Disappearing tattoos a safe alternative for lovelorn

Embarrassed by that tattoo with the name of that former lover? Or those characters in Chinese that you believed meant “eternal love” but later found out to mean “penguin hairball”?

Laser treatment is the solution for getting rid of these unwanted body markings, but it can take up to a dozen treatments to bleach away conventional tattoo pigments. The process is expensive, often painful and sometimes fails to remove the entire tattoo, leaving a ghost picture on the skin.

But—for those prepared to wait a little longer before going under the needle—help is on the way.

United States chemists have developed a range of smart pigments that can disappear with a single laser treatment, the British weekly New Scientist says.

The inks have already been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in drugs, cosmetics, food and medical devices. They are readily absorbed by the body and for that reason have until now never been used in tattoos.

A team led by Rox Anderson at the Massachusetts General hospital in Boston has found a way around this problem by encapsulating the ink in microscopic polymer beads that measure just one to three micrometres across.

That makes them tiny enough to be injected into the skin to form the tattoo.

To get rid of the tattoo, a laser splits the beads open, dumping the dye into the skin where it is safely absorbed and fades away.

The report appears in this Saturday’s issue of the British science magazine.—Sapa-AFP

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