Erasable Tattoos Work Like Scratch'n'Sniff

When a laser "scratches," dye microcapsules dissolve away.

By Morgen Peck|Friday, November 16, 2007
Microscopic beads that were produced with a red-brown iron oxide to create a red-brown ink.These microscopic beads are 5-6 microns in size and are suspended in solution. Images courtesy of Freedom-2, Inc.

Tattoo ink company Freedom-2 has made it easier to erase bad body art. Using microencapsulation—technology found in scratch-and-sniff stickers—the company’s new ink allows for tattoo removal with a single laser treatment rather than the usual six or seven.

At Brown University, medical engineer Edith Mathiowitz encases molecules of water-soluble pigment within insoluble polymers. Applied to the skin, the compounds remain anchored, but when hit by a laser, they burst open and allow the body to reprocess the ink.

The FDA does not now regulate tattoo pigments, so the occasional harmful ink concoction travels to the lymph nodes and can complicate diagnoses of melanoma or induce allergic reactions. Standardized, high-tech inks like Freedom-2’s could make for a safer—and less regrettable—tattoo environment.

Comment on this article

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar

Log in to your account

Email address:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it emailed to you.

Not registered yet?

Register now for FREE. It takes only a few seconds to complete. Register now »