With as many as 22 percent of U.S. college studenst having at least one tattoo, half of those try to have the tattoo removed later.
Of 352 people getting a tattoo removed with the Q-switched tattoo removal laser, under half of those were successfully removed after 10 sessions, and still only 75 percent after 15 sessions, according to the study led by Luigi Naldi, from Centro Studi GISED in Bergamo, Italy.
The study is the first to research tattoo removal and it’s success rate. Several factors played into the research about tattoo removal such as: tattoo size and location of the body—involved, according to the researchers.
The standard procedure for removing tattoos is currently done with a laser called a Q-switched laser, or QSL, which is applied over a number of sessions. But the technique can lose its effectiveness depending on certain variables, according to the study, published online on Monday in the American Medical Association’s Archives of Dermatology.
The light from the tattoo removal laser, QSL targets the pigments in the tattoo ink and helps the ink break down. Over time, the ink is removed through the body’s lymphatic system. Each tattoo removal treatment costs about $200 and isn’t covered by insurance.
Tattoo removal is less likely to be a success if the person is a smoker, the design contains colors such as blue or yellow and is larger than 12 inches.
Black and red ink tattoos are the most easily removed. All-black tattoos had a 58 percent successful-removal rate, while tattoos with black and red pigments had a 51 percent success rate after 10 sessions. Other colors such as green, yellow or blue reduced the success rate for effective removal of the tattoo by as much as 80 percent, the study found. Other factors that reduced the procedure’s success included a design located on the feet or legs.
Lead researcher Luigi Naldi, from Centro Studi GISED in Bergamo, Italy said that is because of the laser’s reaction with the individual pigments, yellow and blue inks may change color but not disappear with treatment. He said, “People with those colorful tattoos should be aware that removal of this tattoo may be more difficult and may not be satisfactory.”
David Goldberg, a dermatologist who wasn’t involved in the tattoo removal study told Reuters that the number of sessions needed to remove a tattoo tends to discourage people. “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,” said Goldberg, head of laser research in the dermatology department at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
For people considering a tattoo they should make the decision very seriously. “It takes about a half hour to get a tattoo, but it can take years to get it removed,” Goldberg said.
Color, Size and Smoking Affect Tattoo Removal
Laser Tattoo Removal
This is a 10+ year old tattoo on the arm, which can be removed easily after about 4-6 sessions. Please note that the tattoo sits on top of a cluster of moles which is why you see some brown spots beneath. New tattoos, professional tattoos, and tattoos with a lot of pigment or different colors typically require several more (average can be anywhere between 8 and 20 sessions, depending on depth location and and how much ink).