What are the Risks of Tattoo Removal?

Tattoos can be safely removed with little risk if you choose the right medical intervention.

Q: I want to get a tattoo removed. Are there more risks involved in removing a tattoo than getting one?

A: Traditionally, removal options include cutting away the skin, dermabrasion or laser removal—the most common option. Removal of black ink typically yields the best results, but improved laser treatments provide favorable outcomes with a wide color spectrum of tattoos. Oftentimes, the skin cannot be restored to its original color or quality; thus, scarring can occur—more often in thinner areas of the skin. Multiple sessions are normally required to remove the pigment particles, and this number can vary depending upon the body part treated as well as size and color of the tattoo. Avoid do-it-yourself removal kits that frequently use acids to remove the pigments. While tattoo removal can be painful and expensive, if you seek treatment from a physician—and not a tattoo parlor—you’ll minimize the risk of infection and post-removal skin problems. If this approach doesn’t appeal to you, try a tube of cover-up like Dermablend.

Dr. Madelyn H. Fernstrom, Ph.D., C.N.S., is the founder and director of UPMC’s Weight Management Center. She is the diet and nutrition editor for NBC’s “Today Show” and is the author of The Runner’s Diet and The Real You Diet. Also, visit “Health Journal with Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom,” a health and wellness blog at iVillage.com.

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