A tattoo can be described as a lasting mark or design made on the body when pigment is inserted into the dermal layer of the skin through ruptures in the skin’s top layer. Tattoos may be classified into three main types:
- Decorative Tattoos – used to indicate status, group membership, serve as a rite of passage or display art that an individual enjoys.
- Cosmetic Tattoos – Permanent eyeliner or lipstick fall under cosmetic tattoos, or what is also known as permanent cosmetics.
- Traumatic Tattoos – This is the kind that is caused by a trauma wherein a foreign substance such as dirt is embedded in the skin.
A lot of people have joined the tattoo bandwagon, and as a result of this, more people are also looking to have their tattoos removed. Laser treatments can help those people who want to remove their tattoos for reasons such as career concerns, bad artwork or art placement, changing lifestyle or personal taste. The success of tattoo removal may depend on some factors:
- the patient’s age
- skin type
- type of tattoo
- age of the tattoo
- color of the tattoo
- size and depth of the tattoo
- whether the tattoo was performed by a professional or an amateur
How do I remove my unwanted tattoo?
In order to remove a tattoo without a scar, a Q-Switched laser must be used. The term Q-Switched indicates that the laser is pulsed so quickly (billionths of a second) that it is able to dissolve the ink without destroying the live tissue in the process. There is not enough time to burn the skin. There are only three types of Q-Switched lasers used for tattoo removal: Q-Switched Ruby (red light), Q-Switched Yag (infrared & green light) and Q-Switched Alexandrite (purple/red light). These three types of lasers respond differently to different colors of ink.
How does the laser work?
The lasers deliver very short pulses of high intensity light into the treated area. The tattoo inks and pigments then selectively absorb the light without destroying the normal surrounding skin tissue in the process. The tattoo is dissolved into smaller ink particles that are harmlessly removed by the body’s immune system in the weeks following treatment.
How many treatments will it require?
Removing a professionally applied tattoo is usually a fading process that requires a series of treatments spaced approximately 5 to 6 weeks apart. Professional tattoos usually require 5 to 10 treatments for complete clearing. The black-colored inks usually respond quicker then the bright-colored inks because they absorb the light better. The depth, color and amount of ink, as well as the location of the tattoo on your body are all determining factors in how long and how quick the tattoo removal would take. Most amateur or otherwise known as “street tattoos” are removed in only 2 to 5 treatments scheduled about 4 to 5 weeks apart.
Does this process cause scarring?
Scars are very rarely seen in this process. Providing state of the art technology helps ensure patients that the risk of scarring is dramatically reduced. There have been occasions where some lighter or darker colored pigment persists on the tattoo site, but normally after the course of treatments is complete, the treated area is usually indistinguishable from normal surrounding skin.
Will my tattoo be removed completely?
Yes, in most cases tattoos can be completely removed. Though there are many factors involved in completely removing unwanted tattoos. The depth, density and types of colors are probably the biggest determining factors. After each treatment we fragment a little bit more ink and a little deeper into your skin. Blistering and scabbing often follows for a week or two. We see some tattoos disappear within 2 to 3 treatments, as well as in some cases seeing tattoos requiring 8 to 10 or more treatments for complete removal. Taking care of the treated area is the most important factor in removing a tattoo without a scar.
Is the process painful?
Most or our patients say that the laser treatment feels like being snapped by a rubber band and that the discomfort is roughly equivalent to having a tattoo put on. Almost all of our patients are able to resume their normal activities immediately following treatment.
What about lightening an existing tattoo?
Many tattoo artists encourage customers to receive a minimum number of laser treatments to lighten an existing tattoo before covering it with a new one. This will dramatically reduce any chance of the old tattoo appearing through the new one. In most cases, a minimum of 2 to 4 treatments is all that is required in lightening an existing tattoo.