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Health A-Z

Tattoo Removal: Will the NHS help?

About four years ago I got a small tattoo just below the waistline at the back. It's about the size of a 50p piece. I now want to have it removed but I'm not sure how to go about it. I was told that the NHS won't do this.

Dr Fred Kavalier answers your health question:

Tattoos can sometimes be removed, but there is no guarantee that you will end up with normal skin at the site of the tattoo. If it's a small tattoo in an inconspicuous site, your best bet might be to have it surgically removed. The surgeon will cut it out and sew together the skin edges. For bigger tattoos, this is not possible, because the skin edges can't be brought together. Another option might be laser treatment, depending on how deep the tattoo is, and what colour it is. The technique is most successful for dark inks, such as blue and black. Laser treatment has to be repeated a number of times. There are plenty of clinics that offer tattoo removal, but I recommend that you seek the advice of a dermatologist or a plastic surgeon who is a member of the The British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (www.baaps.org.uk). The NHS is very unlikely to provide this service, but your GP might be able to recommend a specialist.

Please mail your questions for Dr Fred to health@independent.co.uk. He regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions.