Love is forever but that “L.O.V.E.” tattoo doesn’t have to be. Thanks to a brilliant PhD student named Alec Falkenham, we may not have to worry about bad tattoo decisions in the near future. While working on a medical project dedicated to preventing scar tissue build-up in the heart, the 27-year-old Dalhousie University student stumbled on a new use for his technology: painlessly erasing ink designs. Laser removal technology already allows people to erase their tattoo mistakes, but it can end up costing them thousands of dollars and usually ends up requiring multiple trips. With Falkenham’s design (which comes in the form of a cream), you’d only need one or two applications to make that “No Ragrets” marking on your back disappear. As the CBC reports, this procedure requires no injections at all. Here’s how they explain it works:
“During tattooing, ink is injected into the skin. The ink initiates an immune response, and cells called “macrophages” move into the area and “eat up” the ink. The macrophages carry some of the ink to the body’s lymph nodes. But some of those macrophages that are filled with ink stay put, embedded in the skin. That’s what makes the tattoo visible under the skin. Falkenham’s topical cream works by targeting the macrophages that have remained at the site of the tattoo. New macrophages move in to consume the previously pigment-filled macrophages and then migrate to the lymph nodes, eventually taking all the dye with them.”
In simpler terms, it’s a cream you rub on your skin and it slowly fades your ink. Genius.
The cream, according to the CBC, would cost less than $5 to cover a 10-by-10 centimeter area of skin. If this product were to be released publicly (Falkenham has a patent pending on the cream but no release date), this could help a lot of people who have deep tattoo regrets—for whatever reason—and who can’t afford to take on painful, extended laser removal procedures. We’ve all changed our minds or done things we regret in the past. It’s not easy to have a reminder of those regrets on your skin.
But while this technology brings plenty of benefits, it also makes me wonder how this product will change the way we think about tattoos. If we’re no longer forced to consider tattoos permanent, will it change how we think about them and their value? Will we become more inclined to take risks on amazing tattoos like these? Or will tattoos become as insignificant as vending machine temporary tattoos or those Fruit Roll Ups that used to let you print pictures on your tongue? Remember those weird snacks?
That’s me playing Devil’s Advocate, though, because I’m all for Falkenham’s new invention. As a generally indecisive person to begin with, the idea that I can wipe away a tattoo if I end up not liking it is appealing, and might make me even more likely to head into the process with “no ragrets.”
Featured image via.