Singaporean Doctor Has Removed More Than 2,000 Tattoos, Addresses Common Regrets And More In Q&A

So you woke up and realized that thing on your butt wasn’t a really artistic rash. It'd have been better if it resembled a renaissance era masterpiece but alas, it looked more like a doodle of a 3-year-old who was high on sugar. 

Bad 2 star tattoo

We get it. You were young, you drank too much, you hung out with the wrong crowd, you were emotionally unstable… But it’s not the end of the world.

If there’s anyone who knows a thing or two about tattoo removal, it's Dr Kevin Chua, the founder of Drs Chua and Partners. He has a special interest in aesthetics, more specifically pigment laser treatments for tattoo removal. 

Over the course of his long career, he has helped over 2,000 patients get rid of those embarrassing mistakes. He recently answered DoctorxDentist reader questions on tattoo removals - here are the key take homes.  

"Omg, did I really get that tattoo?! What should I do now?"

Tattoo

The regret comes deep (and instant). Dr Kevin had a reader ask him about a freshly inked tattoo that he desperately wanted gone.

Some decisions seem pretty final, right? Fret not, there is hope. Dr Kevin advised the reader to wait at least four weeks before going for treatment. Reason being, freshly tattooed skin needs time to heal. Attempting to remove a tattoo whilst it is still healing only increases your chances of scarring!

The older the tattoo, the easier to remove

From Dr Kevin’s experience, tattoos that are less than a year old are much harder to remove when compared with a tattoo that has been there for 10 years. Your body tries to get rid of the ink as soon as you get it.

An older tattoo means that your body has had more time to remove it compared to a fresh tattoo. This usually translates to fewer sessions required for older tattoos when compared to newer tattoos.

Laser tattoo removal can cost anywhere between $2,000 to $4,500 in Singapore

Typically, for a simple single coloured tattoo, you can expect to pay around $2,000. For a more complicated tattoo, the price increases up to $4,500.

Thanks to the advancement of technology, there are many tatto removal lasers on the market right now. Generally, each laser session can set you back $800 – $1,300.

The cost is based on several factors of the tattoo:

  • Size 
  • Position
  • Colours present
  • Skin type 
  • Technology used

Dr Kevin’s top choice is the PicoWay treatment. Accroding to him, this treatment has been specifically designed for tattoo removal. It has the ability to treat a large variety of colours including the traditionally difficult green and blue inks and allows for the least sessions possible. 

You can see an overview of the tattoo removal process as follows:

tattoo removal laser singapore

"Can I just use tattoo removal cream? I've seen a lot of these miracle cream ads." 

The answer is a resounding no. Dr Kevin has interviewed his patients who have used them, and the consensus is that the results are marginal. The laser remains the gold standard for tattoo removal. 

Caution: Do not use household agents to remove your tattoo

According to Dr Kevin, he has seen too many people creating new scars for themselves as a result of trying to remove tattoos using common household agents. 

Is tattoo removal very painful?

Sorry to break it to you but, yes, it is quite painful. Of course, pain is subjective. So it depends on your personal threshold as well as the location of the tattoo. 

If your tattoo lies on the parts of your skin that have more nerve endings, you will definitely feel a stronger sensation. For example, your face, neck, and fingers. These are areas where you might feel more pain as compared to the shoulder or forearm. 

How long will it take?

Woman waiting with clock

Unfortunately, most tattoos can’t be removed in one session. The only exception is if there's very little ink to begin with.

Most black ink tattoos take about 3 to 12 months depending on the type of laser technology used. Colourful tattoos like the SpongeBob SquarePants on your lower back are harder to treat.

"Must a laser be used to remove tattoos? What about microdermabrasion or surgical excision?"

It's your body, so of course you get to choose the type of method you prefer. However, there are very solid reasons why Dr Kevin is such a strong advocate for laser, especially the PicoWay. 

He explains that the PicoWay laser has a special wavelength that was made to remove the most difficult of colours. 

This ‘picosecond technology’ is also able to deliver small bursts of laser energy that penetrate deep into the skin quickly. That way, there's minimal damage to the area outside of the treatment zone.

Space your treatments out between 4 to 6 weeks

On average, each laser treatment is spaced out between four to six weeks. Stacking the treatments too close together can cause damage and possibly leave you with scars.

The colour and amount of ink being treated also determines the number of sessions required. Green and sky-blue inks are especially difficult to remove. 

How to get the best results?

Dr Kevin stressed that it's important to adopt proper post laser aftercare for the entire recovery process. Right after a session, the treated area may seem like a superficial burn wound. You'd need to treat it like an open wound.

Apply the treated area with a thin layer of antibiotic and bandage it with sterile gauze. The treated area should always be clean and ry, and out of direct sun exposure. 

Itching is very common but never ever scratch or pick at the scabs! You can take antihistamines to alleviate itching.

"Will my tattoo really disappear?" 

Yes, Dr Kevin confirms that a 100% clearance is possible. However, it should still be treated as an exception. His goal is to reduce most of the tattoos he treats to 90-95% faded.

Here's the best part: your body’s immune system will continue to flush away the ink over time.

All patients are eager to see immediate results, but it is important to understand that it's a slow process. Apart from the laser, it also relies on the ability of each individual body's ability to break down the ink from the skin.

Patience is key!

Bottom Line

Always think carefully before you get a tattoo! If that doesn't work out, technology is here to save you.


Also read: 8 Dermatologist Clinics in Singapore for Your Skin Concerns (2020)


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References:

  1. Tattoo Removal: Options and Results. U.S Food and Drug Administration. June 22 2017 
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All content posted is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. This Q&A is not a patient consultation and any information provided herein is not intended to replace consultation with a qualified medical professional. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment.

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