The good news is that the latest laser technology means tattoos can be removed relatively painlessly with minimal fuss and no scarring for as little as 79 per treatment.
The new sk:n clinic which opened to the public in Leicester on 12 October specialises in tattoo removal and employs highly qualified nurses and laser technology experts, led by medical director, Dr Sean Lanigan, a consultant dermatologist, who has been using lasers in both private practice and the NHS for over 20 years.
Tattoo removal on the NHS is increasingly difficult to access as many primary care trusts now ration the procedure to cases where only the most severe psychological distress can be proven.
With advances in technology, most tattoos can now be removed using the correct laser. The most up-to-date laser tattoo removal treatments use laser energy to break up particles of ink into tiny fragments. These are then taken away by the scavenger cells in the skin causing the tattoo to fade and eventually disappear – without any scarring in the vast majority of cases.
Scarring is highly unusual because lasers only come into contact with the skin for billionths of a second so there is not enough time for significant build-up of heat in the skin.
Indian ink, single-colour tattoos (usually done by amateurs) are the easiest to remove and may respond to as few as two laser treatments, although normally it requires between 6 and 8 treatment sessions to disappear..
Multi-coloured tattoos (the type usually performed by professional tattoo artists) can be more difficult to remove. Green, yellow and purple pigments may prove especially stubborn to eliminate and may need up to 20 sessions to fade away completely even with the latest in technology. With perseverance however, the end result is still highly impressive.
The good news is that laser treatment is relatively painless in most cases with patients experiencing only a prickling sensation rather than pain. However, if this becomes too uncomfortable a local anaesthetic cream can be applied or an injection can be given.
Complications following treatment include a temporary increase in skin pigment but this usually resolves within 3 to 4 months before it disappears altogether. Whitening of the skin can also occur, although in most cases this is temporary and only lasts a few days.
After surgery the area of skin treated may appear red and inflamed, although discomfort is usually minimal and can be controlled with an ice pack, Aloe Vera gel or painkillers. Infection is rare because the surface of the skin is not usually broken. Due to increased sensitivity, application of an SPF30 sun protection cream is recommended to protect the treated area against sun damage.
In the most extreme cases tattoos that cannnot be removed using lasers, can be excised by one of sk:n’s skilled surgeons, a minor surgical procedure, which leaves minimal scarring.