How easy is it to get a tattoo removed?
MANILA, Philippines – Senatorial candidate and former special assistant to the President Bong Go recently bared his back to show he had no tattoo that would signify possible links to illegal drugs, a societal menace that President Rodrigo Duterte has waged a brutal war against.
Opposition slate Otso Diretso, along with detained Senator Leila de Lima, has dared presidential son Paolo Duterte to also show his back to disprove similar allegations made in a video titled, “Ang Totoong Narco List-Episode 1."
"Bikoy," the unidentified man in the video, claimed that Paolo sports a tattoo that links him to a drug triad. Unlike Go, Paolo has shunned the challenge.
Cynics have said the absence of ink, even if it's flaunted, may not prove anything insofar as allegations about the drug trade link is concerned. Tattoos can be removed, they claim. But can they be fully erased, we wondered. We did some probing and here's what we found out.
There are various methods to remove tattoos. There are various ways to get a tattoo removed. Two older methods (salabrasion and dermabrasion) require the scraping of the skin with a salt solution, which does permanent damage to the skin’s outer layer.
There is also surgical removal (skin excision), which works well on small tattoos but also leaves visible marks. Tattoos can also be removed through injections, which can cause long-term scars or burn marks. Creams can also be used to induce a peeling effect on the skin. Finally, there is laser tattoo removal, which involves the use of a laser to break down the ink pigment.
The different methods are not equally effective. Based on these methods, some are more effective than others. Salabrasion, dermabrasion, and skin excision leave visible scars. Injections and removal creams can’t promise the complete removal of tattoo ink. In fact, there are even no known creams that are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), according to the FDA website.
Laser tattoo removal is touted as the most effective method, according to the FDA.
Will the tattoo be erased completely with laser removal? The straight answer to this question is: it depends.
“Laser tattoo removal is a whole science,” said Mike Dellariarte, a dermatologist at Pico Laser Clinic in Makati. He explained that tattoo removal begins like any dermatological procedure – with an assessment. If a tattoo is less that 6 weeks old, the procedure cannot be performed.
Explaining the procedure, Dellariarte said, “The laser breaks up the pigment [of the tattoo] and the body will start to clear it, to be absorbed by macrophages, which are the same cells that clear out other bacteria.”
Laser removal also doesn’t happen in one go. It consists of multiple sessions that are determined by what is called the Kirby-Desai scale. The scale takes into account skin type, tattoo location, amount of ink, layering of ink, the number of colors used, and scarring of the skin.
“People have different skin types and the presence of different pigments could affect the laser removal process,” said Dellariarte. Other than that, black ink is easier to remove than colored ink.
The type of laser used also matters. Older lasers, for instance, may induce more heating on the skin, which, in turn, may make the skin more vulnerable to scarring.
Asked if tattoos can be completely erased after the procedure, Dellariarte said it was possible.
However, it would still depend on how many sessions a patient can afford as the procedure can cost around P2,000-P3,000 per square inch of tattoo. “It really also depends on the [patient’s] financial capacity,” he said. – Rappler.com
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