Tattoo regret is a common emotion for an uncommonly wide group of people. Sailors, fraternity initiates, bachelorette party girls, and celebrities are notorious for inking their bodies, then wishing they hadn’t.
In 2013, the McCrindle business research organisation found that
- 34% of Australians with tattoos say that they regret, to some extent, having gotten them.
- 14% who have a tattoo have looked into having their tattoo removed.
The Australian trend is mirrored around the world. According to a 2013 statistical report issued by the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), tattoo removal procedures are up by more than 10%:
- 45,224 tattoo removal procedures were performed in the U.S. in 2013
- 40,801 procedures in 2011
More than half of these procedures were performed on Millennials, ages 19 to 34.
Tattoo remorse seems to hit more women than men. They accounted for 32,888 (72.7 percent) of procedures. Still men are certainly not immune, as can be seen in the case of film star Johnny Depp.
How Johnny Depp Made Winona Ryder into a Wino
Johnny Depp has often referred to his tattooed body as a journal of his life’s journey. It therefore came as no surprise when he chose to have Winona Forever tattooed on his bicep to express his love for Winona Ryder, his then-fiancée and Edward Scissorhands co-star:
“Forever” didn’t last as long as the tattoo. Depp’s relationship crashed and burned in 2011. He endured relentless teasing in the press for the permanent declaration inked onto his arm, but surprisingly didn’t want to remove the tattoo. He told GQ magazine:
“To have it removed or erase it, is to try and say it never happened. If I alter it in some way…it would still be honest.” – Johnny Depp
His solution was to take lemons and make lemonade, or more accurately, turn Winona into Wino:
Seeing the (Laser) Light for Tattoo Removal
For people whose tattoos may not be as amenable to alteration as Depp’s, Costhetics recommends laser tattoo removal. Advancements in laser technology, such as the Q-switched Ruby and PicoSure lasers, make it possible to achieve significant fading or complete removal of an undesirable tattoo. What’s more, lasers achieve these results without scarring in over 95% of cases.
No bloodshed, either. 20th Century tattoo removal involved actually removing layers of skin. Today’s tattoo removal targets just the ink, and with laser-like precision, leaving surrounding healthy skin unaffected by the treatment.
How Laser Tattoo Removal Works
Laser treatment for tattoo removal consists of placing a handpiece against the surface of the skin and activating the laser light. This specific light spectrum is selectively absorbed by the ink particles of a tattoo. The laser light shatters them into smaller particles, which can then be collected by immune cells and removed harmlessly by the lymphatic system.
Laser tattoo removal causes about as much discomfort as acquiring a tattoo does. A topical anaesthetic is used to minimise pain, while the laser device provides a continuous flow of cooling air to further minimise discomfort. A pre-treatment analgesic may be recommended for patients who have a low tolerance for pain.
In most cases, tattoos can be faded to the point of invisibility. The tattoo does not disappear immediately after treatment, however, but rather over weeks or even months. One of the major challenges for people with tattoo regret is waiting for the laser removal technique to do its job.
The skill level of the artist that inked the tattoo can have an impact on success. Quality tattoos heal well, while badly inked tattoos heal more slowly and can result in scarring. Scar tissue, even if it is not visible on the surface makes it harder to remove a tattoo than regular skin.
Top 4 Factors that Impact Laser Tattoo Removal Success
The main factors that affect an aesthetic professional’s ability to fade a tattoo are:
- Colour(s) in the tattoo – Blue and green are the most difficult to remove; black and red are the easiest.
- Skin tone – Darker skin tones are more difficult for the laser to penetrate.
- Ink type – Tattoo ink is not standardised and may have components that make removal difficult.
- Location – Areas of the body with a large blood and lymph node count (face and neck, for example) are the easiest to work on. The lower down the body you go, the more difficult removal can be.
Other factors that have an impact include:
- Size of the tattoo
- Age of the tattoo
- Depth of ink penetration
- Immune system health
Un-Colour Me Happy
If you’ve begun to re-think your ink or have made the decision to remove your tattoo, be sure to consult an experienced aesthetic professional with the training, experience, and skill needed to treat your skin with the care it deserves.