Laser Tattoo Removal
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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Doctor performing a laser tattoo removal on a patient.
Doctor performing a laser tattoo removal on a patient.
Laser Tattoo Removal Quick Details
WHO IS THIS FOR
People who want to remove tattoos from their skin.
Each session will take approximately 10-30 minutes, and five or more sessions can be required to remove the tattoo.
There will be little to no pain following each session. The top layer of skin will scab over and will need to be fully healed before the next session is arranged.
Complete removal cannot be guaranteed as the results depend on your skin and ink colour.
Generally, around 90% of the tattoo should be removed through multiple sessions.
POTENTIAL RISKS & SIDE EFFECTS
Bleeding and scabbing
Sensitivity to the sun
Darker or lighter skin appearing at the site of the tattoo
What Is Laser Tattoo Removal?
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.
How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?
A consultation will allow your doctor to examine the tattoo(s) you would like to be removed, discuss your expectations and determine whether you are a suitable candidate for the removal procedure. Your doctor will fully explain the process and tell you what to expect from the first session.
A local anaesthetic cream may be applied to the skin to lessen the sensation of the laser.
A laser tool will be pointed at the tattoo and incrementally moved along the lines of ink. The area may bleed a little and will need to be patted dry throughout the session. The length of each session will depend on the size of the tattoo being removed, as the laser must be pointed at every part of the tattoo. On average, sessions last between 10 and 30 minutes.
During the session, the top layer of your skin will become raised and may feel tender. Much like when getting a tattoo, the skin will scab over, and when it is healed, you will be able to arrange the next session. This process is repeated several times until the tattoo has been satisfactorily removed or the ink cannot be broken down any further.
Are There Different Types of Laser Tattoo Removal?
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.
What Should I Expect From Laser Tattoo Removal?
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.