Tattoo today, gone tomorrow
Lasers make them disappear
January 20, 1997
Web posted at: 11:30 a.m. EST
In this story:
From Correspondent Dan Rutz
HOUSTON (CNN) -- Getting a tattoo doesn't have to be a
decision you live with forever. Using lasers, doctors can
surgically erase screaming eagles, flowers, a loved one's
name or any other body decoration that has lost its appeal.
All it takes is a little patience and a lot of money. (11 sec. 1M QuickTime movie)
Richard Phillips, now 37, got his first "homemade" tattoo
from fellow gang members when he was 13.
Later, when Phillips joined the Marines, he had a
professional tattoo artist add a tiger to cover the gang
graffiti on his upper arm. "It was cool back then," he told
But times have changed and Phillips, who lives in a Houston suburb, now calls the tattoos on both his arms "degrading."
He decided 10 years ago to have them removed but it took
until now for technology to come up with an answer. The
laser treatment he receives at the Veterans Hospital in
Houston feels like being continously popped with a rubber
band, Phillips said.
But the laser does not actually burn the skin, according to
Dr. Ida Orengo of the Baylor University College of Medicine.
Instead, as she explained, the highly-focused light
"explodes" the tattoo ink into smaller pieces.
Normal skin is unaffected, but the laser raises a temporary
welt when it hits the tattoo.
The treatment takes about an hour but it takes a few weeks
for the body heal itself, eventually flushing away the
broken-down ink. Depending on skin type and the tattoo
itself, it may take sessions lasting years before the image
is gone for good. "You get rid of the tattoo, leaving little
or no scarring at all," Orengo said.
Phillips has veterans benefits to help pay for his treatment.
But for others, the cost can be several thousand dollars.
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