Why Laser Tattoo Removal is Growing in Popularity and How Technology Helps it Succeed

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Tattoos are one of the most notorious after-effects of a wild night out – a decision hastily made under the influence of alcohol, quickly regretted the morning after. Another cause of post-tattoo regret is where the name of a former partner remains following a break-up – or perhaps the offending tattoo is a juvenile image that was done in a person’s younger days. Whatever the cause, laser tattoo removal is increasingly popular and is also an effective way of safely removing tattoos with only minor discomfort. A range of laser tattoo removal technology is available to do this.

With the global tattoo removal market expected to reach just under $5 billion by 2023, it is certainly an increasingly popular field. Although the tattoo removal sector is split into three categories – laser tattoo removal, topical creams and surgery – it is by far laser tattoo removal that is the most popular, expected to reach a market value of just over $3bn by 2023.

While regret over tattoos received in a person’s youth is still a prominent reason for removal, market analysts also point at recruitment policies of the military and incompatibility with body sensor devices as major reasons for people wishing to remove tattoos.

How popular is tattoo removal?

With reports that as much as 25% of people in the US who have a tattoo now regret having one, there is evidence that laser tattoo removal is popular – and increasingly so. The same report also says that 30% of people in the US have a tattoo, including half of all millennials, which underlines the sheer numbers involved. And it is not just in the US – uptake of laser tattoo removal is also growing in Hong Kong, largely down to embarrassment over decisions made in younger days, but also because of the traditional association of tattoos with triads.

Polls of people with tattoos also revealed that regret affected 19% of British people with tattoos, and 11% of Italians. The idea that a person’s personal tastes have changed to the point of no return, with minimal further change anticipated after a certain age, is part of the ‘end of history’ illusion and has been attributed to the cause of widespread tattoo removal. The ending of relationships where a partner’s name and other details have been tattooed is also another reason for tattoo removal, with the practice notably high profile among celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie and Eva Longoria.

Choosing laser removal to erase tattoos

Laser removal is by far the most popular method of removing tattoos, largely down to its quick, low risk nature and the minimal discomfort encountered. Technologies such as the SharplightTM Technologies laser offer a highly accurate process where only the tattooed areas are targeted, protecting surrounding skin from being affected by the laser treatment. It works through targeting short, high energy pulses at the wavelengths of the colours within the tattoo, dispersing the ink into smaller particles that then pass out of the body as waste. Although discomfort is kept to a minimum, there can be small amounts of pain from the heat of the laser.

Because laser tattoo removal largely relies on the process of selective photothermolysis – where selected areas of skin are deliberately damaged by radiation, in order to stimulate natural restorative processes, there are a number of factors in its successful application. Firstly, the colour of the laser’s light must dig deep enough into the skin to access the tattoo pigment – the deeper the pigments the harder they are to remove. The colour of the laser must also be more absorbed by the tattoo pigment than the normal skin surrounding it, and the selected colour must be correct – green tattoo pigments are receptive to absorbing red laser light, for example.

The pulse of laser energy must also be very short, in the case of tattoo removal it should be nanoseconds. This is to enable the heating within the tattoo pigment to successfully pass through surrounding skin – otherwise there will be burning or scars. And each pulse must contain sufficient energy to fragment the pigmentation.

It can take a long period of time to fully remove a tattoo depending on a range of factors, but treatments are generally recommended to be three to four weeks apart. People with darker skin generally need longer treatment because their skin is more susceptible to damage from the laser – therefore the energy level of the laser needs to be reduced each time. A person’s immune system can also determine how successful the treatment is, as the removal of the tattoo ink is influenced by the inflammation of the skin and how quickly the natural stimulation of the immune system can flush out the displaced ink particles.

While tattoos remain ever popular – with film, music and sports stars continuing to heavily adopt them all over their bodies – the age of having one done clearly affects how and if it continues to be worn. Selecting one that represents a potentially temporary period in a person’s life, such as a relationship in younger days, is also a likely candidate for later laser tattoo removal.

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