50: percentage of Canadians with tattoos who regret the decision.
It’s not that Marc Smith doesn’t like his tattoos anymore, but the young actor feels the letters inked on his knuckles limit what he can do with his career.
“If I want to pursue my career and move on with my future, I know [tattoo removal is] the best option for me because I don’t want to be [typecast] or pigeonholed into a certain look,” he said.
According to a poll conducted by Ipsos Reid, two in ten Canadians have at least one tattoo, and what’s more is half of them regret it.
Before the advent of lasers, tattoo removal meant either cutting out the skin or rubbing salt on it until it started bleeding.
Nowadays, the gold standard is a technology called Q-switched ruby laser, according to Dr. Lisa Kellett, a dermatologist at DLK on Avenue. Which is what was used on Smith’s first tattoo removal procedure. The laser also works well on birth marks and sunspots.
“It’s very effective and it removes the tattoo with a minimum of discomfort,” she said. “It’s a great treatment because the skin at the end is normal colour and texture.”
With the Q-switched ruby laser, dermatologists apply local anaesthetic before zapping the tattoo with 694 nanometres of light laser, which hits the pigment and blasts it into little pieces. The body then gets rid of the pigment through the bloodstreams within a few weeks.
Depending on the size and the type of pigment, a patient may need three to eight procedures spread out over a period of six weeks. The procedure, which lasts anywhere between 20 to 40 minutes, isn’t painful if the patient is properly anesthetized, Dr. Kellett said.
“You get some whitening initially of the tattoo then it turns to red and you have some scabbing for about a week, so it looks a lot like when you go the tattoo.”
Some tattoo colours are easier to remove than others. The Q-switched ruby laser picks up black a lot faster and more effectively than red, orange, blue or mixed pigments.
The physical location of a tattoo could also determine the ease of removing it. If the tattoo is in the lower legs, it’s going to be more difficult to eradicate. The general rule is: the larger it is, the more difficult. Even after several treatments, some tattoos don’t completely disappear.
In other cases, especially with patients with a darker skin tone, a ghost of the tattoo may linger after the pigment is completely removed.
Dermatologists advise their patients to put antibiotic creams on the tattoo after each session to reduce the risk of getting an infection.
Patients pay about $400 per session to remove a tattoo about a size of a hand. Even if they only need the minimum of three sessions, it adds up to a total of $1,200, which could mean a higher price tag to remove a tattoo than to get one.
For many people, it may well be a fair price to pay in order to move on with their lives.
“There are a lot of psychological aspects sometimes that are caught in the tattoo,” Dr. Kellett said. “So it’s almost like physically removing some of the scars people have had.”
—From Global Toronto News, February 10, 2012.