Tattoo Removal

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. 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.

Can all tattoos be removed?

Unfortunately not all tattoos can be removed completely, but the majority can be. Tattoos are meant to be permanent and with recent ink technology and professional tattoo artists improving their skills, tattoos imprinted in the last decade are very difficult to remove. Even with the best technique, some residual scarring remains in a few cases.

How do lasers remove tattoos?

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.

 Who is a candidate for laser tattoo removal?

Individuals with fair skin and superficially placed tattoos on the eyebrows, 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?

Unfortunately tattoos are painful when they are placed on the skin and they are just as painful when they are removed. The lasers generate rapid pulses which may feel different to each patient, but are generally uncomfortable. Pain medications that thin blood and promote bruising are not recommended.

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. The skin site should be left dry for a few days and should be cared for like sunburned skin.

Does the procedure have any side effects?

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.

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