© Getty Images Tattoo regrets? There may be a solution.
A Canadian student has developed a new method of tattoo removal that could save people a good deal of pain and expense, allowing them to get rid of regrettable tats by simply rubbing cream into them.
"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," 27-year-old PhD student and inventor Alec Falkenham told CBC.
"We're not targeting any of the normal skin cells, so you won't see a lot of inflammation. In fact, based on the process that we're actually using, we don't think there will be any inflammation at all and it would actually be anti-inflammatory."
How it works
During a tattoo, ink is injected into the skin. This causes an immune response and cells called 'macrophages' move to the area to 'eat up' the ink. Some carry it away to the body's lymph nodes but others over-eat and stay stranded in your skin, forming the tattoo.
Falkenham's cream targets them by making new microphages arrive to consume the old ink-filled ones, starting the process from the beginning and causing the tattoo to slowly but surely fade.
Not only is it a safer method than laser removal, but it should be a lot cheaper.
Falkenham doesn't yet know how many applications will be required (the cream is still in the testing phase), but he estimates four cents per square centimetre – around $4.50 or £3 for a 10-centimetre by 10-centimetre area.
"Alec is a trail blazer in tattoo removal. He came to ILI with an idea, tangentially related to his graduate research, that had real-life applicability," said Andrea McCormick, manager of health and life sciences at Falkenham's Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
"His initial research has shown great results and his next stage of research will build on those results, developing his technology into a product that can eventually be brought to market."