(WXTX) - The tattoo you got years ago seemed like a great idea at the time. Now, you wish it would just disappear… and you're not alone!
One in 8 tattooed Americans now regret getting inked. There's a right and a wrong way to get rid of it, and doctors want you to know the wrong way can cause permanent skin damage.
When Kristen Hoster got a tattoo, she thought it would be a part of her life forever.
"It's of a Hello Kitty cupcake with purple flames and peppermints," Kristen said.
Now that Kristen is in the food industry, she says her tattoo is serving up stress.
"I had to wear long sleeves, even in the summer," said Kristen.
Kristen is part of a growing number of Americans opting for tattoo removal - a long, often difficult process.
Now, some are going the do-it-yourself route. Doctors, like board-certified plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Byun, are very concerned and strongly advise against it. That's because tattoo ink is embedded deep in the skin.
"People think that you can actually remove the outside skin and thus the color will leave the body," said Dr. Byun. "That's a very difficult, dangerous thought process."
Online, there are graphic videos devoted to self-removal. Some people use safety pins or pens to try and poke the pigment out.
Dr. William Steinberg with Advanced Dermatology has also seen patients try self-removal gels and creams, but says there's no evidence to whether they work or not.
"Most of the methods that are done at home will simply convert the tattoo to a scar," said Dr. Steinberg.
"I tried just the gel you put on twice a day," said Kristen. "Didn't do anything."
For some, DIY treatments can cause serious side effects, like infection, scarring, burning, rashes, and skin discoloration.
"That compounds the removal issues when they come in seeking the medical treatment," said Dr. Byun.
Laser surgery is considered the gold standard for tattoo removal and is cleared by the FDA.
"Lasers then are affecting the pigment directly and less affect on the surrounding skin that's the advantage of the laser treatment," said Dr. Steinberg.
It's important to find a qualified and board certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist.
"It's an art just as most things are so we suggest people go to a dermatologist for that who's experienced with that treatment," said Dr. Steinberg.
After six months of laser treatment, Kristen's tattoo is 50 percent gone. Her advice is to think before you ink.
"Don't rush it," Kristen said. "Make sure that it's what you want."
Or take Cheryl Renee's approach – try a temporary tattoo to see if you like it before you get inked.
Even with laser surgery, complete removal without scarring isn't always possible. Successful treatment depends on the size, color, location, and age of your tattoo.