Robert Wallace

Robert Wallace

DR. WALLACE: When I was a young teen in love, I had a friend give me a tattoo on the back of my left hand and another one on the inside of my right wrist. Now, I’m quite sure you have heard this many times, but as the years have passed, I have come to regret these tattoos more and more with every passing day. One of the big problems I have is that they are so noticeable, since they are both on or very near my hands, and every time I meet someone new, they want to look at my tattoos and ask me what their meaning is to me.

So, I’m stuck! I don’t want to lie to someone I’ve just met, but I also don’t want to go through my whole long, sad story about why I got them in the first place and what the original meaning of them was. Let’s just say the whole situation was a big mistake on my part, and I will spare you the details.

Now I am thinking about removing these two tattoos. My soon-to-be wife wants me to remove at least the one that has another woman’s name spelled out ... ouch!

Is it easy enough to have a tattoo removed? What is the rough cost, and is it more painful to have one removed than it was to have it applied there in the first place? — Mistake of my Lifetime, via email

MISTAKE OF MY LIFETIME: A skin laser can be used to remove these tattoos, and for what it is worth, I’d suggest that if you are adamant about getting one removed, you should get them both removed at the same time. Bite the bullet, both financially and in terms of pain, and start your marriage with a clean slate. The tough news to hear is that this will cost anywhere from $150 to $1,500, and it can take multiple sessions to fully remove.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that local anesthesia be used for tattoo removal. Q-switched lasers, ones that release energy in a single, powerful pulse, are quite often the treatment of choice for tattoo removal. A special type of laser called a Q-switched Nd:YAG can be used on darker skin to avoid changing the skin’s pigment permanently. Obviously, the process of removing a tattoo is time-consuming, expensive and painful. Here is what the Mayo Clinic says about the laser procedure:

“Before laser treatment, the skin is numbed with an injection of a local anesthetic. Then a powerful pulse of energy is applied to the tattoo to heat and shatter the tattoo ink. Multicolored tattoos might need treatment with various lasers and different wavelengths.

“After the procedure, you might notice swelling and possibly blistering or bleeding. Antibacterial ointment can help promote healing. You’ll likely need repeated sessions to lighten the tattoo, and it might not be possible to completely erase the tattoo.”

After reading all of this information, I hope that all individuals considering having a tattoo placed on their body take the time to use the “carpenter’s rule”: Measure twice; cut once. This means to be certain that you wish to proceed with something that may end up becoming permanent or nearly permanent.

Tattoos are and will continue to be a popular part of our current culture. My suggestion is to focus carefully in advance on the content of any particular tattoo. Although tattoo removal may be an option for some people, others find very skilled tattoo artists who can change or morph one tattoo into a new one that changes or hides the original content!

Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at rwallace@thegreatestgift.com. To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate

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