They used to be seen on sailors, criminals and teenage yobs, but now tattoos have definitely become far more main stream: even Samantha Cameron has a small dolphin design tattooed on her ankle, and David Beckham’s love of tattoos is well documented in the media.
However, what seemed like a very good idea at the time, may often turn into tattoo remorse. Some statistics suggest that almost a third of people that have tattoos eventually come to regret their tattooed body art, according to a survey compiled by the British Association of Dermatologists. Luckily, tattoos are now no longer as permanent as they once used to be. Modern laser tattoo removal can reduce most tattoos to a shadow of their former selves, removing many altogether. But can past mistakes now be easily eliminated?
Jane Spencer, a 29 year-old lawyer from London, was just 17 when she decided to have a wrist tattoo – a ”strange symbol in gray, blue and yellow” which she picked from a book of tattoo designs.
”To start with I was really pleased,” she says. “It only cost me around £40 at a tattoo artist in Leeds, and only took about 35 minutes to fully complete. However, over the past few years, I’ve come to find it really embarrassing. I’m absolutely fed up with people asking me what it means – because I don’t have a clue!. And I also understand that for older generations, there are often negative connotations linked to tattoos. My parents really weren’t happy when they found out I’d had one done’
Jane decided to have her tattoo removed using laser treatment. Many companies such as British Laser Clinics now offer laser tattoo removal to an increasing number of clients. The procedure works by using very powerful beams of coloured laser light to heat the ink, and break it down into tiny particles. The small particles are then absorbed into the body via the bloodstream, and are then excreted via the liver and digestive system.
Laser tattoo removal can be a lengthy procedure – costs can vary but British Laser Clinics are a company leading the way in laser tattoo removal, and have pricing structures to suit all pockets. The number of sessions can vary from case to case depending on the size and colour of the tattoo. It can never to 100% guaranteed to totally remove the tattoo, and there may always be a faint shadow, but it is by far and away the most effective way of removing unwanted tattoos.
We spoke to a member of staff at British Laser Clinics where Jane was treated: ”Historically, the only real way to get rid of an old tattoo was to cover it with skin-coloured ink, or to cut it out using a surgical procedure. But we can now offer laser tattoo removal treatments with differing degrees of intensity’The treatment is not completely painless “Many people liken the experience to having an elastic band snapping repeatedly onto the skin, ”We were then told“It is unfortunately far more uncomfortable than having a tattoo, but by applying a numbing cream first, its not so uncomfortable that clients don’t want to come back for their next session.’
The majority of people will need a course of treatments, which have to be staggered 4-6 weeks apart in order to complete the skins healing process.
So is it really worth it? Jane, who began her treatment last January says: ‘I have had seven sessions of laser tattoo removal now, and the tattoo has now almost gone’She adds: ‘Luckily British Laser Clinics were able to offer me a substancial discount for block bookings, so the cost has been far more reasonable then if I had paid per session’
British Laser Clinics does warn that some people will be left with ”ghosting’ – a faint outline – depending on the size and colour of the original tattoo.
It is also worth noting that lasers are not recommended for darker skins, as there is a risk that laser tattoo removal will remove natural pigmentation in the skin and could leave some white scarring.
Laser tattoo removal is only occasionally carried out on the NHS. Professor Henry Moseley, head of the Department of Plastic Surgery at Ninewalls Hospital and head of British Medical Laser Association, says: ”At our NHS clinic we do occasionally carry out laser tattoo removal, but only in a very small number of cases where the patients tattoo is causing them to be severely distressed.’
With the development of modern laser technology, private companies such as British Laser Clinics are able to carry out laser tattoo removal at very affordable prices, so it is now possible to undo your past mistakes.