The thing about tattoos is they're inked on your skin for life, unless you want to undergo an expensive, time-consuming, and potentially scarring laser-removal process. But now, a tattoo-removal cream could be the destroyer of a thousand unwanted lower-back butterflies and a saving grace for their owners.

Alex Falkenham, a pathology researcher at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, is developing a cream that'd reduce the tattoo-removal process to nothing more difficult than moisturizing. He's still fiddling with the formula, so it's not prepped for commercial release yet, but it sounds promising. Unlike lasers, it only attacks the cells filled with ink, which'll minimize inflammation:

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.

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Falkenham is still testing the cream on tattooed pigs, not humans, so he's not sure how long it'll take to remove tattoos completely. But I'm hoping that if I get a tattoo now, by the time my fickle heart rejects it, the cream'll be available. The estimated cost per ten-by-ten centimeter application is 4.5 (Canadian!) cents, so even if it takes a month of daily treatments, it'll still likely be way cheaper than other removal options.

Now, if you're desperate to remove a tattoo but can't wait until Falkenham starts actually selling his ointment, you're probably better off splurging on a laser treatment instead of going for the current crop of so-called removal creams on the market. None have been approved by the FDA, and the Mayo Clinic warns that they may help fade or lighten the ink, but they are not proven to truly remove tattoos and they could give you a nasty rash. [CBC]