Quick and Easy Tattoo Removal

I am looking for a a quick and easy way to remove my tattoos. I have two quarter sized tattoos behind my ears. I have gone over all options and as I cannot find a place that does dermabrasion in Denver I have decided on excision. Does anyone have any further information on the process?

Doctor Answers 5

Quick and Easy Tattoo removal

Excision will leave permanent scarring and dermabrasion will likely leave scarring as well as loss of pigmentation that may not be reversible. Laser treatment has improved dramatically in the past year and is by far your best option.

New York Dermatologic Surgeon
3.9 out of 5 stars 16 reviews

Surgery still works

While surgical excision is less popular these days, it is still an effective method for removal.  If the tattoos are too big to be removed at once, they can be done in stages to minimize scarring.

Victoria W. Serralta, MD
Arlington Dermatologic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 1 review

Quick And Easy Tattoo Removal

Prior to the introduction of light-based therapies, a variety of procedures were used for getting rid of tattoos. These included dermabrasion, salabrasion, cryotherapy, chemical peeling. and surgical excision.

Dermabrasion involved the use of a motor-driven wire brush to abrade the skin surface; salabrasion, the use of coarse salt crystals; cryotherapy, freezing with liquid nitrogen; and medium-depth chemical peels, tha application of caustic materials. Each of these techniques relied upon stripping away the epidermis, the topmost layer of the skin, and exposing the pigment-laden dermis. Following exposure, the ink would be extruded as part of the healing process.

Surgical excision skirted the issue of dealing directly with the embedded pigment. Instead, if the lesion were small, it was cut out entirely and the resulting wound sutured together. If it were very large or its location difficult to work with, the removal was done in stages, allowing each surgical wound to heal before proceeding to excise another part. In general, these methods were successful at obliterating the tattoo, but at least some degree of scarring was inevitable. It was a trade-off--an acceptable scar in place a highly visible and undesirable tattoo.

Lasers and other light therapy devices, such as the Infrared Coagulater (IRC), are the treatments of choice today. Lasers work by emitting short, intense pulses of light that pass through the skin and target the ink. The energy from the laser light fragments the large particles of tattoo pigment enabling the body’s natural immune system to more easily scavenge the pigment and carry it away. This process usually takes several weeks, and multiple treatment sessions are often necessary to achieve maximal clearing.

Since black pigment absorbs all wavelengths of light, it is ironically the easiest pigment to remove. Colors, such as green, do not absorb as well, and sometimes a variety of lasers, with varying wavelengths, are needed to effectively treat a multicolored tattoo.

Potential complications include permanent scarring, temporary or permanent loss of pigment or excessive pigmentation. Fees for laser treatments may range from $1000-$3000 or more, depending upon the number of treatment sessions required, and the size, shape, colors, and location of the particular tattoo.

IRC uses non-laser infrared light to heat the area containing the pigment. It is quick and easy to perform, and generally requires fewer treatments than lasers. Most small tattoos can be treated successfully in one to three sessions. It is worth noting that IRC’s efficacy also does not depend upon the particular color of the pigments involved. For these reasons, it is my favorite method for dealing with small tattoos.

The procedure is quick and simple. The area is first numbed with local anesthesia. Next, very short pulses of infrared light are directed at the tattoo in a gridlike fashion, leaving tiny spaces between each treated site. Since each burst of energy is just a fraction of second, an entire treatment session requires only a few minutes to complete. It is within the course of the next few weeks, as he wound heals, that the pigment is extruded.

To complete the removal, the intervening spaces are generally treated between two to four weeks later. Fees for a series of three sessions generally run about $1500. As with laser treatments, potential complications include scarring and temporary or permanent pigmentary changes. Most people, however, are quite gratified and relieved to be free finally of their tattoos. 

Nelson Lee Novick, MD
New York Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Tattoo removal without laser can result in scarring

Excision of tattoos surgically can result in scarring especially if it is in an area that is under some tension like behind your ears. If they were smaller like penny or dime sized you could probably get away with removal surgically since the defect would be smaller but with tattoos that large I would recommend laser removal with a q-switched laser. Dermabrasion at best would only lighten them and the risk of scarring would be great in that area. I hope this information helps.

Scott Trimas, MD
Jacksonville Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 20 reviews

Tattoo removal

Although I don't have a referral for you, I can tell you some details about tattoo removal. The area behind the ear could heal with an overhealing scar, a hypertrophic scar or keloid. This can happen if the area does undergo dermabrasion, or excision with stitches to close the wound. If the area removed creates too tight a defect to close, then sometimes it is excised as a staged excision, removing some of the tattoo and with each subsequent excision, more if not all of the rest, is removed.

Dermabrasion involves sanding down the skin over the tattoo and allowing the body to eliminate the pigment through the epidermis. It slowly gets lighter but not all the pigment might be removed. Pigmentation responses occur where the area becomes very dark.

Laser tattoo removal could be used. The right laser is used to affect the color. It id done monthly to every six weeks, for 8 to 12 treatments or more. If it works well, then you won't have the greater risks that are inherent in surgical removal such as the wound opening, or infection. The laser does not involve any excisional work. There could be lighter and darker skin color responses to the laser treatment.

Good luck.

Ronald Shelton, MD
Manhattan Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 38 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.