A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

What do you do when the tat’s gotta go?

Your tattoo proclaims her as the love of your life but that’s been over for a while, so what do you do with all that ink?

You seek out an expert to kick it out the door.

One of those experts is Dr. Stella Patten, a Marshfield Clinic dermatologist who specializes in tattoo removal.

Tattoo remorse

“There are many reasons people want tattoos removed,” she said. “One big reason is the tattoo isn’t what they imagined it would look like or they don’t like it once it’s done.”

Some are removed for professional career reasons. That was the case for Benjamin Moore of Wisconsin Rapids, who became a minister after 32 years in military service. He had two tattoos – a list of submarines and a submarine rescue vessel he served on- and a rose shape.

“I just didn’t feel they were appropriate anymore,” he said. “Nobody ever mentioned anything but I just thought they should go.”

Removal uses laser technology

Patten uses a laser with four hand pieces providing separate wavelengths for different colors. Surprisingly, black tends to be the easiest color to remove while teal and purple shades tend to be more difficult. The laser removes a tattoo by breaking up its pigment colors.Tattoo removal - before image

It took about a dozen visits to Dermatology to eliminate Moore’s tattoos. The process felt similar to snapping a rubber band on the skin, but not as painful as it sounds.

“It was a lot more painful getting the tattoos in the first place,” he said.

An alternative method offered now is a “fast track” treatment of three sessions on the same day, at least 30 minutes apart. This speeds up the time needed to clear a tattoo.

Complete removal

Because of differences in inks and tattoo artists, Tattoo removal - after imagesPatten cannot guarantee complete removal. A mostly-faded image may remain. In some cases, a patient may only need a tattoo lightened enough so it can be covered with another more appealing tattoo.

“We discuss all these things in a consultation,” Patten said. “We talk about what is involved in removing a specific tattoo, estimate how many treatments are needed and how much it will cost.”

Health insurance generally does not cover tattoo removal. For a consultation, call 715-387-5311 or visit www.marshfieldclinic.org/appointments.

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