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Tattoo Removal with Cathleen Barenski, CRNP

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Laura Zabriskie

August 9, 2017

Greater Living with Mary Beth Marsden

There are a lot of reasons why people get tattoos...and there are a lot of reasons why many people want to get theirs removed. Cathleen Barenski, CRNP from the Vein Center at GBMC recently spoke with Baltimore Broadcast Journalist Mary Beth Marsden to talk about the why and the how of tattoo removal as well as to give insight into the growing industry of laser hair removal.

It turns out that around 50% of women over the age of 50 that have a tattoo want to get it removed and they aren't the only ones. Whether there is an emotional reason to get one removed, or it's because of lifestyle and body changes, the demand for tattoo removal is higher than it's ever been. So how does it work? The laser used in treatment breaks up the ink particles in the skin allowing them to be taken away by the bloodstream. Over time, the body is able to break down some of this ink on its own, which makes older tattoos easier to remove than newer ones.

When describing the removal process Ms. Barenski explains that "tattoos were designed to be permanent, so we have to take them off very carefully and over time." The number of sessions needed to fully remove the tattoo depends on several factors. The color of the ink, the number of colors used in the tattoo, where it is on the body, and the person's skin type all affect the treatment of the tattoo; however, a person usually has to go through 8 sessions to completely remove the tattoo with 4 to 6 weeks in between each session.

While hair removal also includes the use of lasers, they are completely different than those used in tattoo removal. These lasers target melanin rather than the hair itself in order to stop hair in its earliest stage of growth. The process effectively stops the growth of hair rather than removing the hair that is already there — patients are actually asked to come into their appointment with the area already shaved. Patients are also asked to avoid waxing, plucking, and using other hair removal products for a month before they start their treatment so that hair follicles are intact and the lasers have something to target.

During the conversation, Ms. Barenski answered live and pre-submitted questions about the process, results, potential for side effects, and overall experience for both tattoo and hair removal.
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