Color, Size And Smoking All Affect Tattoo Removal

By Amir Khan on September 19, 2012 11:20 AM EDT

Tattoo
People who regret their tattoos often go to get them removed with a laser, but according to a new study, published in the journal the Archives of Dermatology, certain tattoos are harder to remove than others (Photo: Creative Commons)

People who regret their tattoos often go to get them removed with a laser, but according to a new study, published in the journal the Archives of Dermatology, certain tattoos are harder to remove than others. Researchers found that not only does the color and size of a tattoo affect how difficult it is to remove, smoking does as well.  

Approximately half of all young people who get a tattoo eventually try and get it removed, according to the study. The most common technique is the Q-switched laser (QSL), which uses a laser to break up the ink. The ink is eventually removed from the body by the immune system.

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Researchers looked at 352 people who were getting their tattoos removed, and found that less than half had them successfully removed after 10 sessions, and three-quarters were successful after 15 sessions. In addition, people who smoked had to undergo more sessions before the tattoo removal was complete, researchers said.

Tattoos that were black or red were more easily removed than those that were colorful -- especially those that contained blue or yellow ink.

"[People with colorful tattoos] should be aware that removal of this tattoo may be more difficult and may not be satisfactory," Luigi Naldi, study author, told Reuters.

Tattoo removal is expensive, approximately $200 per session, as isn't covered by insurance. The cost, coupled with the length of time, deters many from undergoing the process, David Goldberg, a dermatologist who wasn't involved in the study, told Reuters.

"The number of people getting tattoos continues to increase... which means, when you look at people 10 to 20 years after that, the number of people seeking removal of that tattoo is also higher," he said. "It takes about a half hour to get a tattoo, but it can take years to get it removed."

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