Dermatologists' experiences with tattoo removal procedures are varied

October 1, 2010

On Call wondered whether dermatologists are seeing many complications from tattoos, or whether tattoo parlors are taking safety precautions to protect their clients. On Call also asked dermatologists whether they encounter "tattoo regret," and how they advise patients who want to have tattoos removed.

Key Points

Few problems with parlors

Most dermatologists who spoke to On Call say they see relatively few problems stemming from tattoo parlors that do not observe health and safety precautions.

"I have seen allergic reactions, usually to the red ink. Red is a problem because it contains cinnabar, and patients can develop granulomas," she says.

Dr. Beddingfield, an associate clinical professor at University of California, Los Angeles, and director of dermatology research and development for Allergan, and who also has a clinical practice, says sometimes complications come in unexpected forms.

"I had a patient with a vine of roses and thorns tattooed around her ankle. The red dye, unfortunately, contained HPV. All of the red roses grew out as warts. It actually looked one of those studded bracelets, he says. "It was incredibly hard to treat, because the warts just kept growing back. It improved, but never went away fully."