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Healthy Skin Newsletter, Issue #001 -- Feature Article: Tattoo Removal Techniques
May 02, 2006

Issue No. 1 May 2006

Healthy Skin Newsletter – Information on skin problems and skin care.

If you like this newsletter and know someone that may benefit from this information, please feel free to pass it along. If this newsletter was passed to you and you find the information useful, please subscribe by clicking here. Issue No. 1, May 2006

Table of Contents

  • What’s New at
  • Feature Article – Laser Tattoo Removal
  • In the News
  • Skin Care Tip of the Month
  • Question of the Month
  • Product of the Month

What’s New at

A new page accessible through has been added. This page is entitled “Other Skin Problems” and can be found at:

Entries on this page include an article on impetigo and links to a variety of skin care products, which may be helpful in your quest for healthy skin care.

The dermatographism diary at has been updated.

Feature Article – Laser Tattoo Removal

Laser tattoo removal and other tattoo removal techniques are becoming more popular these days. What seemed like a good idea many years ago, may not be now after we have aged and our skin has aged.

The popularity of tattoos is growing. With the increase in the number of people getting tattoos, there is also an increase in the number of individuals wanting to remove them.

Some Statistics

  • 12 percent of Americans have tattoos (Esquire Magazine – 2002)
  • 16 percent of Americans have tattoos (Harris Poll – 2003)
  • 36 percent of people aged 25 to 29 have tattoos (Harris Poll – 2003)
  • 50 percent of people who get tattoos eventually want them removed (American Society of Dermatological Surgery –2002)


Before discussing laser tattoo removal and other tattoo removal techniques, a little background information might be useful. A tattoo is writing, a design, or a picture, etc. that is drawn in the skin with a pigment or ink. The pigment is inserted into the dermis layer or second layer of the skin through small holes in the skin’s top layer or the epidermis. Nowadays, the tattoo is achieved by using an electric tattoo machine. This machine contains needles that rapidly move in an up and down motion, puncturing the top layer of the skin and injecting the ink or pigment underneath in the dermis layer of the skin.

The drawing was once considered permanent because the pigments used are very stable to fading and degradation within the body. In addition, the cells in the second layer of skin are very stable, much more stable than the cells on the surface of the skin. Therefore, the ink or pigment of the tattoo remains for the individual’s lifetime.


As the number of people with tattoos grows, so does the desire to be able to remove these so-called permanent drawings. Therefore, a variety of techniques such as laser tattoo removal were developed. Tattoo removal techniques and the effectiveness of such techniques varies in each individual case. In many situations after tattoo removal, some scarring or colour variations remain depending on several factors. Generally, these factors are the size of the tattoo, which ink was used, its location and depth in the skin, how long the individual has had the tattoo, and how the patient heals. For example, tattoos that have been applied professionally are usually deeper in the skin and at a more uniform depth. This potentially makes tattoo removal more likely to succeed than perhaps homemade tattoos, where the depth into the skin is a lot more variable. In addition, newer tattoos are usually easier to remove than older ones. Therefore, several factors are responsible for determining whether a tattoo can be removed completely or not.

Information on laser tattoo removal and a variety of other tattoo removal methods is provided below.

Laser Tattoo Removal

The preferred, most common, and probably best method for removing tattoos is laser tattoo removal. This procedure involves the use of short flashes or pulses of high energy light that are directed at the tattoo. These light pulses penetrate the top surface of the skin without damaging it and are at the right wavelength so that only the targeted tattoo pigment absorbs the light. Depending on the colours used in the tattoo, different lasers are required. The easiest colours to remove with the laser treatment are blue and black, whereas yellow and green colours are the most difficult to remove. When the various tattoo pigments absorb the high-energy pulse of light, they are broken down into smaller particles. In this smaller state, the pigment fragments are then removed by the body’s immune system over a period of a few weeks and the tattoo fades.

Why is laser tattoo removal the preferred technique? Laser tattoo removal is less painful than other techniques, it is a procedure with no bleeding, low risk of scarring, it is effective, and has only minimal side effects overall. These side-effects may include redness, mild swelling, tenderness at and around the treated area, crusting of the skin, or a lightening of the skin. The patient who has had laser tattoo removal usually feels a sunburnt sensation shortly after treatment.

The procedure is preformed on an outpatient basis and anesthetic may or may not be required. Usually a numbing cream can be used before treatment in order to lessen any discomfort that the patient may feel. The sensation without any anesthetic compares to being hit with a stretched rubber band. A series of treatments is necessary to complete the laser tattoo removal. Each successive treatment usually requires a break of 4 to 6 weeks in order to allow the skin to recover and the tattoo to fade from the previous treatment. Amateur tattoos generally require 2 to 6 laser tattoo removal treatments, whereas professional ones can take from 6 to 10 treatments.

There are three types of lasers used in laser tattoo removal.

Q-switched Ruby

  • red light laser
  • absorbed well by most tattoo inks especially dark blue and black inks
  • red and yellow inks do not respond well to this laser wavelength
  • black amateur tattoos are effectively faded by this type of laser tattoo removal

Q-switched Alexandrite

  • similar to Ruby laser
  • very effective on green pigments/inks
  • half of the patients treated with this laser tattoo removal method experience skin textural changes post-treatment

Q-switched Nd: YAG

  • good for all types of tattoos of all colours
  • greater success with blue/black inks
  • preferred laser choice for darker skinned individuals
  • this laser tattoo removal method is very effective on red/orange pigments

Flashlamp-pumped Pulsed Dye Laser

  • not a good laser tattoo removal technique for tattoos deep in the skin
  • effective in fading brightly coloured tattoos which use red, purple, and orange inks
  • bruising is a common side-effect

Older laser tattoo removal methods using infrared and argon and carbon dioxide lasers were less effective and often led to scarring in a large number of cases.


