Tattoos have been around in some form for thousands of years and millions of us choose to get our own inkings.

Whilst these often take the shape of meaningful words or symbols, not all tattoos come to be a beloved part of your body. In fact, ill-judged tattoos can be a source of embarrassment and even hold you back in your career.

Thankfully, tattoo removal can help you out and we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to tattoo removal to give you all the information you need to know.

What are the options?

There are a number of options available for tattoo removal, three of which are the most popular methods.

Laser removal, which we offer here at Jeunesse, is the most common form of removal and is also believed to be the most effective. Alternatively, tattoo removal creams are often used as an alternative, although these are less effective. Finally, another method is surgical removal. However, this is a more extreme measure and is the least popular of the three.

How does surgical removal work?

This method involves surgically cutting out small sections of the tattoo under a local anaesthetic. The surgeon will begin with small extractions of the skin, done over a number of sessions until the entire tattoo has been cut out. For larger tattoos, a skin graft may be needed and the process will take much longer. Once the tattoo has been removed, the surgeon will stitch together the remaining skin.

Alternatively, another surgical procedure is dermabrasion, where a local anaesthetic is applied to the area and the skin is essentially sanded down to remove the tattoo.

Obviously, these are more extreme methods of tattoo removal and often result in scarring, as well as a longer recovery period and pain after the surgery.

How does cream removal work?

Tattoo removal creams actually work to fade the tattoo, rather than fully removing it. They essentially work by bleaching the skin, made up of a bleach-like substance called  Trichloroacetic acid. The chemicals in the creams don’t completely pierce the layer of skin where the tattoo is located, but some of the acid manages to leak through which causes the ink to fade.

Obviously, one of the main drawbacks to this method is that the tattoo is never fully removed and instead only fades. Plus, if you use it too often or too much, it can cause skin irritation.

How does laser removal work?

Laser tattoo removal is the most common and most effective form of removal. It works by breaking down the ink in the lower level of skin where the tattoo is located, by sending short bursts of controlled light directly into the ink. This causes the ink molecules to shatter and the remains are gradually and naturally absorbed into your body without causing any damage to the surrounding skin. Different lasers will be used dependant on the colours involved in your tattoo, as different types of lasers are able to target different colours.

This method offers the most effective treatment and the shortest recovery period. However, it does cause some scabs and blisters immediately after the procedure, but this is perfectly normal and will subside between treatments.

What should I look for in a specialist?

If you choose laser or surgical procedures, it’s essential to make sure that your specialist is fully approved and legitimate.

It’s key to ask your specialist about the training they’ve undertaken, the maintenance of the machine if using a laser, and ensure you’re given the correct aftercare information.

It’s also important to thoroughly inspect the room for high standards of hygiene, that the specialist is approved by a professional body, and that the laser used is FDA approved.

In general, always choose a specialist with plenty of years of experience and the utmost professional equipment, which we offer here at Jeunesse.

This post by the UK Health Centre has some more tips for finding the right clinic.

How many treatments will I need?

The number of treatments needed will depend on the size, colour, and age of the tattoo. With a small tattoo, the laser or surgical procedure will take much less time and therefore fewer treatments compared to a large tattoo.

However, if your tattoo is very colourful you will require more treatments, as certain colours such as light blue, yellow and red are harder to remove. Additionally, an older tattoo will be easier to remove as the ink will have naturally faded over time, whilst the ink in a newer tattoo won’t have broken down as much.

In general, a small, black tattoo could be removed in around four to five sessions, whilst a larger, more colourful, or newer inking could take around 10 or more.

Does it hurt?

The amount of pain involved will depend on the tattoo removal method chosen and your own personal pain threshold.

Removal creams have little to no pain involved, unless used too often or too much, which can cause painful irritation. Surgical procedures have the most pain involved and can cause discomfort even when done under an anaesthetic. Laser surgery is very dependant on your own pain threshold; some view it as a largely painless procedure, whilst others find it quite painful. However, your specialist can offer a numbing cream to minimise the discomfort.

In order to minimise pain after any procedures, it’s important to follow aftercare advice, including using SPF when out in the sun, keeping the area clean to prevent infection, and avoiding any perfumed products for the first 48 hours.