Removing Your Ink

Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - 9:50am

Experts say that in tattoo removal, you get what you pay for.

T.J. Mohler is covered with tattoos, from behind the ears to the tops of his feet.

The 26-year-old says he now regrets getting some of those images permanently inked on his body.

"It was stuff that I got earlier at a younger age," he says. "It was more scary imagery if you will and now that I'm getting older, I realize that I don't want to wake up when I'm in my 40s and look at skulls and demons."

He's undergoing laser removal, a slow process that breaks down the tattoo pigment.

It takes multiple treatments and can be painful.

"The closest thing I can compare it to is probably a rubber band snap, but in rapid succession," he says.

While laser removal can be tedious, both doctors and tattoo artists agree it's the best way to remove tattoos.

Karl Hedgepath is the owner of Jinx Proof Tattoo, where he not only put them on clients, he also takes them off.

He says the number of laser treatments depends on the colors of the tattoo.

"A black tattoo that's say, 10 years old and done professionally can take six, seven, or eight treatments. Colors like blue, green are difficult to remove but not impossible. Colors like brown and pink can be impossible to remove, but it's a case by case basis," he explains.

The difficulty of laser removal has sparked the sales of topical creams and ointments that claim to make tattoos vanish, but dermatologist Dr. Miral Skelsey says these products can be dangerous.

"If they're not used properly you can get a burn," she says. "There's scarring that's a potential and you also can get a pigment change, too light or too dark."

Skelsey says some of these products are made with acids used in chemical peels, others use bleach and some are abrasive, so they act like sand paper on the skin.

T.J. Mohler says he's seen people who had adverse reactions from some of these products.

That's why he's sticking to laser removal for his tattoos.

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