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Disappearing ink

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(WOIO) -

If the tattoo you got years ago seemed like a great idea at the time, but now you wish it would just disappear, you're not alone! One in eight tattooed Americans now regrets getting inked.

However,  there's a right and a wrong way to get rid of it.

Doctors want you to know the wrong way can cause permanent skin damage.

When Kristen Hoster got a tattoo, she thought it would be a part of her life forever. "It's of a Hello Kitty cupcake with purple flames and peppermints," said Hoster.

Now that Kristen is in the food industry, her tattoo is serving up stress, she says, "I had to wear long sleeves, even in the summer." 

Kristin is part of a growing number of Americans opting for tattoo removal, which is a long, often difficult process. Now, some are going the do-it-yourself route.

Doctors, like board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Byun, are very concerned and strongly advise against it, because tattoo ink is embedded deep in the skin.  

Online, there are graphic videos devoted to self-removal. Some people use safety pins or pens to try and pole the pigment out.

"People think that you can actually remove the outside skin and thus the color will leave the body. That's a very difficult, dangerous thought process," according to Dr. Byun.

Dr. Amy Derick with the American Academy of Dermatology has also seen patients try self-removal gels and creams, but says there's 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," says Dr. Derick. Sighting an example, she continues, "We had a patient once who had used salt to try to scrub the tattoo off."

Hoster, now a tattoo removal patient, had once taken matters into her own hands. "I tried just the gel you put on twice a day, it didn't do anything.," she says.

For some, do-it-yourself treatments can cause serious side effects, like infection, scarring, burning, rashes, and skin discoloration.

Dr. Byun comments about possible setbacks of patients taking matters into their own hands by saying, "That compounds the removal issues when they come in seeking the medical treatment."

Laser surgery is considered the gold standard for tattoo removal and is cleared by the FDA.

Dr. Derick says, "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."

It's important to find a qualified and board certified dermatologist or plastic surgeon.

Derick cautions, "A lot of times, there's the temptation for physicians who only have one piece of equipment to use that equipment on everything – hair removal, tattoo removal, red spots, but the problem is if you use the wrong equipment, the risk of scarring goes up very high."

After six months of laser treatment, Kristen's tattoo is 50% gone. "Don't rush it," she advises, "Make sure that it's what you want."

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