Sometimes, in our youthful exuberance, we do things we regret. Waking up with a tattoo may be one of those things. Fortunately, tattoos can be removed using powerful new lasers that blast the ink into tiny bits that the body can absorb and flush away.

“Laser removal is the only viable option for most people,” says Dr. Brock Ridenour, medical director of Ridenour Plastic Surgery. “Abrasion or surgery are other techniques that have been used, but they carry a greater potential for scarring and unacceptable results.”

Lasers have improved in recent years, and single lasers now have the capacity to treat all ink colors, including the harder-to-remove pastel and white shades. “Make sure you are being treated with a laser than can target the full color spectrum and that it is a high-power laser that can treat the area in fewer sessions and with less discomfort,” Ridenour says. He uses the Rev-Light laser, which targets the ink with a high-power, full-spectrum beam.

Tattoos are painful to apply and can be painful to remove. However, modern lasers can treat the area quickly, and topical or injectable anesthetics help reduce discomfort. “The benefit of being in a medical facility is that we can control a patient’s comfort level with topical anesthetic creams and our chiller system,” notes Michelle Somers, Synergi MedSpa director.

“We would always recommend seeking a medical professional with experience when using any type of laser treatment,” Somers adds. “A business-card sized tattoo can cost approximately $100 per treatment, and a treatment is typically recommend every six to eight weeks. The number of treatments required depends on many different variables, such as size, location, color and age of tattoo.”

The state-of-the-art tattoo removal laser is the PicoSure, a super-fast, highly powerful laser that can remove even treatment-resistant tattoos. For those whose tattoos are especially difficult to remove due to coloration or size, the PicoSure may offer a solution, although it is a more expensive option not yet available in St. Louis, Ridenour adds. “Most people who have smaller, mono-color tattoos can have them removed successfully. People with multi-layered or extremely large tattoos may have more difficulty.”

People often seek tattoo removal because visible tattoos are unacceptable to many employers, or they’ve simply changed their mind. However, Ridenour also notes that some people want a tattoo removed or lightened in order to create a new design over the old one.

Regardless of the reasons for seeking tattoo removal, Somers notes, “past mistakes can be erased—you just need time and patience.”

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