Knowledge is Power
Some say "cover-ups are an art form in itself". If a tattooist isn't knowledgeable, a bad tattoo can get worse if the cover-up is done poorly. When considering a cover-up, even more diligence must be considered and paid to the new tattoo and new artist working on your skin. Most tattoo cover-ups will be larger than the original and may need to incorporate several design concepts. Depending on the design and placement of your original tattoo, you may have a wide array of options to cover your tattoo or on the other extreme an extremely limited number of options.
Many tattooists strongly advocate reworking and refreshing an existing tattoo instead of a complete cover-up. In fact, some artists specialize in these rescue efforts by cleaning up an existing tattoo and returning a tattoo to glory, that the client can be sure to show off in pride. When thinking about a cover-up, rescue or removal, always ask for a second opinion from more than one professional artist.
New Removal Methods
Safe tattoo removal is a hot topic these days. Unfortunately, many people have a tattoo they are less than happy about and want it removed. A 2006 survey in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology shows that 24% of 18-25 year olds have tattoos, and that as many as 17% have considered tattoo removal. Thankfully, the tattoo removal process has evolved quite a bit, especially in recent years. What used to be a fairly crude and skin damaging is now a much more sophisticated laser technology procedure.
The most effective tattoo removal is with Q-switched, or quality-switched, lasers, most commonly used within the last decade. A beam of light searches for the contrast of the skin and the ink and then pulses onto the skin to break up the ink into particles small enough to be absorbed. While this is the best treatment for tattoo removal, it is not perfect. Because we all have different skin and different tattoos, laser treatment can work differently from person to person.
The more contrast between the ink and the skin, the easier the method is. Black ink is easiest to detect. Greens and purples as well as other colors are extremely difficult to get rid of. In these cases, it's best to let the tattoo fade enough to get a cover up.
Many people also swear by tattoo removal creams such as TatBGone or Wrecking Balm. The best thing to do if you are thinking about tattoo removal is to talk to a professional. What will work best for you may differ from what will work best for someone else. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, and informed rather than ignorant when it comes to the practice of your health and skin.
Past Removal Methods
In the past, de-inking has been extreme. Dermabrasion was one method that involved sanding down the skin. Salabrasion was a method that involved a salt solution rubbed into the skin, which was heated and then scraped off. This was somewhat effective in removing tattoos, but also almost always left scars in their place.
Surgical tattoo removal left scars as well, considering the inked skin is cut out and then stitched back together. Sometimes this is effective for smaller tattoos. Cryosurgery involves a freeze burn using liquid nitrogen. This is a method commonly used to treat warts and other similar skin issues. The most common side effect of getting a tattoo removed is scarring. None of these methods are recommended by professionals today.