Tattoo removal: Is the pain worth the price? - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

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Tattoo removal: Is the pain worth the price?

Tattoos are no longer permanent, thanks to advanced laser technology used to remove the ink from the skin's surface. Dr. John Sowell is a Board Certified Dermatologist who treats about three tattoo removal patients every week.

"What the laser does is it breaks the ink into smaller pieces that your immune system can clean up and haul away," said Sowell.

The ink does not actually leave the body, it only travels elsewhere underneath the skin's surface.

"It goes to your lymph nodes. So you might have a purple and neon green lymph node somewhere, but it's not visible from the outside," Sowell said.

Patients usually see finished results within six or seven treatments. Patient Bekah Weeks recently completed her fourth treatment for the removal of a tattoo on her lower back.

"I just decided that it was something stupid that I got when I was 18 and I was ready to get it taken off," said Weeks. "But there's a huge difference and I can tell maybe this treatment might be the last one I have to have."

Weeks said the treatments are much more painful to the wallet than they are on the body. Each treatment costs $150 and there is no guarantee of how many treatments each patient will need.

Sowell said neon green and red inks are the toughest to remove.

"Sometimes a 1/3 gone tattoo looks worse than the tattoo did originally, so they have to be committed to having six or eight treatments. It takes maybe up to a year to get rid of a tattoo," Sowell said.

Sowell said the procedure is safe, but can cause scarring in patients who are prone to Keloids, or very thick scars. The chance of scarring is greater in Keloid prone areas like the mid-line chest and on top of the shoulders.

Weeks believes if you can take the pain of getting a tattoo, you can handle the lidocaine injections for the removal. Once those are complete, Sowell and Weeks agree the laser process is painless.

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