Laser tattoo removal is a procedure that utilizes high-powered lasers that penetrate deep into the skin and are able to permanently demolish the ink particles within the cells that give the color to the tattoo. There are different types of lasers that may be used to remove tattoos, depending on the color of ink of the tattoo.
The procedure for the tattoo removal will depend on the characteristics of the tattoo and the individual person. Most people will require a series of short sessions 1-2 months apart to remove the tattoo, although the exact number of sessions cannot be predicted in advance. Usually 5-10 sessions are required, although up to 20 may be required in some cases. The variability depends on many factors, such as the size, color, location and age of the tattoo.
With improved technology in recent years, the outcomes of laser tattoo removal have become more positive by increasing efficacy and reducing the risk of adverse effects.
Laser tattoo removal is a permanent procedure that will completely remove the tattoo from the skin.
There are many reasons that an individual may want to removal a tattoo from their body. These may include regret or dissatisfaction with the appearance of the tattoo on their body. Others may wish to remove a tattoo to improve employment prospects, due to the negative stigma of tattoos and their association with unprofessionalism in the workplace.
Complete removal of a tattoo can sometimes be difficult, particularly for people who have dark colored skin or who want to remove a tattoo with color. Some people may also notice changes in the texture or color of their skin following laser treatment.
For the vast majority of individuals who undergo laser tattoo removal, a series of laser treatments is required to remove the tattoo completely. This increases the exposure to laser light, thus increasing the risk of associated complications. Additionally, the series of treatments can become very costly.
The procedure can also be uncomfortable and may cause the individual to experience pain in the area treated. To minimize this, an injection to provide local anesthesia may be provided prior to treatment.
Additionally, the laser light has the potential to harm the eyes and affect eyesight. It should be recommended for individuals to wear protective eye goggles for this reason.
Infection of the skin can sometimes occur due to laser tattoo removal, particularly when an area of the treatment is neglected. It is important for patients to protect the area of skin that has been treated – this will reduce the risk of bacterial entry and subsequent infection. Adequate aftercare following the treatment is essential for this reason.
You might consider tattoo removal if you regret a tattoo or you're unhappy with the appearance of your tattoo. Perhaps the tattoo has faded or blurred, or you decide that the tattoo doesn't fit your current image.
Tattoo removal might also be important if you develop an allergic reaction to the tattoo or other complications, such as an infection.
Tattoo removal is often done as an outpatient procedure with local anesthesia. Common techniques for tattoo removal include laser surgery, surgical removal and dermabrasion.
Q-switched lasers — which release energy in a single, powerful pulse — are often the treatment of choice for tattoo removal. A special type of laser — called a Q-switched Nd:YAG — might be used on darker skin to avoid changing the skin's pigment permanently.
Before laser treatment, the skin is numbed with an injection of a local anesthetic. Then a powerful pulse of energy is applied to the tattoo to heat and shatter the tattoo ink. Multicolored tattoos might need treatment with various lasers and different wavelengths.
After the procedure, you might notice swelling and possibly blistering or bleeding. Antibacterial ointment can help promote healing. You'll likely need repeated sessions to lighten the tattoo, and it might not be possible to completely erase the tattoo.
During surgical removal, the skin is numbed with an injection of a local anesthetic. The tattoo is removed with a scalpel, and the edges of skin are stitched back together. After the procedure, antibacterial ointment helps promote healing.
Surgical tattoo removal is effective — but it leaves a scar and might be practical only for small tattoos.
During dermabrasion, the tattooed area is typically chilled until numb. Then the tattooed skin is sanded down to deeper levels with a high-speed rotary device that has an abrasive wheel or brush. This allows the tattoo ink to leach out of the skin.
The affected area feels sore and raw for several days after the procedure. Recovery can take up to two to three weeks. Due to unpredictable results and less effective outcomes than laser or a combination of laser and excision, dermabrasion isn't a common choice.
Tattoos are meant to be permanent, and complete tattoo removal is difficult. Some degree of scarring or skin color variation is likely to remain, regardless of the specific method of tattoo removal.
Honestly, this is one of the least common asked questions on this list. Most patients are concerned about the results – not how the laser achieves them. That said, discussing the science behind laser tattoo removal should still be an important part of the patient consultation.
Reassure your patients that you use proper protocols and a professional-grade system that is safe for their skin. Ultimately, as a practitioner, you'll still want the patient to sign a consent form addressing the risks of the procedure and promote a strong emphasis on personal aftercare outside your practice.