Lasers are helping many people safely remove tattoos they've grown to regret.
Having a tattoo used to be a permanent commitment, a decision that would follow you for the rest of your life. Removing one was often next to impossible, or at least something reserved for those who could afford costly cosmetic surgery. But today removing an unwanted brand has become more attainable than ever.
Photo by Robin May
Travis Dupre of Lafayette is turning to the experts at Coccolare Spa to have a tattoo on his left wrist removed before his August wedding.
Numerous cosmetic surgery clinics now dot the Lafayette area, and many of them offer their own laser tattoo removal services.
But one thing to keep in mind when considering laser tattoo removal is that it is itself a major commitment that can usually take up to a full year before completely eradicating a tattoo.
"What I tell patients is that it's a little like reading a book. If you start with a very thick book, as you laser it, you may not see much progress because most of the ink is still there," says Dr. Kevin Duplechain, a cosmetic reconstructive surgeon who heads his own private practice in Lafayette. "It's not until you've had several treatments that you really begin to see something."
According to Duplechain, the removal process is dependent upon the makeup of the ink being removed. Many homemade tattoos can be removed in as little as a single treatment, but the more professional tattoos - usually composed of aromatic polymers - can take up to a dozen or more separate treatments before being fully removed.
"What it does is it fires a laser at about a millionth of a second," explains Duplechain. "And the target for the laser, depending on the colors, is going to be the ink. The laser explodes the ink very rapidly, and then your body carries it away and then the skin heals a little bit and you come back and you re-treat the tattoo."
Another factor is the potential toll on your skin tattoo removal in any given piece of its real estate can have, especially scarring. But laser removal has the lowest rate of developing scar tissue on the skin compared to chemical peels that literally strip away the inner and outer layers of the skin.
"If someone gets aggressive, then they're going to end up killing the skin and getting a scar," warns Duplechain. "The laser is neat because it works through what is called selective photothermolysis. What that means is that the laser is selective and it doesn't damage the skin - it's only attracted to the color."
It's important to do your research when getting a tattoo, and the same weight of thought should be given to having one removed.
Experts say study your options.
Many young adults entering the workforce and attempting to start families are deciding to remove highly visible tattoos they likely got back in high school.
"A large percentage of patients that come in are people that got tattoos when they were younger and have now grown into either relationships or situations or employment where they no longer feel that the tattoo is appropriate," says Duplechain.
Travis Dupre falls into that percentage. When he was younger, Dupre decided to have a very noticeable tattoo placed onto his left wrist, which he has grown to regret over the past few years.
"It's supposed to be a cross that just came out bad from the jump," admits Dupre. "I don't event know why I got it actually. I was just young and crazy and it was just one of those crazy things you do."
Now engaged, Dupre has decided to enlist the tattoo removal services at Coccolare Spa to have the stain on his skin removed once and for all before his wedding on Aug. 2. And while there are several other less time-consuming routes to removing a tattoo, such as the over-the-counter topical ointments like Wrecking Balm, laser removal is the most effective.
For Dupre, fully ridding his skin of the disfigured cross is worth the time and effort that accompanies laser removal.
"I figured I'd try out the procedure just to get rid of it because I really don't like it," Dupre says of choosing a laser removal procedure over chemical peels and surgery. "I was going to try the Wrecking Balm stuff, but it doesn't work out too well; it really just fades the tattoo out more and makes it look uglier."
For more information about the tattoo removal services offered by Coccolare Spa, go to www.coccolarespa.com; find more on Duplechain's services at www.drduplechain.com.