Laser Removal F.A.Q.s
Tattoos have always been a part of American mainstream culture and the last decade has seen an explosion of tattoo mania. It is estimated that more than 10 million Americans have at least one tattoo and tattooing is big business. However, in the last decade tattoo removal has become an even bigger business and it is estimated that more than 50% of individuals who have a tattoo, later regret having it and want it removed. For the past 3 decades, tattoo removal was done using unsophisticated surgery techniques, all of which left individuals with a lot of scarring and empty pockets. However, with the recent advances in medical technology, laser therapy has become the gold standard for removal of tattoos. If you have a tattoo that you wish to have partially or completely removed, you should first consider your options and decide which method might be best for you.
Unfortunately, not all tattoos can be removed completely, but the majority can be permanently removed. Tattoos are meant to be permanent and with recent ink technology and professional tattoo artists improving their skills, tattoos imprinted on in the last decade are very difficult to remove. Even with the best technique, some residual scarring remains in a few cases.
Lasers work by directing their action on the ink with highly concentrated ray of colored light beams. These laser beam breaks up the 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. One has to understand that with deeper penetration of the skin and multiple sessions, the heat generated by the lasers also cause pain and blister formation. Even though laser technology is refined, the chance of scarring is always present with multiple treatments.
Those individuals with fair skin and superficially placed tattoos on the arms, chest, buttocks or legs are the best candidates. Tattoos placed in dark skinned people who have tattoos placed on the ankles or fingers are the most difficult to treat and results are not as good.
Complete removal of a tattoo is based on several things. This is based on the size, location, the individual's ability to heal, how the tattoo was applied and how long it has been in place. Newer tattoos are generally more difficult to remove than old ones.
Unfortunately tattoos are painful when they are placed on the skin and they are just as painful when they are removed. The laser’s pulse generates rapid pulses which feel like a needle sting. To minimize the pain, the physician will recommend taking Tylenol a few hours before the procedure. Aspirin like products are not recommended because they have a tendency to increase the bruising. 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.
Laser treatment usually does not take more than a few minutes. However, multiple sessions are required to remove most tattoos. The multiple sessions are split over 4-8 weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the tattoo
Once the individual arrives at the clinic, the protective eye shields are placed to protect from the harmful laser rays. The skin’s reaction to the laser is tested to determine the most effective energy. This is followed by the physician taking a small “pen like probe” and activates it against the tattoo. Each fire of the laser feels like a needle sting. Depending on the size of the tattoo, 10-30 pulses of the laser may be required in one session.
After each laser treatment, ice is immediately placed on the tattoo to minimize the 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. It should be treated just like a sunburn.
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 like a sun burn for a few months and ultimately the skin will become normal.
Tattoo removal is big cosmetic business and as such is not covered by any medical insurance plans. Tattoo removal is much more expensive than tattoo placement. Laser tattoo removal can range from several hundred dollars up into the thousands of dollars, depending upon the size, type and location of the tattoo and the number of visits required.
Most simple tattoos are removed in 2 - 4 treatments scheduled about 4-8 weeks apart. Removing complex and deep tattoos requires a series of treatments spaced approximately 8 weeks apart or longer. Professional tattoos usually require 6-10 treatments for complete clearing. A large, professional tattoo in color can cost thousands of dollars to remove, and the success of the procedure still can not be guaranteed.
There are other methods of tattoo removal, but most of them are painful and ineffective. Today laser therapy has replaced most of them. The other methods include dermabrasion, camouflage and excision of the tattoo. These methods cause a lot more damage to the skin and also result in scarring. These techniques are only used when laser is not an option.
The best advice on cream removers is they do not work. There are 100s of chemicals for sale claiming their effectiveness at removing tattoos. The only thing they remove is your finances. Avoid them and go and see a physician. It will save you a lot more money in the long run.
Because laser surgery is a medical procedure inherent with all the possible complications and costly, it is recommended that one go and see a professional physician who is experienced and understands the procedure. Avoid going to back street tattoo removal parlors because tattoo removal is a complex procedure which is best done by professionals. Find a reputable dermatologist or cosmetic surgery center to ensure proper treatment and care. If possible, you should obtain a recommendation from your family physician for a physician who specializes in tattoo removal.