For thousands of years, people have been etching designs, symbols, images and words onto their skin to make a statement. As a result, people have also been suffering from tattoo regret throughout history. Fortunately for those who hastily go under the needle today, there are powerful laser tattoo removal technologies. However, our ancestors didn't have those options. Before advances in technology, humans had to resort to antiquated measures to get rid of their tatts – some of which were not only painful, but ineffective, and often caused permanent skin damage. So how have removal methods transformed over the years?

Here's a look at the evolution of ink elimination.

According to The Atlantic Magazine, one of the earliest mentions of tatt removal exists in the Tetrabiblon, an encyclopedia of medicine written by the Grecian doctor Aetius in the 16th century. He referred to body art as "stigmata," explaining that it was typically seen on the hands, feet and face. The Atlantic noted that often these etchings were a way of marking a soldier's unit number, and to discourage them from deserting. 

"In cases where we wish to remove such stigmata, we must use the following preparations," he wrote, as relayed by the source. "When applying, first clean the stigmata with niter, smear them with resin of terebinth, and bandage for five days … The stigmata are removed in 20 days, without great ulceration and without a scar."

The Atlantic reported that there are also written accounts of tattoo removal in the 17th and 18th centuries, with many involving failed attempts to eliminate a pirate's facial ink. The news outlet emphasized that a multitude of sources from around the world suggest people second-guessed, regretted and resented their tatts just as much years ago as they do today, usually because they carried cultural or social affinities that the individual wanted "scrubbed from the body's record."

One tactic that was common before the 1980s was dermabrasion. Technology Scribes explained that this involved simply sanding down the top layer of skin to make an undesirable etching fade away. The journal Seminars in Plastic Surgery revealed that thermal, chemical and surgical means were also popular for tattoo removal. For example, the carbon dioxide laser destroys superficial skin layers with heat, but nearly always leaves a scar behind. An alternative strategy was cryosurgery, which entailed freezing the skin with liquid nitrogen to create a more rigid surface for removal, or excision, which meant actually cutting out the skin and stitching it back up again. These methods didn't always work for obvious reasons: The ink ran too deep.

…And now
Fortunately, the newest method for eliminating unwanted ink, the tattoo removal laser, has come a long way – and continues to improve. Not only is this process less painful than previous techniques, but it can also offer faster recovery and fewer negative side effects, provided a high-quality laser is used.

Seminars in Plastic Surgery revealed that these lasers were originally developed in the '80s. Essentially, they produce short pulses of light, which permeate the top layers of skin and breaks up the tattoo ink into smaller particles, which can then be flushed out naturally. One challenge, though, is that etchings with multiple colors may demand lasers that emit various wavelengths of light. The report noted that Q-switched lasers, of which there are several types, have become the standard and preferred technique because they are capable of shattering the pigment into particles that are so small they can be more easily eliminated from the body, and with minimal damage. The source explained that laser technologies are now able to emit pulses of light in the nanosecond and picosecond range. According to the journal, one study of 16 tattoos treated over four-week intervals showed that a picosecond laser was most successful at removing pigment.

PicoSure® is the latest technology for laser tattoo removal and offers faster and better removal in fewer treatments. PicoSure shatters ink into smaller, dust-like particles which are more efficiently absorbed by the body's natural processes. It is the first and only aesthetic picosecond laser that is FDA-cleared for the removal of tattoos. Visit to learn more and find a PicoSure Practitioner near you.