Here’s Everything You Need To Know
In the past decade, tattoos have become more popular than ever before. It seems like you can’t walk down a city street without seeing a tattoo parlor or two. Tattoos used to be associated with countercultures such as gangs, bikers, ex-convicts, and drug addicts, but today they’re practically a rite of passage into adulthood, a thing to look forward to upon turning 18.
The Pew Research Center reports that 38% of 18 to 29-year-olds have at least 1 tattoo. Of those tattoos, at least 28% are visible. With the growing acceptance of self-expression in all its forms, in addition to relaxing corporate rules, tattoos are increasingly common and no longer seen as a threat to future employment opportunities. Even the United States military recently relaxed its tattoo policy in an effort to increase the number of eligible recruits.
It’s safe to say, tattoos are here to stay. Literally.
So, where did tattoos come from? Why are they so popular? And – inevitably – what can you do if you no longer love your ink art?
What’s the History of Tattoos?
According to Tattoo Authority, “the oldest evidence of human tattoos is believed to be from between 3370 BC and 3100 BC,” with Ötzi the Iceman.
Ötzi the Iceman lived between 3400 and 3100 BCE, and his name refers to his accidental discovery by German hikers in the Ötztal Valley Alps in 1991. Ötzi is older than the Egyptian pyramids, Stonehenge in Scotland, and Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean. His body was miraculously preserved in ice after he was murdered by an arrow so many thousands of years ago.
Upon forensic examination of his body, archeologists made a remarkable discovery: Ötzi was covered in tattoos – 61 of them, to be exact. According to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, the tattoos were not made with needles. Rather, they were “fine incisions into which pulverized charcoal was rubbed.”
It’s unknown if Ötzi’s early preference for tattoo body art was driven by beauty or therapeutic purposes. Interestingly, the majority of Ötzi’s tattoos were located along acupuncture lines that are still used today.
Regardless of the ancient man’s reasoning, one thing is clear: tattoos have been around for a long, long, long time, and they can last through the millenniums.
How Do Tattoos Work?
Thankfully, the way we make tattoos has changed since Ötzi walked the earth. To create a modern-day tattoo, a tattoo artist pierces the skin – both the epidermis and dermis layer – with a tiny needle that has been dipped in ink.
According to Popular Science, as soon as tattoo ink is injected into the dermal layer of skin, the “body responds with white blood cells which attempt to absorb the foreign particles and dispose of them in the blood stream.” However, tattoo pigments are too large to be fully removed, so the majority remain.
Although tattoos are permanent, they do change over the years, the lines becoming thinner, discolored, or distorted. This is because the immune system sees ink as a foreign substance, much like bacteria or dirt, and slowly attacks it over time, removing miniscule particles of ink through the body’s natural metabolism. Other factors, such as weight gain and loss, and the eventual shifting of skin due to natural aging, can also change a tattoo’s appearance.
Why Do People Get Tattoos Today?
Since tattoos are no longer seen as taboo by the younger, more open-minded generation, the population of tattooed people continues to rise.
Although the motive for getting a tattoo is typically personal, there are some sweeping trends. According to Authority Tattoo, tattoo artists have reported the seven most common reasons that people typically site when going under the needle:
- Because of their culture
- To get something personal or meaningful
- Because they like the look of a tattoo
- To express individuality
- To rebel against expectations
- To cover imperfections
- Because they are addicted to the pain or the process
Whatever the initial reasoning, one fact remains: people change. Something that used to have significance might no longer hold meaning. Of the population of tattooed people, approximately 25% end up regretting their choice to get permanently inked.
Why Do People Regret Their Tattoos?
According to a recent survey from Advanced Dermatology, 75% of people who regret their tattoos didn’t plan for the tattoo beyond a few weeks. A shocking 28% of those regretful people didn’t even plan more than a few hours ahead! In other words, tattoo regret is often caused by an impulse, in-the-moment decision that has very permanent results.
In the same survey, 600 people with tattoo regret revealed specific reasons why they no longer want their once-loved ink:
- Don’t like how it looks – 40%
- Don’t relate to its significance anymore – 31%
- I’m just over it – 19%
- It has a negative impact on me professionally – 5%
- It has a negative impact on me socially – 5%
Now that we understand the “why” behind tattoo regret, let’s explore options for removal.
How Can You Get Rid of a Tattoo?
