The trend for “getting inked” as a form of self-expression continues to be popular in many parts of the world. One in four Europeans have a tattoo, with the figure doubling among young adults. The USA is another tattoo hotspot. In 2021, around 26% of Americans had a tattoo, according to research by Statista, with 17% having more than one.
While many people who have a tattoo are happy with their decision, the upward trend inevitably means a corresponding increase in “tattoo regret”, leading to people seeking ways to get rid of unwanted body art. In fact, the tattoo removal market is forecast to increase significantly in the next five years, driven by personal changes in taste and lifestyle, as well as increasing availability and innovation in laser tattoo removal technologies. As an indicator, Imarc estimates the value of the global tattoo removal market will be US$ 392.43 million by 2027, exhibiting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.70%.
Health factors are also influencing the rise in people seeking tattoo removal procedures. Some skin disorders, such as sarcoidosis, can be exacerbated by tattoos and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)-based burns can be caused by metal-based ink tattoos. Then, there’s concern about color tattoos. In January 2022, the European Chemicals Agency banned thousands of chemicals used in ink for color tattoos in response to concerns over allergic reactions and a possible cancer link. This has brought colorful tattoos into the spotlight as people reevaluate the risks.
However, erasing full color tattoos is a much more complicated procedure than removing “traditional” black ink tattoos. Laser wavelengths are a key factor. By delivering short duration, high-power pulses of light energy, lasers in tattoo removal devices break ink particles in the skin. Different colors absorb and reflect light differently, so if the ink doesn't absorb the light sufficiently, it won't fragment. This all depends on the wavelength of the laser beam.