Delhi city, home to thousands of tattoo lovers, also witnesses many more who want that 'beloved' tattoo off their body for good.
The euphoria behind a tattoo is often short-lived. You may not love that heavy metal band anymore, or you may want the name of your college sweetheart wiped off before your engagement to someone else.
Yet for those who have tried 'de-tattooing', they will well think twice before they try another tattoo. And this is because of the pain. Says Dr Deepak Vohra of Rockland Hospital: "The pain of getting a tattoo done is nothing compared to that of getting it removed. "People frequently get tattoos done under peer pressure and then regret it later." Gia, a 21-year-old cannot agree more. "When you're choosing a tattoo it should be something you know you'll want forever. Most people just choose a design off the walls of a tattoo parlor and soon grow out of it", she says.
Tattoo removal, therefore, has become almost as popular, and definitely more expensive, than getting tattoos done. According to doctors, most of the patients who come to them are in the age group of 18-30 years. Among the several ways of removing tattoos, the most popular are lasers. "The process is relatively painless but for people with a low pain threshold we use local anesthesia," says Vohra.
However, limitations exist. "Laser is better for tattoos done professionally, where the pigments are at an even depth in the derma," says Vohra. "For amateur tattoos or those done in villages, the pigments go deep and are often uneven. They often just fade the tattoos instead of removing them completely. There could also be side-effects like hyper- or hypo-pigmentation, severe irritation in that area, or at times, scarring."
Ajay Kashyap of Fortis La Femme adds: "Laser removal can sometimes make diseases resurface, like herpes, for instance."
"In extreme cases, skin grafting might be an option. " A patch of skin is taken from buttocks or thighs and grafted on to the tattooed area," says Ghose. Yet, experts opine that while this removes the tattoo completely, there is a higher risk of scarring. Dermabrasion and excision are two other options. In the former the skin is "sanded" to remove the upper and middle layers. Scarring, however, is a major problem in this. Excision involves removing the tattoo surgically and stitching together the edges of the skin.
All these methods cost dearly. Getting a tattoo costs at least Rs 1,500 per square inch, a figure, which could go up depending on, the intricacy of design and the colors used. Removing it costs even more. Laser treatment could cost Rs 3,000-6,000 per sitting and several sittings are needed. While skin grafting costs at least Rs 10,000, and dermabrasion between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000. So, before reaching for the needle to etch in your lover's name for all time, ask yourself whether it will be just that.