There are a number of “home remedies” for tattoo removal, but they do not work and can even be dangerous – think burns, rashes, scars, and worse. Tattoos are meant to be permanent, so it takes more than a simple cream or so-called miracle ointment to get rid of one for good.
According to the FDA, the most safe and effective way to remove tattoos is through laser surgery, performed by a dermatologist or doctor who specializes in tattoo removal. Other options include dermabrasion (or extreme exfoliation of the skin) and excision, which involves literally cutting away the area of tattooed skin. Excision might work on small body parts, such as a finger, but it’s not possible on larger surface areas, such as a bicep or calf.
That said, the most popular tattoo removal method – by far – is laser surgery.
Although laser surgery is effective, there are a number of factors that will affect the removal process, including tattoo color, location, age, and a person’s lifestyle:
- Black tattoos are easiest to remove since they absorb all laser wavelengths, but other ink colors such as red, orange, yellow, and white might take longer.
- Tattoos on the hands and feet usually take longer to remove because extremities are located far away from the heart and receive reduced blood flow.
- Older tattoos are typically easier to remove since the body’s white blood cells have already been working to attack and remove the tattoo’s ink particles.
- Tattoo removal depends on the immune system, so a person’s overall health will affect treatment results. Smoking can also slow down the removal process.
How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?
As previously stated, tattoo ink particles are too large for the body’s own immune system to naturally metabolize, which is why tattoos are permanent. Laser tattoo removal works by applying specific laser wavelengths to tattoo ink particles, which effectively blasts them apart, making them smaller and easier for the body to absorb and remove.
Since one single laser session will not blast the ink particles small enough to be fully absorbed, multiple treatments are necessarily to remove the tattoo entirely. People also need to wait at least 4-6 weeks between each treatment, so the body can fully heal and metabolize the blasted ink particles.
Laser tattoo removal technology has come a long way in recent years, and new developments are still being discovered. Studies on laser technology have determined that the overall success of tattoo removal depends on the laser wavelength, pulse width, and duration. Two of the newest developments on the market are the Enlighten and PicoSure systems.
Why are the Enlighten and PicoSure Tattoo Removal Systems Superior?
Traditional Q-Switched lasers use heat energy to melt away tattoos, which is painful and works most effectively on black ink. Enlighten and PicoSure use a blend of high-pressure nanosecond and picosecond pulses, which are one-billionth and one-trillionth of a second, respectively. These super short, high-pressure pulses have been shown to shatter tattoo ink particles in fewer treatment sessions than traditional Q-Switched lasers. In fact, some people report up to a 75% removal after just one treatment.
The Enlighten system is an industry-leading platform for tattoo removal, and it has the ability to use both nanosecond and picosecond high-pressure pulse durations to effectively address unwanted pigment and ink. PicoSure uses a blend of picosecond wavelengths to target the entire spectrum of tattoo pigment colors. Although Q-Switched lasers have been the industry gold standard for many years, recent studies have shown that high-pressure nanosecond and picosecond pulses are less likely to damage skin tissue since they don’t rely on thermal heat.
High-pressure pulse technology – both via Enlighten and PicoSure – is an excellent option for people looking to remove tattoos, and it’s also great for stubborn tattoos that have not responded to traditional Q-Switched laser treatments. Depending on tattoo size, color, location, age, and a person’s budget, a quality specialist should be able to offer both the Enlighten and PicoSure methods of tattoo removal.
Conclusion: If you want to remove a tattoo, laser technology is the way to go.
Although tattoos have been around since 3400 BCE, their popularity has never been as prevalent as it is today. However, that doesn’t mean tattoo regret doesn’t exist for millions of people worldwide. Nobody should have to live with a physical reminder of past decisions. Thankfully, with modern nanosecond and picosecond high-pressure laser technology, tattoo regret is totally optional. Whereas it used to take between 10-15+ Q-Switched laser treatments to get rid of a tattoo, it now takes only between 3-8 sessions with Enlighten and PicoSure.
Grandview Aesthetics in Columbus, Ohio offers Enlighten, and JIVA MedSpa in Dayton, Ohio offers PicoSure. Together, both practices have successfully performed more than 50,000 tattoo removal procedures using advanced technology and industry-leading techniques. If you’re interested in removing a tattoo that you regret, please call us at (614) 421-7546.