Tattoo removal: The painful process explained

The process to remove tattoos can be painful not just physically, but emotionally
February 19, 2014 3:58:11 AM PST
Ask people why they got a tattoo, and some will tell you it seemed like a good idea at the time. But now, many have changed their minds, and getting rid of a tattoo isn't easy.

Looking at the 14 giant stars and the yellow and orange flames on his arm, Chris Fletcher says, "I grew up a little, I guess. I was trying to start thinking about careers [and] jobs, so I didn't want to have a tattoo all over my arm."

Chris Fletcher and his ex-wife, who is now married to someone else, say the matching tattoos are embarrassing. So much so, she asked us not to use her name or show her face.

"At the time, I didn't think about it. But now I've had my son, and it obviously bothers me," she says.

They came to Dr. Esta Kronberg, a Houston dermatologist, to remove the tattoos. Kronberg says their story is one she hears often.

"It's more than just removing pigment there's an emotional factor involved, it could be a bad memory, it could be a person they don't want to think about anymore," Kronberg says.

Kronberg has removed hundreds of tattoos, and she says the only thing that really works is still the laser. What you're really doing is breaking up the pigment with a controlled burn. With each pop of the laser, you can see tiny blisters on the tattoo.

It was the first treatment for Fletcher's ex-wife. She was stoic, but says it was painful.

How well a tattoo comes off depends on the color. Doctors have to use different colors of the laser light in order to remove different colors in the tattoo.

For the pink outline on the outside of Fletcher's ex-wife's star tattoo, Kronberg used a green laser light. For the black part of the star, she used a white light.

"The light shatters the pigment," Kronberg says. "Black is the easiest to get rid of, blue is almost impossible and red green and yellow are OK."

After five laser treatments, Chris was pleased with the results. His ex hopes her stars will come off as well as his tattoo did.

"Would you do it differently?" we asked her.

"I would definitely do it differently. I want to be able to look at myself and feel like this is the way I'm supposed to be," she said.

It costs several hundred dollars per treatment, and usually takes between five and 10 treatments to remove a large tattoo.

Find Christi on Facebook at ABC13-Christi Myers or on Twitter at @ChristiMyers13

Load Comments