Laser Tattoo Removal - What You Should Know.

Tattoo Removal using Laser Therapy.


Thanks to the invention of the Q-switched YAG laser, tattoo removal has become a safe, relatively painless and very effective. YAG stands for yttrium aluminum garnet and this type of laser produces a beam of light in the infrared spectrum. This types of lasers were perfected and became commercially viable in the 1980's. Since then it has become the standard and most effective means of tattoo removal. In the past tattoos were usually removed by very painful and evasive techniques. Dermabrasion, where a high speed sanding instrument stripped away the tattoo by sanding the first and second layers of skin and Excision where the tattoo is simple cut off, these were the two most common techniques employed and both left horrible scaring. Recently to hit the market are various tattoo removal creams clamming miracle results. Unfortunately, many of these products work like a chemical peel, which burns away the layers of skin down to where the pigments of the tattoo are located with result that are also prone to scarring.


How does laser removal work?


The Q-switched YAG laser sends a beam of light through the first layer of skin down into the second layer of skin where most of the tattoo ink particles are present. The wavelength of the laser hits the particles and vaporizes them into very small enough pieces where the body's scavenging cells flush the particles out through the immune system. Depending of the size of the tattoo to be removed the process is quick and relatively painless compared to getting the actual tattoo. It is non evasive and only effects the actual tattoo pigment and not the surrounding skin. Laser removal does not lend itself to scarring but there is always the possibility. Scarring is rare but the chance is greater with multiple sessions.


The effectiveness of laser tattoo removal.


Simply put the process is amazing! You will notice incredible results after only one treatment. If you planing to get a cover up tattoo it is highly recommended that you undergo a few laser treatments to lighten the tattoo to the point where it can me more effectively covered. This usually takes only a few sessions. If you are wanting to remove the tattoo you would need to have several laser sessions to achieve your goal. Unfortunately not all tattoos can be completely removed. It is not uncommon to still see a few small faint traces of the old tattoo even after 10 or more laser removal sessions; however, many tattoos can be completely removed. Old and new tattoos alike can be treated with fantastic results. Usually very densely colored tattoos and tattoos applied by highly skilled and professional tattoo artists tend to be the most difficult to remove. Green and yellow inks are the most difficult inks to remove but can be the easiest colors to cover if you are planning on doing a cover up tattoo.


How painful is it to have a tattoo removed by laser?


The laser removal process is not pain free but is generally much less painful than the process one undergoes to get tattooed and it is much much quicker. Most describe the feeling as similar to being popped with a rubber band. The pain can further be reduced by taking an over the counter pain reliever such as Advil or Tylenol an hour before the procedure. The best and simplest way to reduce the pain is to apply an ice pack to the area several minutes before being the session.


How long does it take?


The actual laser session is quick depending on the size of the tattoo. If the tattoo is very large and the individual has a very low pain tolerance the process can be broken up into multiple sessions if necessary. The vast majority of sessions take less than 30 minutes. What takes time is the waiting period between each session. NYARTMAN recommends waiting at least 4 to 6 weeks between treatments. After the application of the laser the area will continue to lighten as the immune system works the fine particles out of the skin. To rush a session too soon essentially is a waste of money.


How is the area treated after the laser session?


An ice pack should be applied to the treated area as soon as possible to reduce swelling. A triple antibiotic ointment should also be applied. Treat the area as you would a burn and apply a sterile bandage if necessary. Aloe can also be applied to help sooth and heal the skin.


Can a tattoo be removed completely by laser therapy?


If someone guarantees that they can remove your tattoo 100% using laser removal it would probably be a good idea to find someone else to do the removal for you... someone honest and trustworthy. It cannot be said enough how completely awesome the laser therapy is at removing tattoos; however, there is no way to guarantee that a tattoo can be removed completely. There are too many factors involved to make such a ridiculous claim. Some of the considerations to take into account are the age of the tattoo, the inks used, the location of the tattoo, the colors uses and how well the tattoo was applied. The better the artist the more difficult it is to remove the tattoo. Compared to other removal techniques the Q-switched laser is by far the safest, non evasive, proficient means of tattoo removal available. It is the number one method preferred by doctors and tattoo artists.


How many treatments are required?


Depending of the quality of the tattoo it is not uncommon to take at least 10 treatment sessions to remove a tattoo. Black and gray tattoos are the easiest to remove. If you are only wanting to lighten your tattoo in order to be covered with a different design 2 or 3 sessions would probably do a sufficient job.


Are there any side effects associated with laser removal?


The most common side effect after undergoing laser therapy is blistering. This is a normal occurrence. If blisters or scabs appear allow them to heal naturally and do not pick at them or pop them. Keeping the area clean and apply a triple antibiotic to help fight infection and speed the healing process. Negative long term side effects are generally rare. The YAG laser does not typically damage the skin in anyway; however, those who have darker skin should be aware that it can permanently remove ones natural skin pigment. Usually the pigment will return after the skin repairs itself; however, those with darker skin tones and those who undergo multiple treatments may have areas where the skin has permanently faded areas. Scarring is also a possibility but it is a rare occurrence as well. The Q-switched laser does not tend to leave permanent scarring. It is also possible that some inks treated with the Q-switched laser may permanently change to black and could make the tattoo impossible to be removed by laser removal therapy. This may occur with pigments that contain iron oxide or titanium dioxide. Yellows, oranges, reds, browns and light inks including white could contain these elements. It is a good idea to first test a small area to determine if your tattoo contains these elements. The vast majority of tattoos can be removed and even those that contain iron oxide or titanium dioxide and change to black; however, they may require more treatments. Another rare side effect can occur when yellow or red pigments containing cadmium sulfideis or mercuric sulphide are exposed to laser therapy resulting in extreme inflammation, granulomas and/or infection. If this develops see a doctor immediately.