What is Laser Tattoo Removal?
Getting a tattoo can be a big decision. Depending on the size and complexity, it can take months—sometimes even years—for just one tattoo to be completed. And it's not something you can change overnight, if at all. Once it's there, it's there forever. Or is it?
Aside from those tattoos you plan for and have applied over an extended period of time, there may also be times when you got a silly tattoo on a whim. Or maybe had a significant other's name tattooed on your body, but they're not so significant anymore. Or maybe you just no longer like what you had done. The good news is, you no longer have to live with these mistakes and regrets. Laser tattoo removal is a cosmetic procedure that uses laser technology to remove unwanted tattoos.
How Does Laser Tattoo Removal Work?
At TCC, we use the state-of-the-art MedLite® C6 laser platform to perform laser tattoo removal. The MedLite® C6 is a Q-Switched Nd:YAG laser, the same type we use for laser hair removal because it's so gentle, and because it can remove a wide variety of tattoo colors, while leaving the surrounding skin unharmed.
The laser works by emitting intense light at the wavelength of 1064nm, in short bursts, which is what Q-Switched refers to. These pulses of laser light pass through the top layers of the skin to reach the tattoo's ink, which absorbs the light. This breaks the ink up into tiny particles. Your body can then eliminate the dispersed ink naturally, much in the same way it eliminates toxins and excess fluids.
The MedLite® C6 can target a veritable rainbow of colors, though it works best on darker colors such as black and blue. Lighter colors such as green and yellow can also be targeted effectively, but may require more sessions to fully eliminate.
|The prices quoted here are per session of laser tattoo removal, and depend on factors such as the amount of surface area that is covered, the amount of detail in the tattoo, and the variety of colors it contains.
If you want to have laser tattoo removal on more than one area, we have package prices available. Please ask your patient consultant about this. A general pricing guideline we use for each session is as follows:
How is Laser Tattoo Removal Performed?
Before undergoing laser tattoo removal, you'll visit us for a consultation to determine whether this procedure will be effective for you.
During the procedure, the aesthetician—under the direction of a physician—will use the MedLite® C6 to direct short bursts of high-intensity light at your unwanted tattoo. Each pulse may create a sensation similar to a quick snap from a rubber band. Though the procedure is fairly painless and does not require anesthesia, you may request a topical anesthetic to reduce discomfort. The length of each session will vary depending on the size, color, and depth of your tattoo.
After the laser tattoo removal session is complete, your aesthetician will apply an antibacterial ointment to the treated area to reduce the risk of infection. The area may feel warm and be a bit red, but you should be able to return to normal daily activities immediately. However, you will not be able to swim, work out, or perform other activities that will cause your skin to get wet for 24 hours after the procedure.
About 6 to 12 weeks later, you'll return for your next session. This gives the ink time to break down and be expelled from your body, and reduces the chances of damaging your skin.
You're an ideal candidate for laser tattoo removal if you do not have any skin problems in the area where your tattoo is located, such as keloid scarring or a skin disorder, and you have realistic expectations of the procedure. If you have a history of abnormal scarring, laser tattoo removal may not be suitable for you. Your aesthetician will discuss this with you during your initial consultation.
How Long Does Laser Tattoo Removal Take?
Removing a tattoo is a gradual process. The effectiveness of laser tattoo removal relies on your body's natural ability to expel the broken-up ink, which may occur quickly for some people, and more slowly for others.
It's important to know that your tattoo will not simply disappear. Rather, it typically fades over a period of time following each session, which is part of why treatments are generally scheduled every 6 to 8 weeks. An average of 8 to 15 sessions (possibly more) may be required for professionally applied tattoos.
In the case of amateur tattoos, 4 or more treatments are the average. The exact number varies depending on such factors as the age of the tattoo, color of the ink, and what the ink was made from.
The R20 Technique
Another option you have available to you is the R20 technique. This groups up to four treatments into a single session, by spacing the laser passes 20 minutes apart. This completes tattoo removal much more quickly than the standard laser treatment.
Not all tattoos are good candidates for the R20 technique. Only small tattoos—and usually only ones created with black ink—respond to this technique. The number of sessions using this technique will depend on the type of ink that was used.
Why are Tattoos Permanent?
The skin comprises several layers, two of which are the epidermis, or the outer layer, and the dermis, the layer directly under the epidermis. The epidermis constantly sheds skin cells, while the dermis remains constant and unchanged. When you get a tattoo, colored dye is injected past the epidermis into the dermis where the dye is sealed permanently into the skin as collagen hardens around it.
When will I see results?
Patience is key! Laser tattoo removal is not a fast process. The tattoo will fade gradually over time. How fast it fades will depend on your body and health. During each session, your aesthetician will take photos so you may monitor your progress.
What kind of tattoos can be removed?
Cosmetic tattoos (permanent makeup), amateur tattoos, and professional tattoos can be treated with laser tattoo removal.
Are there any colors that cannot be removed by the laser?
All colors can be removed. However lighter ink colors will need more laser tattoo removal sessions than darker ones.
How long after I get a tattoo can I have it removed?
You should wait at least one month for the tissues to heal, and then you can proceed with your first laser tattoo removal session.
What is laser tattoo removal recovery like?
Immediately after a session, treated skin may be sensitive and appear white or red in color. In some cases, you may blister after the treatment. Make sure to keep the area covered and apply a topical antibacterial ointment.
There is hardly any downtime after laser tattoo removal. You should be able to go back to work or resume most regular activities immediately after the procedure. However, swimming, hot tubs, baths and extreme exercising should be avoided for 24 hours after treatment. You may shower, but you need to keep the area bandaged and sealed so it doesn't get wet.
As with all treatments using lasers, the treated skin should be protected from sun exposure, which can increase your chances of scarring.
Can I undergo laser tattoo removal if I am pregnant?
No. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, for the safety of your baby, we do not recommend you undergo any type of laser treatments.
What are the laser tattoo removal risks?
Like all cosmetic and medical treatments, laser tattoo removal comes with certain risks. Aside from increased sensitivity, risks include pigmentation irregularities, infection, and scarring. If you are a skin type V (5) on the Fitzpatrick scale, your risk of permanent scarring is increased due to the large amount of melanin in your skin.
What are the laser tattoo removal side effects?
You may experience some degree of blistering, peeling, or pinpoint bleeding. You may also see some swelling or slight bruising in the area that was treated. All of these effects will subside in a few days.
What is a Q-Switched laser?
It's a laser that emits an intense beam of light in short pulses. We use the MedLite® C6 Q-Switched Nd:YAG laser for laser tattoo removal because it more effectively breaks up tattoo ink into particles that can be eliminated by the body.
Will laser tattoo removal burn my skin?
In short, no. Laser tattoo removal works by exposing the ink of the unwanted tattoo to light energy emitted at a specific wavelength. The ink—not the skin—absorbs the light, and disintegrates into particles that are then eliminated naturally by the body.