Tattoos & Skin Colour

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A tattoo involves injecting coloured pigments into the surface of the skin. This pigment is taken up by cells in the skin which causes it to be permanently discoloured.

There are a number of reasons why people may decide to have a tattoo removed. Having had the tattoo so young, people may feel regret or embarrassment about it later in life, or simply just want to ‘move on’ from their past. Getting a new job may be another motivating factor for tattoo removal, as tattoos can be perceived to imply lower credibility and competence, as well as some employers refusing to hire those with a visible tattoo. Other reasons why someone may decide to have a tattoo removed include significant life events such as a wedding, a divorce or having a baby.

Laser removal

The most common way to have a tattoo removed is by laser removal. This works by directly targeting the tattoo pigment without damaging any of the surrounding area. The tattoo pigments absorb the laser. Different wavelengths of laser light are used to remove tattoos of different colours. Since black absorbs all wavelengths, any lasers can be used to remove black tattoos. It is unknown exactly how lasers work to remove tattoos but it is thought that they instantly alter properties of the tattoo pigments. Whilst scarring is now minimal, laser removal of tattoos can be very painful and expensive.

Intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy

Whilst it is stated on some websites that IPL sources can be used for tattoo removal this is not the case. IPL therapy is not suitable for tattoo removal as the light intensity is not high enough to destroy the tattoo pigments. Instead, IPL causes the pigments to heat up, causing heat damage to the surrounding area and leading to significant scarring and changes in the skin pigments.


Dermabrasion involves literally sanding layers of skin off along with the tattoo. Whilst local anaesthetic is used with this method, it can be very painful. Dermabrasion can often result in incomplete removal of the tattoo along with varying degrees of scarring.


This method of tattoo removal involves cutting away the tattoo and sewing the area back together. This effectively removes the entire tattoo but does result in severe scarring. Excision is most effective with small tattoos, and when done with large tattoos a skin graft may be necessary instead of stitching the area together.

Tattoo removal creams

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that tattoo removal creams are effective in removing tattoos. However, in some people they do appear to gradually fade the tattoo over long periods of use. Whilst this method can be expensive and may not work very well, it is not painful and there is no risk of scarring.

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