Tattoo removal - what are the options?

Tattoos are widely accepted as the norm these days, with everyone from David Beckham and Wayne Rooney to Angelina Jolie and Samantha Cameron displaying a little ink.

Tattoo removal options

Pic: Getty

But even the most hardened tattoo fan makes the odd mistake, whether an ill-advised drunken moment or a former love mishap. If you're desperate to erase a particularly unpleasant reminder, however, there are ways and means to help you.

Laser tattoo removal
Generally regarded as the safest and most effective method, laser removal uses short pulses of intense light that pass through the top layer of skin and break the pigmented areas into smaller pieces, which are later removed via the body's own immune system. The better your immune system, the quicker the magic happens.

It is not without a little discomfort, but the pain is certainly no worse than having the tattoo done in the first place, and most clinics can offer anaesthetic cream to numb the area if you're concerned.

The risk of scarring is small but some blistering may occur for a few days after the treatment, and the treated area may appear lighter to begin with, but your normal skin colour should return within a few months.

Costs vary depending on the size of the tattoo and the number of colours used - larger inkings often requiring more than one session.

The latest version of laser removal, PicoSure uses a similar method, but the picosecond pulses break up the ink much quicker, and are purported to require fewer treatments.

Surgical removal
For small tattoos, a surgical solution can often prove quicker and less painful than laser treatment. The procedure simply involves removing the portion of the skin containing the design before stitching up the wound, all under local anaesthetic. The skin then heals and adjusts, leaving you tattoo free for the same, if not slightly less, than the cost of laser removal.

Tattoo removal creams
There are lotions and potions on the market that claim to remove tattoos by bonding with the pigment, causing a scab which then falls away. However, experts claim there is no scientific evidence to back up these claims, and could be an expensive waste of time. The same is true of injectable creams, which can also cause inflammation.

Have you had a tattoo removed? Which method did you use, and how good were the results? Leave your comments below...