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CONSUMER REPORTS: The benefits and dangers of laser tattoo removal

Although body art enthusiasts run the gamut these days, turning back the clock on tattoos has never been easier.

Just ask 32-year-old mom Maggie Cross who wants to swap out her ten-year-old tattoo for a new one.

"I'd like to add some more color, so I'm going to get a more colorful tattoo over it," Maggie said.

And Renee Simpson wants the name adorning her arm gone for good.

"It's keeping me present in a story that I've just outgrown," explained Renee.

Both women are having laser tattoo removal - a common procedure which has improved in recent years.

Here's how it works: Pulses of high-intensity light break up the ink beneath your skin. The laser targets just the tattoo, and won't damage the surrounding tissue. But it usually takes multiple sessions.

It's the safest and most effective way out there to remove or even lighten tattoos. Stay away from other methods like dermabrasion or surgical excision.

But laser removal can have downsides. Sometimes painful, it may cause infection or scarring. It's also less effective on legs or feet -- or if you're a smoker.

And it can cost hundreds, even thousands of dollars.

These procedures are not covered by insurance. But to Maggie and Renee - it's worth it.

"It's really just as a matter of convenience," Renee said.

"I can always get it lightened again,” said Maggie.

States vary widely for clinic owners and laser operators when it comes to requiring medical credentials. Be careful where you have your tattoos removed – Consumer Reports recommends using physicians experienced in laser surgery.

MORE INFO | Consumer Reports: Tattoo Removal Made Easier


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