Written by Charlotte Wood (last updated September 17, 2021)
Many people in high school, as soon as they turned eighteen, ran to the tattoo parlor and paid for tattoos that varied in images ranging from Chinese symbols to firefighter crests to the mathematical symbol pi. They would come into first period the next day with a bandage on their arm and tell everyone else how cool it looked.
Of course they thought it looked cool then, with the still-shiny ink embedded into their smooth, tight skin, but give it a couple decades, when they're over the hump of maturing and they'll want to sing a different song. That Chinese symbol that once read "freedom" could read something like "slug" once you factor in a degree of fading, wrinkles, and general aging. When they get to that point where it doesn't look cool but rather passe, the idea of tattoo removal might look pretty appealing. The facts behind tattoo removal however, are not so exciting.
Because tattoos are intended to be permanent, removing them is extremely difficult. There are several methods of tattoo removal, all of which are painful and expensive. Methods include excision (actually cutting out the tattooed skin), dermabrasion, laser, and salabrasion, all of which involve either cutting, burning, or sanding. Ouch! Some tattoos are even so large as to necessitate multiple removal sessions, incurring even more cost and pain and potentially a skin graft from somewhere else on your body.
The physical pain, however, will probably come secondary to the financial pain. Fees for tattoo removal can soar up into the thousands of dollars. Health insurance probably won't cover the cost either because of its categorization as cosmetic surgery. Start saving your lunch money! Even with all its pain and cost, most tattoo removal clinics can't guarantee complete removal. Your skin may be left with some discoloration and scarring.
The best way to avoid the necessity of removing a tattoo is not to get one in the first place. Fifty percent of people who get tattoos in their youth regret it later on and especially visible tattoos can prove to be obstacles in the professional world. Factor in the likelihood that the nature of your tattoo (whether it be gang related, love related, or what have you) may not be as permanent as you once thought. Oops!
If you're considering having a tattoo, the removal process and expense will probably cause second thoughts and if you already have one and want to remove it, the best of luck to you. While they make look "cool" initially, after wrinkles and aging and life in general, is it really worth it?
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