Barbed Wire No More?
"Winona Forever." Or so Johnny Depp thought. The actor emblazoned Winona Ryder's name on his shoulder during the couple's engagement in the early '90s. But before the wedding bells sounded, the couple had broken up. Because Johnny Depp is Johnny Depp, he pulled an A-lister move and had part of the infamous ink lasered off, leaving his arm art to announce "Wino Forever."

Such a bold statement might not work for you, but it's an example of how the times are changing. What was once considered a permanent decision can now be removed by a dermatologic surgeon in a few different ways, according to the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.

Removal Methods

The ASDS lists three common techniques performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia on their Web site, including:

Laser surgery: Using a high-intensity laser beam, the surgeon will treat the various pigment colors of your tattoo, thus removing the ink. This low-risk approach is considered the standard treatment because it is "bloodless," highly effective and produces few side effects for the patient. Multiple laser treatments may be required, depending on the colors and size of the tattoo.

Dermabrasion: This skin removal technique uses a rough wire brush or a diamond dust-covered burr attached to a motorized wand. The surgeon will remove the surface and additional layers of the tattoo, and through the "sanding" of the skin and the dressing techniques the tattoo inks will raise and be absorbed by the dressing.

Surgical incision: Using a scalpel, the surgeon will remove the tattoo and stitch up the area. This form of removal allows the surgeon great control in excising the inked skin, and is considered highly effective.

Complications and side effects after tattoo removal could include some scarring, a lack of complete ink removal, skin discoloration at the site of the former tattoo and infection.

Think Before You Ink

Due to the unique application of each tattoo, a board-certified surgeon will on a case-by-case basis determine the appropriate tattoo removal method. Because that cartoon character you got on a dare during college might have been applied with different ink than your buddy's tribal art arm band.

Perhaps you haven't already exposed your body to a regrettable ink decision. If not, consider more than just the physical, cultural and social side effects of that flying eagle back tattoo—some people discover years after getting a tattoo that they are allergic to the ink.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, red pigments are the most common cause of hypersensitivity. A chronic inflammation of the skin can occur days, weeks or months after getting a tattoo. And that's an itch you don't ever want to scratch.

For more information, visit the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery and the New England Journal of Medicine.