Alex Falkenham (pictured), a PhD student from Canada has invented a new method of tattoo removal in the form of an easily-applicable, anti-inflammatory cream.
Whilst hugely exciting, and he is clearly a genius for discovering this… this potential product actually really scares me.
How the cream could work
During research, Alec has looked into how a tattoo actually stays on the skin. When your skin is injected with tattoo ink, cells called macrophages move to the tattooed area to absorb the ink – once there, they settle in your skin and this creates the tattoo. The new cream creates new macrophages that consume the old ink ones. Something like that, anyway! Basically, over time, your tattoo starts to fade.
The cream is still very much in its testing phase but Alec has already predicted that it will be a relatively cheap product to make and therefore cost merely pounds to buy.
The internet is a scary place
The truth is that if you search to find creams that claim to remove tattoos online, you’ll be able to purchase one.
Separate from Alec’s clever invention, there are also un-reputable companies selling chemical-filled creams over the internet (that are UN-REGULATED), claiming that they can get rid of unwanted ink.
News flash, there are NO magic creams currently on the market that any tattoo professional would recommend. If you think you’ve found something wonderful online you’re about to buy… close that browser right now. If you’re desperate to get rid of an unwanted tattoo, laser removal executed by a reputable professional is your best bet.
A terrifying thought for the future
Obviously, this new invention could potentially eradicate the need for tattoo laser removal, which is expensive and extremely painful. This is a fantastic move forward for the tattoo removal industry.
But the fact that I just used the phrase ‘tattoo removal industry’, terrifies me.
Laser removal is now unbelievably popular and I personally know so many people who are already undergoing the horrific, painful laser removal process. My heart often sinks when I see a good tattoo shop invest in this process under their roof – I think of the unbelievably talented artists who might now be spending some of their valuable time erasing someone else’s artwork.
What does the increase in demand for this say about the tattoo industry and the choices people are making when they are getting tattooed? From not thinking properly about what will be on them for life, to tattooing themselves at hom, to drunken tattoo holiday regrets, to not researching their tattoo artists and studios…. there is a lot to be said for the massive increase in laser removal procedures in the UK.
We need better education
As the tattoo community, we should be yelling about better tattoo education, information and guidance, rather than what you can do in the future once you’ve got it wrong. It’s not the fantastic artists that are to blame, it’s the bloke down the road who has opened a tattoo shop with no correct hygiene measures, no artistic ability, but is offering tattoos for a tenner.
Having such an easy, cheap form of tattoo removal means that some people will think even less about their tattoo decisions than they did before. There will be more of an impulse to get inked quickly, cheaply, and no doubt even more of a growing trend of these dangerous homemade tattoos. Because if you come to regret it, there’s a quick-fix, cheap way out.
What are the next steps the tattoo industry needs to take to eliminate even the need for tattoo removal? This is what we should be asking. Not, ‘how can we get rid of it better’?
None of this is a criticism on Alec, or the artists or clients undergoing and running current tattoo removal processes. It does need to be done, and if I had a tattoo I wanted removing, I wouldn’t think twice about doing it. I just think before we all get excited about this invention, let’s take a step back and ask a few questions.
We take such care when painting or using felt pens, because the result is un-erasable. We think really carefully about what we’re about to do – we plan, we think, we plan again. When doodling with a pencil, we just go straight to the paper and see what happens, because we know whatever mistakes we make, they can be undone with a quick rub of an eraser.
Let’s not de-value the precious permanence and sacred importance of the tattoos we chose to put on our bodies.