How does the saying go when your mom finds out you want a tattoo and she is trying to convince you otherwise? “You’ll regret it cause tattoos are permanent and you’ll be stuck with it forever”. Okay, that’s not quite the saying, but I’m sure you’ve heard a version of that in one way or another. As if we don’t already know they are permanent, and as if that wasn’t the point in the first place.
But, here we are and you’ve actually decided that you’d like to remove your tattoo(s)? (Don’t tell mom) The good news is, mom was wrong. Removing a tattoo is now possible with advanced technology in laser tattoo removal
This may sound like a foreign concept to some, and yes, it’s similar to a lot of laser cosmetics nowadays but maybe there’s still some lingering questions.
Below we’ve answered some of the most common and frequently asked questions about laser tattoo removal.
1. How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?
To break down what a tattoo really is… it’s thousands of particles of pigment or ink that is injected into the dermis and stay suspended in the skin. Normally our cell regeneration would remove these foreign particles and replace it with new cells. However, the tattoo pigment particles are too large for the skin to remove them.
During laser tattoo removal, your technician will use a high powered pulsed beam of light delivered at specific wavelengths. This beam of light passes through the dermis and breaks up the tattoo ink particles into smaller particles. Gradually the particles are eliminated through the body’s lymphatic system and fades over time.
2. Does It Hurt?
Because the laser does break through the skin, it typically does involve some level of pain. However, many patients have said that it hurts less than expected. A common comparison is that laser tattoo removal is similar to having the tattoo applied. Also described as the feeling when a rubber band snaps against the skin or oil shooting out of a pan.
It is important to note that the patient may experience discomfort but it is very manageable. The majority of technicians may offer some form of comfort to soothe the skin during the treatment.
Also very popular is a skin numbing agent, ice packs, lidocaine injections, or the most popular – Zimmer Cryo 6 which is a chilling machine that blows cold air before, during and after treatments.
3. How Long Does It Take To Remove My Tattoo?
It’s important to note that tattoo removal takes time. It’s a process. Not entirely unusual to take as long as a year to fully remove a tattoo.
The process needs time to heal in between treatments and the body’s immune system to flush away the pigment in the skin. It’s safe to say that the minimum time in between sessions is six weeks for lighter skin and eight for darker complexions. Trying to remove the tattoo too often and too quickly doesn’t leave the body enough time to remove the ink and heal.
A tattoo removal practitioner will not be able to give you a precise amount of time or treatments it will take for the tattoo to be fully removed. There are many factors to take into account like, colors of the tattoo, the size of the tattoo, healing time and the patient’s skin complexion.
In terms of average time, most patients will need between five and eight treatments, some seeing complete removal in three or four. Some patients may need ten or more treatments to see a full removal. Especially taking into account significant scarring or layered tattoos.
Your practitioner may use the Kirby-Desai Scale as a tool to analyze the number of treatments a tattoo will need. This scale considers factors like:
- Location of the tattoo
- The colors of the tattoo
- The amount of ink
- Fitzpatrick skin type
- Tattoo layering
- Pre-existing scarring
The Kirby-Desai Scale was recognized in 2009 and has improved since to continue to be an excellent tool for assessing patients’ laser tattoo removal process.
4. Is Laser Tattoo Removal Safe?
Yes, laser tattoo removal is completely safe. When it’s performed by an expert or certified experienced laser technician, it is safe. However, there are always potential risks involved.
Your practitioner will have to assess your current health condition and complete medical history for any potential risk of complications you may have during or after the treatment.
5. How Long Is A Procedure?
Depending on the characteristics of your tattoo: size, age, pigment color, depth, design, and location, will be the determining factor for the length of time a treatment may be. However, generally speaking, a laser tattoo-removal session will last no longer than 30 minutes.
After the initial treatment, having an idea of how long each session may be and your tolerance, will be a lot clearer.
6. Will I Have Scars?
Understandably, removing a tattoo normally comes with the desire to have the skin look as natural as possible after removal. So what about scarring? When the correct protocols are in place for laser tattoo removal, scarring is actually very uncommon. However, a pre-existing scar may be left from when the tattoo was originally applied. The ink will be removed from the location but any scarring from the original tattoo will still remain.
7. Are There Side Effects?
Considering this is a clinical procedure, there are always risks for side effects. However, some of the side effects are a necessary part of the immune response to help eliminate the ink from the skin.
All tattoo removal practitioners should explain in detail the various side effects you may experience in your first session. This way you are informed and aren’t shocked when your skin reacts to the procedure.
The most common side effects may be:
For most of these side effects, they’re normally temporary. The only side effects that have a potential to be permanent are scarring and pigmentation changes. However, all side effects are completely avoidable if the proper protocols are taken in aftercare.
Your practitioner should provide you with a take home sheet of aftercare instructions. It is encouraged to discuss all complications and risks with your practitioner during the consultation. It should be familiar to all patients because it is similar to when the tattoo was applied.
It’s common that if a patient is informed or has a general idea of what laser tattoo removal generally does, they’re more likely to continue with treatment until completion. Understanding what it entails and how to handle their aftercare properly becomes a satisfied tattoo removal experience.
Contact a knowledgeable practitioner, have realistic expectations, and hopefully find the end result you’re looking for.
Call Balshi Dermatology in Delray Beach, FL About Laser Tattoo Removal
If you’re looking to remove unwanted or unsightly tattoos contact Balshi Dermatology, a board-certified dermatologist in Delray Beach, who can help remove tattoos with laser technology. Call us at (561) 272-6000 or send us a message on our Contact Page to set up your appointment.