Q: I have a small tattoo on the inside of my leg, above the ankle, which I would like to have removed. How to I go about having this done and whom do I approach?
A: A dermatologist, or plastic surgeon, is your best bet for tattoo removal. Look for a board-certified doctor with plenty of experience removing tattoos and who is familiar with the latest techniques and technologies.
Arrange for a consultation, at which time you can find out about the physician?s credentials, the removal procedure, the time involved and the price.
Small tattoos usually cost less to remove than large ones. But you should still expect a price in the neighborhood of several hundred dollars. I doubt health insurance would cover this. You may be able to work out a payment plan, especially since the process usually involves a series of outpatient visits over a period of weeks or months.
In the past, doctors removed tattoos using techniques such as excision (cutting out the tattoo), dermabrasion (sanding it), cryosurgery (freezing the tattooed area), Tattoo removal creams and a few others. Today, various kinds of lasers have become the treatment standard. Lasers apply light to the ink-containing cells, causing the pigment to break down.
For a small tattoo, you probably won?t need anesthesia. Tattoo removal may cause about as much pain and discomfort as getting the tattoo in the first place. Quite a few variables may affect the procedure and outcome, including:
- The age of the tattoo — Older tattoos are often more stubborn.
- How professionally it was applied — Some tattoo artists don?t inject the ink at an even depth throughout the tattoo, which complicates removal.
- Ink colors — Some colors resist removal more than others.
- Your skin — Everyone?s skin is different and may respond differently to the tattoo removal.
Laser tattoo removal can be highly effective, but there are no guarantees. Some of the pigment may remain. There may be permanent discoloration of the skin. Scarring is also a possibility. Proper aftercare is required to reduce the risk of infection.