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Tattoo Pigment 101: Some colors harder to remove than others

tattoo pigment

tattoo pigment

Every tattoo presents a new challenge for Dr. Allan Izikson, a cosmetic dermatologist and laser expert at RethINK New York Tattoo Removal. Because he can usually make only 70% to 90% of a tattoo vanish, Izikson prefers the term "tattoo lightening." He is also testing a new generation of "picosecond" lasers being developed by Cynosure Inc. that aim to defeat the increasingly laser-resistant inks that tattoo artists employ. "Professionals tend to use compounds that are much more sophisticated and much more difficult to remove," Izikson said. Here, generally speaking, is his guide to the degrees of difficulty in laser tattoo removal:

Responsive colors:
"Generally speaking, if it's an amateur tattoo placed relatively recently and it's black or dark blue or brown or dark green, those generally tend to respond the best."

Challenging colors:
"Flesh-colored or rosy-white tattoos - the ink is made out of titanium, which can actually turn black when it's hit with a laser. ... If black tattoo pigment is made up of iron oxide compounds, then that can be quite challenging too." Also, "yellow, orange, certain aquamarine colors [and] some purples" can be difficult to remove, Izikson added. 


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