A lifetime of shame and stigma coming with an ill-conceived tattoo can be undone with laser tattoo removal.
Rita Morgan, aesthetic coordinator at Wellsprings Institute of Dermatology, said the treatments are hard to find in Paducah and western Kentucky. She suggests patients search for the treatments in larger cities, such as Nashville, Tenn., Louisville or St. Louis.
Dr. Daniel Tkach of Renaissance Plastic Surgery in Paducah said he no longer practices laser tattoo removal. The reason: laser treatments with his technology were expensive, painful and often left incomplete results. He said the lasers heated the tattoo pigments in the skin, causing them to deteriorate. The body’s own immune system will dispose of much of the destroyed ink.
“Typically, you would need multiple treatments, anywhere from three to eight sessions,” Tkach said. “Even then, you would typically get a smudged look, and never get perfect skin.”
Tkach added some patients opt for surgical removal of skin and their tattoos. That often leaves scarring. Even skin grafts leave a patient with a patched appearance.
Dr. Michael Gold of Gold Skin Care Center in Nashville, Tenn., said newer laser technology removes 85 to 95 percent of a tattoo. The Q-switched laser, he said, is the only laser system capable of efficient tattoo removal, and advised anyone interested in the process to learn what sort of laser their doctor uses. The Q-switched laser works for most colors and types of pigments, though yellow may require additional treatments. Other treatments, such as dermabrasion, have fallen out of usage because of increased scarring.
“There are tons of lasers used for skin, but for tattoo removal, we need a laser to go deep enough and quickly enough to get the pigments in the skin,” Gold said.
Gold said the process left minimal scarring, and pain could be controlled with local anesthetics. Some tattoos may be removed in two or three sessions while others may require 10. The permanent make-up type tattoos on the face are the hardest to remove. Gold added patients with that type of body art should seek an experienced tattoo removal specialist. Tattoo removal for a small piece of body art may cost $50 to $100 per visit. Larger and more complicated tattoos may cost between $100 and $200.
Reasons for tattoo removal given to Gold by patients include: not wanting it after receiving it on a dare, a reminder of a failed relationship and difficulty finding a job while wearing a visible tattoo. He said tattoo removal products sold over-the-counter offer little results, while skin bleaching can be painful.
Tony Stinnett of In-Skin Studio of Paducah said he does not know how effective commercial tattoo removal products are. With inquiries for the products from customers, he is considering becoming a distributor. Meanwhile, with no products for tattoo removal, he often covers an unwanted tattoo on a client with a new design.
“You really need to think about your tattoo, because it is for life,” Stinnett said. “I can do stencil work that is temporary. A customer can wear it for a few days. A lot of time, they don’t want it.”
Gold said tattoo removal is far more expensive than getting the tattoo, and advised patients not to get a tattoo with the thought of getting it removed later. With pain and scarring potential, he warns a person with a new tattoo could be sorry for life.
Contact Alan Reed, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8658.