Doctors Urge Former Ink Lovers To Go The Laser Route Or No Route At All

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — That tattoo you got years ago might have seemed like a great idea at the time, but if you are like a growing number of people, you probably wish it would disappear today.

As CBS 2’s Dr. Max Gomez reported Wednesday, doctors say more and more people have taken matters into their own hands to get rid of the tattoos on their own. But experts do not recommend doing so.

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When Kristen Hoster got her first tattoo, she loved showing it off.

“It’s of a Hello Kitty cupcake,” she said.

But now that Hoster is a little older, and working, she does not feel the same about the tattoo.

“I had to wear long sleeves, even in the summer,” she said.

So Holder is spending a lot of time and money to have the tattoo removed with a laser.

But doctors said others, who cannot afford the price of such procedures or the months it takes to remove all the ink at a gradual pace, are taking matters into their own hands.

“We had a patient once who had used salt to try to scrub the tattoo off,” said dermatologist Dr. Amy Derick.

Plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Byun said people are going to great lengths to remove their unwanted tattoos – doing everything from trying to rent their own laser machines to buying do-it-yourself removal kits – even using safety pins or pens to poke the pigment out of their own skin.

“People think that you can actually remove the outside skin, and thus the color will leave the body,” Byun said.

But Byun said what most people do not realize is that the tattoo ink is embedded deep into the second layer of skin, and it is not easy to remove.

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“That’s a very difficult, dangerous thought process,” he said.

Derick, a member of the American Academy of Dermatology, said she has also seen patients try self-removal methods, including gels and creams. But she said there is no evidence that they work.

“A lot of products have chemicals or ingredients that are irritating to the skin, with the hope that the immune system will fight off the pigment that remains,” Derick said.

Hoster said she tried one of the products herself.

“I tried just the gel you put on twice a day,” she said. “Didn’t do anything.”

But ineffectiveness is not the only problem. For some, DIY best acne treatment can cause serious side effects, such as infection, scarring, burning, rashes and skin discoloration.

“That compounds the removal issues when they come in seeking the medical treatment,” Byun said.

Laser surgery is considered the gold standard for tattoo removal, and is cleared by the Food and Drug Administration.

“The reason why we use a tattoo removal laser is to remove the ink slowly, so that the skin looks pretty much normal when the treatments are completed,” Derick said.

Laser tattoo removal can cost anywhere from $250 to $850 per session, and it is important that the right laser is used to avoid the risk of scarring.

A recent study found 24 percent of people between 18 and 50 have a tattoo, with 27 percent of them now considering removal.

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Have you ever gotten a tattoo removed? Do you have one you want removed? Leave your comments below…