Before getting into tattoo removal methods, let’s understand how a tattoo is made and why it remains permanently under the skin. Human skin is made up of layers. The top most layer is called the ‘Epidermis’ and below it lies the ‘Dermis’ and under the dermis, there exists the ‘Hypodermis’ layer.
When a tattoo is being drawn/pierced, tiny holes/punctures are made on the skin and fine particles of ink is delivered under the skin, typically into the ‘Dermis’ (2nd layer) layer. The needle in the tattoo machine can punch the skin at a rate of 3000 pricks per minute. These pricks are basically wounds to the skin; as soon as the body realizes that there is an injury, the immune system comes into play. Since the ink particles are foreign objects to the body, the immune system tries to clean away the ink particles. However, usually the ink particles are too big for the immune system to remove, so that ink just stays under the skin. The smaller particles of ink that immune system is capable of removing are taken away out of the body.
Many people after getting tattoos want to get that removed for various reasons. There are different methods currently in use by plastic surgeons for removing a permanent tattoo including:
- Laser tattoo removal
- Tattoo removal by dermabrasion
- Tattoo removal using chemical peel
- Tattoo removal by surgical excision of skin
Laser Tattoo Removal
Laser tattoo removal is the most preferred method to remove a permanent tattoo today. A very fine and powerful laser beam is focused onto the tattoo ink under the skin to break the ink particles into more tiny particles so that the immune system will be able to remove them. Complete removal of the tattoo is not possible in one laser removal session. The number of sessions required to remove a permanent tattoo depend on:
- The size of the tattoo
- The colours used to make the tattoo
In case of larger sized tattoos, complete and clean removal may not be possible. Similarly when many colours are used in making the tattoo, more number of sessions will be required to break up the larger ink particles into smaller fragments. The number of sessions for complete removal of tattoos using laser may range from 1 to 10 depending on the above mentioned factors.
Laser tattoo removal is a painful process (relatively less painful than other methods) and it is done under local or general anesthesia. Once done, the injury site needs to be taken care for 5 days. Every day washing with soap and clean water, applying ointment etc must be following to get the area ready for another session and to help it heal well. It usually takes 5 days for the injury site to heal. (Injury site is the area where laser treatment is done to remove the tattoo).
Tattoo removal by dermabrasion
This is like a surgical procedure where a grinding tool is used to scrape off the outer layers of the skin. Peeling off the skin layer by layer until the layer in which the ink is present will eventually remove the tattoo from the skin. As it sounds, this is a painful procedure and done under local or regional or full body anesthesia.
As the skin is scraped off, the result will be like an injury in the area and needs to be taken care. Dressing of the wound for a couple of days will be done post which regular cleaning and application of ointment needs to be done. Time to heal is typically 2 weeks. What is most important is, you need to spend good amount of time in learning about the best plastic surgeon in Chennai or near you to get this procedure done failing which there will be significant scarring in the area.
Tattoo removal using Chemical peel
TCA – Tricholroacetic Acid peels are typically used to peel off the skin layers to remove tattoos. This works similar to dermabrasion in the sense that the skin is peeled layer by layer until those with ink are removed.
The area should be treated like an injury spot and must be taken care well until it heals. Typical healing time when chemical peel is used to remove tattoo is 5 to 7 days. This is the only procedure that may not require anesthesia.
Tattoo removal by surgical excision of skin
While reading through the article, did you think that, why not just remove the skin where the tattoo is and as new skin grows, it should be fine? Surgical excision of skin is a similar procedure where the skin in the area is surgically removed. When the tattoo is small, the surrounding skin is brought together and closed. As you can expect, such a procedure will leave a scar in the area and the scar management can also be done with another plastic surgery procedure.
Local or regional or full body anesthesia will be given before the procedure is performed. The area will be dressed with bandages that will be removed after a couple of days. Post removal of bandages, proper care needs to be taken until the area heals completely.
Frequently asked questions on removing permanent tattoo
Does it hurt when removing permanent tattoo?
Yes, it does hurt. While you are under anesthesia, you may not feel the pain much but once its effect vanishes, you can feel the burning sensation and pain in the area. Pain caused by laser tattoo removal may be relatively milder than that caused by other procedures.
What is the cost of permanent tattoo removal in Chennai?
The cost of removing permanent tattoo depends on:
- The size of the tattoo
- The number of sessions that are required to remove the tattoo completely.
On an average, good clinics may charge Rs.10,000 – Rs.15,000 per session for removing permanent tattoo using laser in Chennai. The actual cost may vary from person to person based on above mentioned conditions. Once you consult our cosmetic surgeons at Flood Gates Plastic Surgery Clinic in Chennai, you will be provided with a detailed quote on the cost and time required to get rid of your tattoo.
How many sessions will be required to remove a permanent tattoo with laser?
On an average, 5 sessions or less may be required depending on the size of the tattoo. There will a gap of few weeks after each session in order for the site to heal properly before attempting next session.