Laser tattoo removal is a simple procedure for those who want to remove unwanted tattoos. A laser is used to break up the ink in the tattoo which will then be flushed out of the body naturally.
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When you first get a tattoo, your body recognises the ink as a foreign body. Your immune system attempts to remove the ink using your white blood cells. However, because some of the ink particles are much larger than the blood cells, your body can only remove the smallest of the ink particles. This is the reason that tattoos fade naturally and the lines become less sharp over time. When a laser is used on a tattoo it, essentially, speeds up this process by breaking up the ink particles into smaller ones. Your body then takes over and your white blood cells remove the smaller ink particles and filter them out through your liver. Therefore, how long you have had the tattoo may have an impact on the results of the laser removal procedure. In time, ink particles can rise up towards the surface of the skin, making them easier to break up with a laser.
A short-pulse laser is held close to the skin and emits the laser down into the skin. Each laser pulse starts to break up the ink inside the skin. Tattoo ink is made up of large and small ink particles, so when the ink is pushed into the skin using the multiple needles of a tattoo gun, it may be placed at varying depths in the skin. The ink is removed layer by layer during multiple sessions. This ensures that not too much is done at a time, thereby protecting the skin from damage and scarring. Laser tattoo removal is a time-consuming process as the surface area of the laser is quite small, and it must be placed over the entire tattoo and moved little by little.
The basic process is the same for all procedures. Lasers with different frequencies may be used for certain ink colours. Nd:YAG lasers are usually used on red and black ink. Alexandrite lasers are more suitable for green and blue ink.
When undergoing a laser tattoo removal procedure, you can expect to feel some pain, not unlike the pain you experienced when you had the tattoo done originally. As people can experience pain differently, the removal process could be more or less painful than that from the tattoo gun. The sensation felt during the removal treatment has been likened to a rubber band being flicked on the skin. Until you start the treatment, it may not be possible to estimate how many sessions will be required to remove your tattoo, and even then it may be necessary to see how the ink and your skin react to each session. The shade of your skin, the ink and colours that were used and how deep it is in your skin can impact how successful each session is. The results also rely on your body’s ability to flush the ink out of your skin. It is always possible that the tattoo may not be completely removed if some ink particles cannot be broken up into small enough pieces for the white blood cells to remove.
The laser can change the colour of the skin and leave lighter or darker patches in the treated area. Black ink is the easiest colour to remove with a laser, while blue, green and red are slightly more difficult. White, purple and yellow inks are among the most difficult colours to remove completely. These colours will require more sessions and the use of lasers with different frequencies. Be prepared for a long and slow process to remove your tattoo. It can be frustrating to have to undergo several laser sessions and wait for the skin to heal in between, but the end result can be worth it in many cases.