Older tattoos (those more than 36 months old) were also deemed problematic, because ink particles tend to sink into ever-deeper layers of the skin over time.
"These results should be considered when discussing tattoo removal with patients," Naldi said. "They should also be taken into consideration when deciding about decorating the skin [with] a new tattoo."
Naldi, from the Centro Studi Gruppo Italiano Studi Epidemiologici in Dermatologia in Bergamo, Italy, and his colleagues published their findings online Sept. 17 in the Archives of Dermatology.
The same journal offers up some encouraging news from a research team led by Dr. Nazanin Saedi, director of laser surgery and cosmetic dermatology in the department of dermatology at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
In a small study of just 12 patients, Saedi found that a new approach to tattoo removal appears to be a safe and much faster method than standard Q-switched lasers.
"With this [new] type of laser, the energy is released in a much quicker timeframe, and that is actually much better for removal," said Saedi, who conducted her research while with SkinCare Physicians in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
"What it does," she explained, "is shatter and shake up the ink in a way that seems to break up more of it with each session of treatment than Q-switched lasers."
On average, Saedi's patients needed a little more than four treatment sessions to clear away at least 75 percent of the unwanted tattoo. By comparison, Saedi said patients undergoing standard Q-switched laser care would need about double that number of treatments.
"These results are very exciting," said
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