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By Jason Applebaum, MD
Advanced Dermatology , February 2003-More people than ever are getting tattoos today. A quick look at any professional basketball game will show that more than half the players have tattoos. It has been estimated that approximately 3% of the U.S. population now has tattoos. Getting a tattoo today offers people greater range in colors than ever before. Additionally, getting a tattoo has never been safer primarily because of the use of disposable needles. However, people with tattoos and those considering getting them should still remain mindful of the possibility that someday they will no longer want it. Industry experts say that 50% of people with tattoos will someday want them removed.”We are seeing a huge increase in the number of patients that want to remove a tattoo,” said Jason Applebaum, MD, dermatologist with Advanced Dermatology P.C. and The Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery , one of largest in dermatology, laser & cosmetic surgery practices on the eastern coast. “Increased popularity in tattoos has resulted in an increase in the number of people that got one and then changed their minds about having it. The good news is that patients have more laser options now than ever when it comes to removing tattoos,” added Dr. Applebaum. “New techniques in lasers have improved results, reduced the risks and broadened the spectrum of patients who can now benefit from this technology.”
Applebaum advises of important things to ask and know before getting a tattoo removed. Following are six tips:
1. Are you the best doctor to remove my tattoo? Selecting a dermatologist to remove a tattoo is a serious decision. Try to find a specialist with experience and equipment specific for tattoo removal. Ask how many tattoo removal procedures they have done. Ask whether they own their lasers or lease them. Doctors that own their lasers typically do more tattoo removal and as such have more practical experience.
2. How many treatments will I need? Understand the process for removing your tattoo. Talk to your dermatologist prior to treatments to learn the how many treatments he estimates it will take. Learn what the costs will be. Inquire about you options for insurance coverage. Ask as much upfront so there are no surprises.
3. Learn how many lasers your doctor has? There are currently three types of lasers available for tattoo removal, Alexandrite, YAG and Roby. Each works on different colors and compounds, so depending on the nature of your specific tattoo the dermatologist will use one or a combination of lasers. It follows that you would want to select a dermatologist that has the specific laser for removing your tattoo. Probe on this prior to starting treatment.
4. What medical information should I share with the doctor prior to having my tattoo removed? You must alert your dermatologist if you have a herpes infection in the area of the tattoo. It is possible that tattoo removal treatment could bring out the herpes infection. In some cases where herpes is involved the doctor will prescribe a preventative antibiotic prior to the tattoo removal. Additionally, it is advised that patients don’t go into the sun prior to having a tattoo removed. Skin burnt from the sun reacts more strongly to laser treatment.
5. Can black people can have tattoos removed too? In the past dark skin pigmentation did not respond well to laser tattoo removal. Older lasers were known to cause scarring in dark skinned people. This is no longer the case. Increasingly studies are showing that new lasers (q-switch nd:yag) offer dark skinned patients excellent results.
6. What should I expect after my tattoo is removed? Whether you have a tiny fish on your ankle or a large design covering half of your back, in most cases laser treatments can remove up to 90-95% of a tattoo. If you have a tattoo and want it removed see a dermatologist to learn your options.