Tattoo laser removal: What you need to know

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- About 20 percent of people over 18 have gotten at least one tattoo in their life. If that includes you, and you've had second thoughts about it, there are options to get it removed.

Although body art enthusiasts run the gamut these days, turning back the clock on tattoos has never been easier. Laser tattoo removal has become a common procedure which has improved in recent years.

Here's how it works: Pulses of high-intensity light break up the ink beneath the skin. The laser targets just the tattoo and won't damage the surrounding tissue, but it usually takes multiple sessions.

"It's the safest and most effective way out there to remove or even lighten tattoos. Stay away from other methods like dermabrasion or surgical excision," said Ellen Kunes, health editor at Consumer Reports.

But laser removal can have down sides. Sometimes painful - it may cause infection - or scarring. It's less effective on legs or feet - or if you're a smoker. And it could cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

The procedures are not covered by insurance.

In California, besides doctors, only physician assistants and registered nurses can perform laser tattoo removal - as long as they're under a doctor's supervision. Cosmetologists, electrologists and estheticians cannot perform it at all.

So experts advise you make sure you know the credentials of the person performing the procedure.
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