspended in a carrier. The pigments are typically a metal salt (such as Iron Oxide (rust) that is used in red inks), but can also be made of plastics or vegetable dyes. Common carrier solutions include water and ethanol. The pigments are applied by rapidly piercing the skin with a needle and depositing the pigment particles into the epidermis. As these microscopic puncture wounds heal, the ink is left behind in the epidermis. Over time, the pigments fade with sun exposure as well as natural cell replacement. Some colors even fade completely out of sight, but others require medical treatment to get rid of.
Laser tattoo removal is a much higher tech process than I thought. I didn’t really know what it was, just assumed it more or less burned the skin to replace the tattooed area with scar tissue. While it does do a little damage to the skin, it is almost never permanent and the process is highly effective. The laser works by penetrating the skin and breaking up the pigment particles until they can be carried away and disposed of by the immune system. The laser breaks up the ink in two ways, both involving heat. One way is by using the laser light to create sound waves. The light, when absorbed by skin, radiates in the form of sound waves. The sonic pulses can break up the particles of pigment. The second way laser tattoo removal works is by hitting the particles directly with wavelengths they absorb. The absorption creates enough heat to break apart the pigment. It is also for this reason that different lasers must be used to remove different colors of tattoos. For example, a red tattoo cannot be removed with a Ruby laser that emits red light, because red pigments reflect red light, making the absorption process ineffective. Certain colors are more difficult to remove than others, which should be a consideration in choosing a tattoo.
I think advancements in laser tattoo removal have had a positive impact on society as a whole. There has always been a stigma associated with tattoos as a whole. People tend to view tattoos negatively and associate lower class miscreants with them. Although the laser removal process doesn’t do a whole lot to dispel that stigma, it does help people make the decision to get a tattoo. Knowing it isn’t as permanent as once thought eases somebody’s conscience before placing a tattoo on their body. It frees them up to try it out, knowing there is an option to get rid of it later on. This freedom is a good thing, as it is always nice to have a reset button.
So, has anyone here had any tattoos removed? Anyone considering it? I'd like to hear anyone's stories or opinions on it.