Lasers work by directing energy toward ink in the skin with highly concentrated colored light beams. These laser beams break up ink particles into tiny fragments which are later cleared up by the body’s scavenging cells. This process of fragmenting the ink particles requires numerous sessions depending on the depth of the ink level. The procedure is bloodless and no incisions are made. The laser selectively targets the pigment of the tattoo without damaging the surrounding skin. With deeper penetration of the skin and multiple sessions however, the heat generated by the lasers may cause pain and blister formation. Even though laser technology is refined, the chance of scarring is always present with multiple treatments.
Who is a candidate for laser tattoo removal?
Individuals with fair skin and superficially placed tattoos on the arms, chest, buttocks or legs are the best candidates. Tattoos on dark skinned individuals, or tattoos on the ankles or fingers, areas where there is less body fat, are the most difficult to treat and results are more variable. A thorough discussion with a tattoo removal specialist can better determine the potential success rate of laser tattoo removal for any given tattoo and skin type. Consulting with a professional and reputable tattoo removal specialist who is experienced and understands the procedure is important to ensure proper treatment and candidacy.
What determines the success of tattoo removal?
Complete removal of a tattoo is based on several things. The size, location, application, age, and color of the tattoo all factor in, as well as the health of the patient and thus their body’s ability to heal. Newer tattoos are generally more difficult to remove.
Does Tattoo removal hurt?
The lasers generate rapid pulses which may feel different to each patient, but are generally uncomfortable. To minimize the pain, the physician will recommend taking Tylenol a few hours before the procedure. Pain medications that thin blood and promote bruising are not recommended. To further decrease the pain, the physician may apply a local anesthetic ointment on the tattoo a few hours before the procedure. In some cases, the physician may inject a local anesthetic into the tattoo before the procedure.
How long does each treatment take?
Laser treatment usually does not take more than a few minutes, yet this time frame varies greatly depending on the tattoo. However, multiple sessions are required to remove most tattoos. The multiple sessions are usually split over 4-8 week periods, depending on the size and complexity of the tattoo.
What happens after each treatment?
After each laser treatment, ice is immediately placed on the tattoo to minimize swelling. After about 30 minutes, a topical antibiotic ointment is placed on the tattoo followed by a sterile dressing. The skin site should be left dry for a few days and should be cared for like sunburned skin.
What are the common side effects and risks?
Side effects of laser procedures are generally few but may include hyperpigmentation (excessive color), or hypopigmentation (excessive fading) of skin. Other possible side effects include infection and a small chance of permanent scarring. The area may appear sunburned for a few months and ultimately this will pass.
How many treatment sessions are required?
Most simple tattoos are removed in 2-4 treatments scheduled about 4-8 weeks apart. Removing complex tattoos often requires a series of treatments spaced approximately 8 or more weeks apart. Professional tattoos usually require 6-10 treatments for complete clearing. A large, professional color tattoo can cost thousands of dollars to remove, and the success of the procedure may not be guaranteed.
Before & After Photos
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