Anyone who’s been through the hell of having a tattoo removed knows what a painful process it is, no matter what the treatment. But there are some methods out there that are more painful than others – as one college student found out to her cost when using a tattoo removal cream. Her horrific story may one day be a thing of the past, however, thanks to the work of a Ph.D. student in Canada.
Tattoos come in all shapes and sizes. And most of the time, they look awesome – so it’s no wonder that the tattoo industry is so huge. In the U.S. alone, $1.6 billion is spent every year on ink, in fact, while 36 percent of adults aged 18 to 25 have at least some body art.
It’s important to remember that tattoos are permanent, though; after all, that’s the whole point. As such, it’s a pretty big decision to make. However, it’s one that people often take all too lightly. Indeed, not everyone is happy with the finished result. Whether it’s a poor choice of subject matter or just a hash job by the artist, there are plenty of reasons why someone might feel regret about their tattoo.
There are some solutions available, though. Laser removal is the most obvious choice, having been around for years. However, it comes with plenty of drawbacks. Aside from not being guaranteed to completely remove the tattoo, the painful process can take more than ten separate sessions to complete.
Laser removal also carries its share of risks. Certain colors are harder to eliminate, for instance, while there’s a chance that your skin may be left darkened or even permanently scarred by the procedure. Indeed, three in every 100 people have lasting scars following laser removal.
Instead of removing their tattoo by laser, many people instead opt to turn the design into something more desirable, either by adding to it or simply covering it up with more ink. For truly monumental mistakes, however, that just doesn’t cut it.
So if you don’t want to endure the pain or risks of laser removal, but your tattoo is just too unruly or otherwise awkward to cover up, is there really no hope for your failed body art? At one time, the answer was a resounding “no.” Soon, though, it may be a completely different story.
Alec Falkenham attends Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University, where he’s studying for a Ph.D. And he may well have devised a tattoo removal solution that renders every other process obsolete – if he can get it to market.
Falkenham worked on his solution alongside his main thesis. He was specifically researching ways the heart can repair itself after being injured. He decided to explore the impact of using a heart drug on tattooed skin.
The result is a tattoo removal cream made of liposomes. These draw in macrophages, which are a type of white blood cell. When the macrophages carry away the liposomes, they also drain the cells of ink, wiping the tattoo off the skin.
The cream specifically attacks the cells that contain pigment embedded under the skin. It means that the tattoo will eventually disappear entirely, while the removal process will be far less difficult and far less painful than other techniques.
While Falkenham’s cream has been patented, it can’t go to market until it has FDA approval. Back in 2016, he began working with a company called Cipher Pharmaceuticals, and together they’re working to bring the product to market.
And just because Falkenham has identified a clear gap in the market – for a viable, painless tattoo removal cream – it didn’t come about because he didn’t like his own body art. In fact, he told CBC News, “I’m still content with my own tattoos.”
His isn’t the first tattoo removal cream to be invented, of course. But it is the first to be regulated in any way. Indeed, traditional tattoo removal creams, which often don’t comply with safety standards, simply chip away at layers of the skin and are rarely effective.
These creams typically employ harsh chemicals, which only serve to harm the skin. Tattoos go deeper than the surface, and regular removal creams simply can’t reach them in the same way that Falkenham’s reportedly can.
A 21-year-old art student from Thailand learned the hard way that not all tattoo removal creams can be trusted after having a nightmare experience with one. Pasuda Reaw decided to try a chemical treatment, Rejuvi, rather than resort to lasers in order to remove a flower tattoo across her chest.
However, it didn’t take long for her to suffer from a negative reaction to the cream. Indeed, it was apparently “itchy and hurting a lot” almost immediately after being applied, she told Metro. And two months on Reaw had been through “torturous pain” in what had become a true ordeal.
The Rejuvi cream promised to bring the ink-filled cells to the surface of Reaw’s skin. This tissue would then scab over, allowing the tattoo to simply be pulled off. Yet while that’s pretty much exactly what happened, it probably didn’t occur in the way that she’d imagined.
Indeed, after weeks of horrendous pain and sleepless nights, the scab peeled away. However, beneath it was a scar that was even more unsightly than the tattoo. She now wishes that she’d simply opted for laser treatment in the first place.
The dangers of these unregulated creams are shocking indeed and are brought to vivid life by Reaw’s horrific story. Hopefully, Falkenham’s cream will bring a new, safe and painless solution to the market, for all those people suffering from tattoo regrets of their own.