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Doctors Warn Against At-Home Tattoo Removal

By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TV
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BOSTON (CBS) – At some point, a tattoo might seem cool. And then it doesn’t. It’s called “Tattoo Regret”, and more people as they age are experiencing these feelings.

Nothing can get a teenage girl’s heart racing like Adam Levine. He’s handsome, cool, and covered in tattoos. But will a look that works for the 34-year-old singer of Maroon 5 today still be successful 20 years down the road?

Kristen Hoster thought her tattoo was a good idea when she got it. “It’s a Hello Kitty cupcake with purple flames and peppermints. Couldn’t tell you why I got it.”

It started to send the wrong message on the job for Kristen. “I had to wear long sleeves even in the summer.”

A recent poll found 14% of tattooed Americans wish they had never done it.

Dr. Michael Byun, a board certified plastic surgeon, is particularly concerned about home remedies. He says people don’t realize how deeply tattoo ink is imbedded in the skin. “People think that you can actually remove the outside skin and thus the color will leave the body and that is a very dangerous thought process.”

Graphic videos devoted to self-removal show dangerous techniques such involving pins and pens are easy to find on the web.

Gels and creams are often ineffective according to Dr. Amy Derick of the American Academy of Dermatology. “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.”

There have been reports of serious side effects such as infection, scarring, burning, rashes, and skin discoloration.

Laser surgery is considered the safest approach and has been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration.

“The reason 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,” said Dr. Derick.

Dr. Derick also said it is important to make sure the physician is using the appropriate laser for tattoo removal.

Kristen has been undergoing laser treatment for six months now, and the tattoo is about half gone. She recommends anyone considering a tattoo give it a lot of thought beforehand.

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