Remember when getting a tattoo used to be a tougher decision than figuring out who you were going to marry? Because there is always divorce, but that ink was there for life. You might have thought you would always love Van Halen, but looking down at that blotchy thing on your forearm ten years later… well, you probably should have thought twice.
These days, laser tattoo removal is an effective option. But it is expensive, time consuming, and painful. You have to really be committed to getting rid of that thing to go the laser removal route. And it isn’t even guaranteed to remove it totally.
Now, thanks to Dalhousie Ph.D student, Alec Falkenham, you might be able to get rid of your tattoo without the pain, or the significant hit to your savings account. Falkenham, who is in the pathology department, is working on developing a topical cream that will target only the skin cells that were altered by the tattooing process.
During tattooing, ink is injected into the skin, which causes an immune response. Cells called “macrophages” converge on the area and “eat up” the cells. The macrophages carry some of the ink into the body’s lymph nodes, and some of them stay right there, which is what makes the tattoo visible. Falkenham’s cream works by targeting the macrophages directly under the skin. New macrophages move in to consume the previously pigment-filled macrophages and then migrate to the lymph nodes, taking all the dye with them.
Since the cream targets only the cells that were altered by the tattoo ink, there is no inflammation, and no scarring. The skin is able to regenerate itself and it will be like the tattoo was never there at all. A dream come true for a lot of people who thought at one time they would never break up with the girl whose name they tattooed onto their ass cheek.
Falkenham said about his cream, “When comparing it to laser-based tattoo removal, in which you see the burns, the scarring, the blisters, in this case, we’ve designed a drug that doesn’t really have much off-target effect.” He is currently testing the cream on tattooed pig’s ears with promising results. As of right now there is no estimated date of availability for public use, but with the right funding and a patent, the cream looks like a viable alternative to laser tattoo removal.
The cost of the topical treatment is around four cents per square centimetre, meaning a 10×10 centimetre area would cost about $4.50 per treatment. Although Falkenham doesn’t know for sure yet how many applications it will take to remove a tattoo completely, that is still a lot easier on the wallet than current tattoo removal methods. The cream is predicted to be the most effective on tattoos that are over 2 years old. But hopefully it takes you longer than two years to regret your ink, because if not, you really shouldn’t be getting those tattoos in the first place. Common sense, right? Apparently not for thousands of tattooed people in the world waiting on the edge of their seat for this cream to hit the market.