Tattoos were made to last forever. After all, that’s the whole point. However, this might not always be the case. A Ph.D. student in Canada created a can of cream that can get rid of tattoos. The student, Alec Falkenham, sold the idea to a pharmaceutical company for an amount that was kept secret. If this cream pans out, the laser tattoo removal industry will disappear overnight. Our cultural ideas about tattoos will also change.
Unregulated tattoo removal creams exist, and none of them work. They work on the top layer of your skin with harsh chemicals. However, the method doesn’t work because tattoo ink sits in the deeper levels of your skin. If the tattoo fades even a little bit, it’s only because your immune system reacts to the damage wrought on your skin. To learn why tattoos can’t get easily removed, you have to know how they first appear. Ink-filled needles prick your skin many, many times. Your body will react to this action by sending out agents to heal the fresh wound. This response from the immune system allows your tattoo to become permanent.
Macrophages, also known as white blood cells, come in and clean everything up. After the pigment gets absorbed, some of the macrophages go back to your lymph nodes. The lymph nodes process and expel the waste. However, some of the white blood cells get wedged under your skin’s top layer. The ink got swallowed up by your cells, so your body no longer considers it a foreign object. Therefore your body will stop fighting the ink. This is how your inner skin gets flooded with different colors.
Before the new cream, lasers were the best way to get rid of tattoos. Lasers work on your skin’s ink on a particular frequency. This frequency breaks up the ink into small pieces. This allows your immune system to ingest it quickly. While tattoo removal with lasers has gotten better over the years, it is still difficult to implement. Different colored inks require various types of treatments. The treatments for some pigments are harder than others. One laser session can cost over $100, and you will usually need 10 or more visits to remove the tattoo completely. Even after all the visits to the dermatologist’s office, you might still have discoloration or scarring after the fact.
The cream that Falkenham created is a different beast altogether. The cream operates as a chemical compound that Falkenham was studying. His research was on the healing of heart tissue. One day, Falkenham wondered how this compound would work on a tattoo. Bisphosphonate liposomal, the compound’s active ingredient, goes through the levels of your skin and works on the macrophages.
The other white cells receive no harm during this process. The macrophages die, and the other cells clean up the mess that was left. The dead cells get replaced, which removes the ink. As of now, the product only got tested on pigs and mice. However, Falkenham reported to a news outlet that he had observed the complete removal of tattoos in 7 days. Falkenham told the media outlet BuzzFeed that tattoo removal treatment for an area of about three square inches would cost the consumer about $4.50.
The next step is for Cipher Pharmaceuticals to run clinical trials, prove that it’s safe for humans, and show that it doesn’t have any nasty side effects. Once they do this, they can put the cream up for sale. Cipher Pharmaceuticals shouldn’t have any issues finding volunteers for their clinical trials. About 25 percent of Americans have at least one tattoo. Out of those people, one-eighth of the survey respondents regret at least one of their tattoos.
If the tattoo removal cream works like Alec Falkenham claims, this could be a paradigm-shifting product. The cream could shift our cultural perceptions about tattoos and the people who have them. Parents will no longer be so uneasy about their son or daughter getting inked. The name of their child’s beloved might be able to get removed after it appears on their body. The idea that a tattoo will be on your body for the rest of your life may now be obsolete. Many people in our culture have long lamented the fact that tattoos were far easier to get than to remove.
That notion may be fast becoming a part of the past. However, this development may not be 100% positive. For the past century, individuals have used tattoos as a creative way to express themselves and their life philosophies. This product could be a sign of our “here today, gone tomorrow” culture. Or it could be a sign of the changing times. Where once tattoos were a permanent decision, now you can remove them like you take off your jeans at the end of the night.