According to a survey conducted by Harris Interactive in 2012, 14% of American adults who have a tattoo regret getting it. Another poll conducted in 2011 reported that 19 % of American adults feel bad about their tattoo because they think themselves as marked for the rest of their lives. Those who seek for tattoo removal claimed to suffer embarrassment due to their body carving. Other motivations that have played behind people’s search for a removal treatment enlist a new job opportunity, problems in selection of clothes and a significant life event.
Prior to the introduction of lasers, tattoos were removed using dermabrasion, salabrasion, cryosurgery and excision, some of which are still used. Laser tattoo removal was commercially introduced in 1990’s and today it is frequently used as a non-invasive method to get rid of tattoos.
Laser tattoo removal
Lasers are commonly used for tattoo removal. They break down the ink in the tattoo that is then absorbed by the body. For an effective treatment laser must emit adequate energy of a significant spectrum so that, it will be absorbed by the pigment in tattoo which absorbs specific spectrum of energy. Tattoo pigments or ink colors like yellow, green and fluorescent inks are difficult to remove as compared to dark black and blue because of the spectra they absorb.
The laser keeps the outer layer of skin intact and targets the liquid ink only. Sometimes, fading occurs immediately while in most cases it takes 7 to 8 weeks between treatment sessions.
Repeated sessions for tattoo removal
Repeated sessions are necessary to remove the tattoo. These sessions are spaced at least 7 weeks apart. At each session laser breaks down some of the tattoo pigment particles and smallest of them are absorbed by the body. Larger particles are targeted during the subsequent sessions and thus tattoo is lightened. Your clinician may recommend you to wait few months between treatments to let skin absorb the smaller particles of pigment completely.
The amount of time required for the treatment and the extent of tattoo lightening depend on following factors:
- Skin type
- Location of tattoo
- Color of tattoo
- Amount of ink in tattoo
- Scarring in the treated area
Pain management during treatment
Pain during a laser tattoo removal is often described as similar to that of an elastic band slap. Some patients refuse to take anesthesia while others prefer to have a local anesthesia. An anesthetic cream is also applied 45 to 90 minutes prior to the start of treatment. However, patients who have injected anesthesia are reported to need additional treatment and experts also claim that an injected anesthesia increases the chance of scarring and/or additional treatment.
Risks and complications of the process
- Hyperpigmentation is common in patients who have skin types IV, V and VI, however, using hydroquinones and broad spectrum sunscreens twice daily resolves it usually within two months.
- Hypopigmentation, white marks usually formed in case of dark skin tone, may occur but usually it is not permanent.
- Change in skin texture is also seen but usually it is temporary. Permanent changes on skin texture and scarring are very rare side effects.
- Local allergic reactions to tattoo pigments like photoallergic reaction can occur.
- On exposure to Q-switched laser (frequently used laser for removal purpose), some pigments change their color and need further treatment for their removal.
- Cosmetic make-up tattoos and pink skin tone sometimes show paradoxical darkening, in which tattoo becomes darker instead of getting lighter.
Book an appointment for tattoo removal and get your missing self back!