If body art regrets ring true for you, here’s what to do…

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If you’re having doubts about the Chinese symbol you don’t understand that’s staring up at you from your foot, you’re not the only one; according to a survey conducted last year by the British Association of Dermatologists, a third of us come to regret our tattoos. Given that research by YouGov undertaken in 2015 suggests that 19% of British adults have at least one tattoo, that leaves a fair few of us who will be mulling over tattoo removal at one point or another. Unfortunately, as we’re all aware, purging permanent ink can prove a lot more problematic that having it tattooed on in the first place, both in terms of pain and expense, but where there’s a will there’s a way, and technology is fast developing to make tattoo removal less of an ordeal. Here’s a guide to getting it done the good way…

First thing’s first, you need to choose your removal method and practitioner. As Hayley Hutchings, sales and marketing director of  Lynton Lasers , explains, there’s a few options on offer, but one trumps the others in terms of safety, efficacy and results:

“There are three ways to remove unwanted tattoos; laser, chemicals or excision. The initial point to dwell on is that if you’re thinking about getting a tattoo removed, you should consider that it will be permanent so you need to be certain that it is the right decision to remove the artwork.”

“If you are set on getting rid of yours, it’s then worth evaluating each method. Technically chemical and surgical removal can be the quickest ways forward if you have a very small tattoo, but the stakes are higher in both cases. In terms of chemical removal (cheapest option), acid is injected into the skin or applied in the form of a cream to break down colour pigments, but the downside is that the liquid injected can also damage skin surrounding your tattoo, and removal isn’t guaranteed. As for excision (roughly the same cost as laser, between £350-£1000+), this involves the surgical removal of a tattoo, either all at once or in stages, with skin being stitched back after treatment. The main issue here is scarring, and again the tattoo needs to be very small. I’d say that excision is only the best option if a tattoo needs to be removed very urgently, but excision does remove tattoos completely.”

“Laser removal tends to be the most safe and successful removal method, and after a course of treatment a tattoo can be completely erased without any damage to the skin. All laser tattoo removal devices should have the medical CE mark which is the stamp of authority to prove the machine is safe and effective. It’s also important to know that the operator has had adequate training in laser tattoo removal. If you don’t receive an in-depth consultation and patch test on your first visit, steer clear.”

Emily Ross, director of WhatClinic.com , echoes Hayley’s words of caution:

“As with all elective treatments, make very sure that your practitioner is qualified and experienced. Read reviews and seek out other patients for independent feedback when making up your mind.”

In addition, before you even contemplate trying to go DIY on this kind of thing, the Lynton Lasers team has some stern words of warning:

“DIY tattoo removal kits are doing the rounds, but most of them contain a banned corrosive chemical that burns straight through the skin, leaving consumers in considerable pain.”

Clearly, going to the pros is your only valid option, and given that laser removal is deemed the best plan of action for most people, embarking on a course of sessions to zap your tattoo could be be the most favourable option, although still, it’s not for everyone. The colour and chemical makeup of the ink, the ‘depth’ of your tattoo, skin type and immune system can all affect how thoroughly a tattoo can be removed using laser, while those with black or very dark skin tones may not be eligible for laser treatment at all.

If, however, it sounds like the way forward for you, you’ll be happy to know that laser technology is coming on in leaps and bounds, as Jonathan Exley, managing director of Lynton Lasers, highlights:

“Lasers are great as they have the unique ability to discreetly select individual tattoo pigment and shatter it into minute fragments that enables the body’s own immune system to remove the tattoo. The most impressive factor is that the light from the laser can travel through the skin tissue without causing damage or harm. In particular, the Q-Plus C Laser (supplied by Lynton) is the world’s most powerful, tri-wavelength tattoo removal laser, that delivers three laser wavelengths to effectively treat all tattoo colours. The unique and unprecedented laser technology combines Q-switched Nd:YAG and Ruby lasers to ensure a quick, comfortable treatment.”

The fact that the Q-Plus C Laser tackles even tough to shift green ink makes it an option well worth considering, and while opting for flashier new laser treatments might seemingly break the bank in terms of cost per treatment, Wayne Joyce, co-founder of London based tattoo removal specialist  Reset Room , encourages fully analysing your course from start to finish:

“The introduction of advanced laser technology has meant that the treatments are now more expensive, but they involve fewer sessions and produce faster results than those given by older machines.”

That being said, Wayne reminds us that patience is a virtue:

“Although the average customer won't be wanting to remove ‘footballer’ levels of ink, most people don’t realise that removing tattoos properly can take months or even years, because laser sessions should be around eight weeks apart to get the best results and minimise the risk of scarring and other side effects.”

If you’re getting antsy, deep breaths and immune boosting activities might help, after all, it’s your body that’s working to get all that ink out of your system, via the bloodstream, kidneys and eventually into your sweat or urine. It can be a long old road, but increasingly the results are impressive. If it helps Whatclinic.com estimate that it would take David Beckham eight years to wipe his slate clean, so to speak, at a cost of roughly £18,300 after putting in 41 hours under the laser.

The fact that the average laser removal session lasts for about 45 minutes sounds a lot more bearable in comparison, and the pain can be somewhat dulled by cooling the skin beforehand or applying a suitable numbing cream. Redness, swelling and blistering and are all fairly common post treatment, but skin should calm down after a few days, although for some unlucky patients they’ve been known to linger for weeks. Keeping the area clean and bandaged during this time should minimise the risk of infection or further aggravation. As with  laser hair removal , keeping the affected area away from the sun is vital to prevent hyperpigmentation , and also, if we’re honest, sunburn is not something you’ll want to add to the mix when you’re undergoing the tattoo removal process.

Whatever the reason behind your quest for tattoo removal, laser, chemical or surgical removal aren’t options to take lightly, requiring commitment, investment and, at times, a sky high pain threshold, but fading the marks of a now ill-suited tattoo can in turn be healing. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…

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