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Tattoo Removal, Piercing Reversal Not So Easy

Extreme piercings and tattoos can be a form of rebellion for some, for others they are just a form of expression. But what happens if a fire-breathing dragon or a gauged ear is not something you want anymore?

Doctors and tattoo artists alike say a lot of it depends on the person, the type of work they have had done and how much they are willing to pay.

Preston Brower added ink to Corinna Heneley’s lower back tattoo in his Pocatello shop, Think Ink. Henely had the work done at another shop and after it was all said and done, was not completely happy with how it looked. Brower said fixing a bad tattoo is doable if you are willing to get re-inked, but he has people come in to his shop asking if he does tattoo removal all the time, and he can — on small letters or shapes.

“But you can go over it with the tattoo needle itself and peroxide and that will help bring out the ink, because it fizzes up enough to bring the ink up, but you also have to pick at it too, like you tell people not to do, because that’s exactly what it’ll do — it’ll ruin the tattoo,” he said.

If the idea of a peroxide gun under your skin turns you off, you can always go the medical route. Laser tattoo removal has been around for a little while, but not many doctors will do it.

Dr. Earl Stoddard of the Idaho Skin Institute said he refuses to do laser removal because the results are never that clean.

“The way the laser works is it concentrates it’s energy on pigment. And tattoo (ink) is pigment. And it’s got to break up the pigment into small enough particles so that the body itself can come in and clean it up. But if the particles are too big the body can’t get to them, and most professional tattoos are robust enough, that the laser just can’t break up enough to be cleaned up. So that’s why they won’t go away. Now the appearance can be improved through laser treatments, but it may take many more treatments than people expect,” Stoddard said.

And that’s going to take a few particles out of your wallet. Depending on the size of your tattoo, a laser session could cost you nearly $500. Coming back for repeat treatments means you are spending thousands of dollars to de-ink yourself.

So what about an extreme piercing? Or women?s earlobes that have been stretched from the wear of heavy earrings? That should not be as hard to fix, right? Not so fast, said Plastic Surgeon Dr. Angier Wills.

“You draw some lines and try and figure out how you cut out the elongated abnormal looking part and use the remaining tissue to put it back together to look something like an earlobe. It’s like anything else I do, sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s hard,” said Wills.

Wills said you can also have a tattoo excised, where doctors physically cut it off of your body and stretch the skin over the wound, leaving you with a scar.

Stoddard, Wills and Brower all agree: Getting body art can be a gamble, but having it removed can be an even bigger one.

“That’s why you have to be sure of the artist you’re having doing it and be sure of what you want, because it is permanent,” Brower said.

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