As an alternative to laser tattoo removal, dermabrasion may be used. The area to be treated is frozen and then the skin where the tattoo is located is essentially sanded with a rotary abrasive brush. This causes layers of skin to peel away and eventually the tattoo is removed as the sanding goes deeper into the skin. Bleeding and scarring is likely to occur with this procedure. For more information on this technique, please visit


A local anesthetic is used to numb the area to be treated. Then salt is applied to the tattoo and a small amount of water is added. The area is then abraded usually with a tool similar to what is used in the dermabrasion procedure or a salt sanding block. This method is centuries old and in the past, the abrading apparatus was as simple as a wooden block wrapped in gauze.

Saline Injections

This procedure involves injecting or “tattooing” the tattooed area with lidocaine (a common local anesthetic) and saline (a solution of sodium chloride in sterile water), which breaks up the tattoo. This process does not remove the tattoo, but instead blurs it significantly. Sometimes this tattoo removal technique is suggested before the application of a new tattoo in the same area.


Unlike laser tattoo removal, the excision technique requires cutting. The tattoo is removed using a scalpel and the area stitched closed. The procedure is generally performed under local anesthetic and is suitable for smaller tattoos. If larger tattoos are removed then a skin graft may be required. Such a procedure would be performed under general anesthetic. Alternatively, larger tattoos can be removed with the cutting technique in stages. A scar will be present were the skin was sutured after the removal or where the skin was taken from and placed if a skin graft procedure was performed.

Removal Creams

There are certain creams sold commercially that claim to be effective in fading tattoos. Examples of some of these products are TatBGone and Tattoo-OFF. The manufacturers of these products claim they are very effective for tattoo removal. Throughout the internet you find claims ranging from, these products are very effective to these products are useless. If you are searching for an alternative and less expensive option compared to laser tattoo removal or other more painful removal treatments, then these creams may be worth a try. However, keep in mind that the results are likely to be quite variable.

Cover Up

This method is used when the individual does not want the old tattoo, but would not mind a new tattoo in its place. Instead of removing the tattoo completely with a laser tattoo removal procedure or some other tattoo removal method, a new tattoo is simply drawn over the old one. Skilled artists can make these adjustments with excellent results. However, there are limits due to the colour and intensity of the colour of the old tattoo. This is where the creativity of the tattoo artist comes into play. Alternatively, laser tattoo removal can be used to fade the tattoo slightly, before attempting to draw a new tattoo on the same area.

Not everyone is a suitable candidate for laser tattoo removal or other tattoo removal procedures. If you are a keloid healer then very noticeable scars will be created post-treatment. In addition, if you skin is vulnerable to pigmentation, type problems then laser tattoo removal or other treatments may not be advisable.

In the News

Over the past several years, most cosmetic companies have focused on age-defying beauty products for women in the 30s and 40s age groups. However, women over the age of 45 account for close to 70% of cosmetic purchases at mass retailers.

In response to this, Revlon has introduced cosmetics for women in their 50s and 60s. This Revlon line is called Vital Radiance and offers over 100 different products. Two years of research at Revlon determined that women over 50 were having significant problems with their make-up because of the different characteristics of their skin. Therefore, Revlon has responded with products tailored to this age group.

L’Oreal will likely introduce a similar product line this fall. Procter and Gamble (Cover Girl) is also studying the older market.

Skin Care Tip of the Month

As the summer months approach, it is useful to stress the importance of sun protection. Proper sun protection for your skin is an essential element in preventing premature aging of the skin. Too much sun exposure can lead to wrinkles, liver spots, thinning of the skin, broken blood vessels, texture changes in the skin, pigmentation problems, and skin dryness. In addition, skin cancer is always possible and should not be taken lightly.

So, get outdoors and enjoy the summer weather, but remember to protect your skin. Wear sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15, but higher is better, and that blocks out both UVA and UVB rays. Wear a hat and sunglasses and consider long sleeves and long pants when outdoors for long periods of time in the sun. In the long run your skin will be much healthier and younger looking.

Question of the Month

Is sunlight a viable treatment for acne?

Many people believe that exposing the skin to the sun is a viable treatment for acne. The sun will dry out the skin and therefore, the pimples as well, but it will do nothing to prevent new pimples from appearing. Also, because unprotected skin darkens with sun exposure, pimples become less noticeable and there is the illusion that there is less acne. For some people, too much sun exposure can cause outbreaks of acne.

It is important to keep in mind that many acne medications such as tetracycline make the skin more sun sensitive. Use caution when using acne medications and exposing your skin to the sun in order to avoid severe burns.

Product of the Month

Noni juice

Noni juice is an all-natural juice produced from the noni fruit. Many people have stated that they have experienced health benefits from regular use of the juice. It has also shown benefits for the skin in a number of ways. For more information, please visit:

Comments? Feedback? Ideas for future Feature Articles or Questions of the Month? would love to hear from you. Simply reply to this e-zine and tell us what you think!

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